A Profane Boy Hi my name is Wu. I am calling to seek opinion for an issue that has been troubling me for months. Here is the thing. My girlfriend and I have been together for 2 years or so. We both have stable income and share a group of friends in this city that we now live in. So I think that we’ve come to the point to settle down and get married here.
My girlfriend is a Muslim. I knew that from our first date because she did not eat pork or drink alcohol. Other than that, there is nothing really special about her. And I am totally ok with that. I am not a big fan of pork anyway. And there are always some occasions where I can go out to the pub with some other friends.
So when I talked to her about my plan, to get married. My girlfriend told me that I need to convert to Islam and receive baptism, in order to marry her, according to the religious doctrine.
I come from a family where we have no particular religious belief. My parents are ok with my converting if that is necessary to be with the girl I love. But they did expressed worries that they may need to learn to adopt a new way to get along with me.
The place we now live in, is a rather profane area. We don’t really have a handful of choice of halal restaurant when eating out. Food choice is also vastly limited in supermarket if we only purchase the ones with halal logo. It is a big challenge for a Muslim to live in a city like this. Not enough people who believes in the same religion, not enough options. My girlfriend came to the city for college and she stayed for another 5 years after graduation. Life here is not that convenient for her as it is in her hometown. And she spent years to fit into this city that is not so friendly for her belief. we thought about moving but it is impractical for us. And I don’t really want to leave my family, friends and job behind.
I feel a little bit of lost because apart from my girlfriend, I don’t know anyone who has this same belief. I don’t know what to expect converting into a new religion in my late 20s. From where I am from, almost everyone is non-religious. Most of my family and my friend has little knowledge about this religion. And I have a strange feeling that, I don’t know if that is right, that I am pushing myself away from them and from my original life only to get closer to my girlfriend. I do really hope to marry my girlfriend and more than happy to convert to Islam. But I feel frustrating to live here in this under-facilitated city as some kind of outsider. I was born and raised in this city. But everything becomes so unfamiliar and difficult once I became a Muslim-to-be. Weird.
Randy It is so sweet of you to do this for your girlfriend. You must be a perfect couple. I am sure she understands all the effort you’ve made and the dilemma you are dealing with. It is understandable that you are working through a rather frustrating period of time. Converting into a new religion at this age is far from easy. Not to mention your current situation, living in a city where being a Muslim is not common place.
Jesse Right. This is undoubtedly a huge decision. And it is actually a responsible move to think ahead of time about your future life.
Randy So I understand you are confused during the transition into a Muslim. Your surroundings seem to change once you’ve decided to convert, right? You do understand nothing around you really moved but yourself, I mean your identity. Not only religious identity, but it also might, or already lead to socio and cultural identity changes. Since this particular religion may have some kind of restrictions or influences on your social life and way of thinking.
You mentioned that you become aware that there are limited halal food choices and little population of Muslim living in the area that you live in. I guess you never need to notice any of these before you take converting into consideration. Maybe because you were the mainstream non-religious locally-raised people in this city. The city provided you with anything you could have ever wanted, namely, normal food and normal non-religious companions. Back then, halal food and Muslim people might seem novel but unnecessary for you. The socio-cultural borders seemed transparent to you. That is what happens when you are part of the mainstream. But that is not the case for marginalized. For them, it could be a challenge to search for eatable food and cultural-related companions. They are reminded every time in supermarket trying to get a halal yogurt, in workplace trying to give their prayers, the existence of this socio-cultural border between the majority of citizens and them. This is probably what you are going to face in the future.
Jesse Jumping from the mainstream into the marginalized ones is no gravy jobs. It is basically forcing yourself into the other group of your society. And there is hierarchy, in this city. Since the non-religious people are the majority, they hold onto the power of discourse. They get to decide what appears in the market place and what kind of rule to follow in most workplaces. The Muslim population is silenced and used to be a listener.
Randy Sometimes there could be another way of seeing this situation. I mean it is frustrating to discover all these injustices now that you adopted a new identity. Seeing the negative side your loved hometown is annoying indeed. But what if you pretend yourself as a new comer into this city.
Jesse An immigrant?
Randy Yes, exactly. I guess it would be mentally easier for you to see this city as unexplored. Instead of sighing over the limited options, you would be happy to find each new halal restaurant. Pretend to be a stranger and introduce the city to yourself again?
Jesse Compared to immigrant, I think your current situation is more like an emigrant. Instead of trying to assimilate into the society, you are swimming away from the mainstream life, which you have been used to for decades. You are leaving this city, not spatially but culturally. I don’t know. Maybe this is why you feel that you are pushing your family and friend away from you?
Randy Sometimes you just need some time to pause and think if you feel too much entanglement. Are you 100% sure that you are converting into Islam? Did you get to know the religion really well? How do you feel surrounded by Muslim? Do you feel like they are the other part of the society you grow up in? Sure you are doing this for your girlfriend. Just don’t forget to care about yourself really. Converting into a religion is a big deal. Especially in an area where you are minority. Since both you and your girlfriend have decided to settle in this city, maybe you could come up with some other options. Like maybe change the rule for a little bit. Maybe negotiate with her, in a respectful way, express your concerns and everything. Sometimes it takes two to compromise.