Youth and Interracial Marriages

Youth and Interracial MarriagesOur universe interacts, communicates, loves and fights; we live in an age of speed, of little time and reduced distances. This era has started with the advent of television and the modernization of transportation and ends with the internet.

The reduction of distances has brought cultures closer together, granting a welcome broadening of the minds, which has lead to an increase in marriages of different backgrounds, religions, languages and cultures.

The marriage of an Arab man to a foreign woman or of an Arab woman to a foreign man is considered a 'mixed' one and addresses the issue of multicultural communication, which should be strengthened by the acceptance and the understanding of the other, to bring the couple closer. On the opposite, the lack of communication could lead to the couple’s failure, killed by strict traditions that reject each other!

Can interracial marriages reinforce relations between cultures and broaden horizons, when each part carries both cultures and constantly renews and complements them? Can this enrich their intelligence, as well as society and language and enhance their openness to the world? Or does it take the spouses away from family settings and specified social circles?

And will their children carry a rich combined heritage with reciprocation towards the rest of the world, its languages and cultures, and accept other people's differences? Or are they bound to suffer a clash of civilizations and culture burdened by the barrier created by law and borders?

After having lived for a long time in England to pursue my studies, I met an Englishman 5 years my senior and we became friends. As a result of our religious debates, he converted to Islam and studied Arabic language in London. He often asked me to tell him about the Arab culture and the nature of our social tissue. As I left England, our relationship had only gotten stronger until he surprisingly proposed to marry. I did not hesitate especially after the many compromises that he had made; I felt an affinity between us with no cultural differences. At first, my family objected and uncomfortable glares were haunting me, but I believe my choice was right, even after 5 years of a happy marriage, we still accept each other's cultures and traditions without biased demands. We have a child who has a British nationality with an Arab identity and belonging.

Acceptance and respect of shared differences
Ohoud, a 25 year old Architect, is the daughter of a German mother and a Palestinian father. She believes that a successful marriage should be built on the acceptance of each other's cultures where both spouses adapt, despite the differences between them, by respecting traditions and customs and by living with them.
She also adds that she has been brought up with Arab traditions and she strongly holds on to them with the encouragement of her German mother who respects Arab habits and rituals and easily adapts to them. “This depends on the mutual understanding of differences”, says Ohoud, “and my personality is enhanced by having lived with two cultures each with its own customs, traditions and culture. It broadens one's horizon in matters concerning language and culture”. Also, she has acquired some traditions of the European culture in her life like her love for art, music, theater and reading.

A global culture "humanity"
According to Mu'az, interracial marriages do not breed social differences. Rather, they increase cultural diversity which leads both Youth and Interracial Marriages spouses to the acceptance of cultures away from quick judgments and prejudiced thoughts. Mu'az also adds that by his interaction with people from different cultures, he has been able to understand his culture better and influence others while being influenced by them. Through his work at an international organization as Cultural Coordinator he observed - and can see it clearly now, after going back to the roots which formed the different habits and codes of conduct - that there are many similarities between cultures. And he has found that usually, the children of mixed marriages speak at least two languages and by living in such a cultural mix, have a stronger viewpoint when choosing either identity. Normally, this marriage is a product of harmony between both sides where both enjoy the concept of a global culture of "humanity." When we look at these differences as barriers that separate us from each other, we are restrained in narrow thinking, whereas if we consider them as unique characteristics that bring us together, we become global citizens away from cultural and religious clashes.

Overcoming barriers and differences
Kifah, a 20 year old student at the University of Jordan, says that interracial marriages carry many differences in language, history, culture, heritage, thought and religious beliefs which can generate social clashes. This cannot be applied to all cases as there are successful examples of such marriages where both sides are ready to overcome the barriers and disregard the details and differences. It all depends on the degree of understanding and acceptance between the partners.

Social differences created by law and international borders
Maher, a 27 year old Structural Engineer, clarifies that living with two cultures is an enriching experience on the social, mental and discipline level and is continued through the children's upbringing. However marrying a foreigner generates an identity crisis in the offspring. For example, in marriages between Arabs and Eastern Europeans the offspring can only have one nationality and therefore cannot have an Arab-Russian identity. At the same time these children carry a homogenous mixture of two cultures in addition to the social differences that no party can overcome due to the fact that such restrictions are represented by the law and international borders, especially in the case of an Arab woman married to a foreign man. In Maher's opinion, he believes that identity should not be associated with nationality rather with an inner feeling of belonging, for there are many Arabs who carry international nationalities but are of pure Arab blood.

Family is the core of Arab society Youth and Interracial Marriages
Jalal - who has been married to a French woman for over 25 years now, and has lived in France and other Arab and European countries - says that there should be mutual understanding and acceptance of both environments. He resided a few years back in Amman, Jordan, due to his Arabic roots that pull him back no matter the distance. His French wife, he adds, was able to easily adapt with the surrounding environment and now considers Jordan to be her home country. Despite their children's adaptation to the European society, Jalal was able to bring them up with Arab rituals and traditions with an emphasis on the importance of family ties where the family is the core that the children revolve around, regardless of the distances. He also stated that there are many misinterpreted concepts of the West, whereas there is a great resemblance with the Arab culture; in fact, some Europeans still care about family as much as Arabs do. Moreover, he believes that the success of a mixed marriage depends on the degree of mutual tolerance of the spouses with each other's cultures and in the respectful acceptance of the differences.

Cultures isolated from one another
Shireen’s uncles are married to an American, a German, and a Czech. Therefore she has experienced interracial marriages within her family. Shireen believes that there are rare cases where the cultures are similar with a shared language between both, but it is usually due to the wife's adaptation to her husband's environment, family, and traditions if the children are able to gain characteristics of both cultures combined. What usually happens though, according to Shireen, is that the family’s country of residence will reflect on the offspring's feeling of belonging to that certain culture, and by that the marriage would not have added to the cultural richness due to its dependence on a secluded culture away from the other.

Opinions in Arab society
Waleed claims that despite the openness to Western cultures between youths, mixed marriages still face disapproval in some Arab societies for religious reasons. In his opinion, an interracial marriage carries along with it many cultural and social differences but the recognition of these differences could lead to the acceptance of the other. Along with the openness to the Western world comes the broadening of one's horizons and the consideration of these differences. Waleed does not see any problem in marrying a foreign woman; he is looking for a cultural and social mixture that will bring up his children in the future.

Openness… Mixing
Nada, 24 years old, has expressed that such a marriage contains many social, religious and cultural differences. It is a reaction to the global openness the world has witnessed lately. For every action there is a reaction with results that are influenced by the overseas education or work experience of teens and the migration of families to foreign countries.
Suad Nofal

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