Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Discuss the problems that can occur in relationships with differing cultures and help overcome any barriers that exist.

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Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by DJKeefy »

"We had a five-year romance, but I never even touched her hand," says Tareq, as he remembers his relationship with fellow university student Howaida.

Asking her hand in marriage posed an even bigger challenge.

"I was very hesitant because all my dreams could have been shattered once I admitted my feeling," he says. "She was very likely to refuse a relationship with me because it would be against traditions."

Tareq is an Egyptian Muslim, while Howaida was a Coptic Christian.

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Interfaith marriages are increasingly unacceptable in Egypt; couples must be ready to pay a hefty price.

Despite this, Howaida accepted Tareq's proposal.

"That was against all my expectations," he says. "She pledged to overcome all hurdles so we could marry. It was the happiest moment of my entire life."

But the hurdles they would encounter soon would prove too big for their relationship to continue.


Violent response

Religion is an incredibly sensitive issue in Egypt, with many Christians and Muslims refusing to accept people leaving their congregation.

Religious leaders often see inter-faith marriage an attempt to recruit members from the other religion.

Fr George Matta, pastor of St George Church at Ezbet Hanna Ayoub in Menya, Upper Egypt, suggests that the culture in the Egyptian countryside does not accept interfaith relationships.

"My advice to young people is that they should choose their life partner from their own religion," says Fr Matta.

"This is just a piece of advice. We still have a very long way to go before we have open-minded communities like the West," he says, adding that he believed attitudes should change.

Last year, a Muslim man was killed and five others were injured in clashes that took place in a remote village in Menya province. During the same incident, five Christian houses were set on fire.

The fighting erupted because of a relationship between a Muslim girl and a Christian neighbour.

Ahmed Attallah, an Egyptian writer who studies sectarian clashes, says the same story happens frequently. "Love is behind most of the sectarian clashes but it is hardly mentioned in official papers," he says.

"The authorities may blame evangelisation, apostasy or even abduction. But they never admit that there are simply love stories behind clashes."


Restrictive law

Aya and Milad's relationship started in Tahrir Square in the middle of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

But after more than three years together, they feel frustrated. They can't marry in Egypt because Milad is a Christian, while Aya is a Muslim woman.

Under Egyptian law, Milad would have to convert Islam, even though a Christian woman can marry a Muslim man without having to convert.

The couple considered travelling abroad to marry and start a family. But even that would not solve their problem.

"Even though we would sign a civil marriage document, we would not be able to come back to Egypt," says 24-year-old Aya.

"The authorities will never approve our marriage or register our children as Egyptians. We must then live outside Egypt until we die."

Ahmed Attallah says that interfaith marriage has effectively become prohibited in Egypt.

"When a Christian woman goes to a notary to register a marriage with a Muslim man, the officials tell her that she must have a letter of approval from the Church," he says.

"The Egyptian Church has consistently refused to approve marriages between different Christian sects, let alone different religions." he adds.


Heavy price

Abeer, who used to be a Christian, has been married to Mohammed, a Muslim, for 24 years.

They live in Menya, the same province that saw the bloody sectarian clashes more than year ago, and they say the public response to relationships such as theirs has become much more violent.

"When we got married, people actually tended to congratulate us everywhere we went in the village" Mohamed says.

However, the couple - like many others in their situation - still had to pay a heavy price for their relationship.

Abeer's family disowned her for marrying a Muslim and converting to Islam. When she ran into her father after the wedding, she remembers that he ignored her and said: "My Abeer is dead".

Tareq, who fell in love with Howaida at university, could not bear to make her suffer in the same way, even though she was prepared to convert to Islam.

They split up in 2009.

Tareq says he feared his relationship with Howaida would put her in danger from her own family.

"I did not want to get her into trouble which could end with her family killing her," Tareq says.

He adds: "I'm now married a wonderful, decorous veiled woman and have lovely children, may God save them and her."

"But for me, I can't say that I 'love' my wife."

"I still love the Christian woman I used to meet. I will never forget her."

Note: The names of some of the contributors have been changed at their request.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29932094


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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by newcastle »

I believe we have adherents of religion on this forum. Probably a range of faiths too.

I'd be interested (genuinely) to hear how they view the misery engendered by stories such as these. So sad...and in my view so unnecessary even if you believe in a higher power.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Glyphdoctor »

If you don't have the money to buy a Ferrari, and your neighbor has a Ferrari, and you really wish that you could have that Ferrari, would you steal it? No, not if you were an ethical person with self-control who respected the law. You would be happy with your donkey or Toyota or own two feet, or at least know that you must make do with what you have.

This is not a question of religion as much as a question of Egyptian laws. They are what they are. And you know what they are before you saw the Ferrari or the hot Muslim girl in your physics class, so you practice self-control if you know what is good for you.

You might be able to have an illicit liason or hotwire the Ferrari for a quick joyride, but in the end where will that get you? It's just a dream that you are chasing then. What you want will never be possible.

You might as well say I want to grow wings now right this moment and fly to Japan, but you will never grow wings, so stop fantasizing. Get real.

That's how I see it.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by newcastle »

Glyphdoctor wrote:If you don't have the money to buy a Ferrari, and your neighbor has a Ferrari, and you really wish that you could have that Ferrari, would you steal it? No, not if you were an ethical person with self-control who respected the law. You would be happy with your donkey or Toyota or own two feet, or at least know that you must make do with what you have.

This is not a question of religion as much as a question of Egyptian laws. They are what they are. And you know what they are before you saw the Ferrari or the hot Muslim girl in your physics class, so you practice self-control if you know what is good for you.

You might be able to have an illicit liason or hotwire the Ferrari for a quick joyride, but in the end where will that get you? It's just a dream that you are chasing then. What you want will never be possible.

You might as well say I want to grow wings now right this moment and fly to Japan, but you will never grow wings, so stop fantasizing. Get real.

That's how I see it.
I can understand the legal problem (muslim woman/ non-muslim man).....I would suggest the law is a bad one (but hardly unique when you base laws on religious dogma).

I don't think your comparison is a good one Glyph. Laws against theft make sense in any society, secular or religious. But assuming a muslim woman and a non-muslim man wishing to marry are not themselves put off by the dictates of the Qur'an, why should the state put obstacles in their path? Should the judgement/consequences of their action not be left to God? The state doesn't intervene in every religious prohibition or dictate. Thank goodness or we'd be having public stonings etc.

The other case referred to seems to be one of sheer prejudice.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Bearded Brian »

Just shows how man's (or woman's) interpretation of (any) religion is just so stupid. Let people practice their religion just for themselves and not try to inflict their beliefs on others.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by newcastle »

Bearded Brian wrote:Just shows how man's (or woman's) interpretation of (any) religion is just so stupid. Let people practice their religion just for themselves and not try to inflict their beliefs on others.
Aaaah....but then you wouldn't be able to "control" people to the same extent, would you? :urm:

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Dusak »

There was an artist once that over a near lifetime created a mosaic depicting creation as he saw it. It was a most wonderful creation, freestanding, each piece supporting the next in a large spherical shape containing tens of thousands of pieces. It seemed to float off the ground, bringing thousands of people together to view it each year, each person seeing something different than the person standing next to them. Then, one day a man approached him saying that he too had created such a mosaic as this, but his depicted the evolution of life.

He asked the first artist where he had collected all the materials from to create his masterpiece. He had replied that they were just random gatherings from the many roads that he had traveled in his lifetime. The other artist told him that he had just one piece to finish his mosaic, but although he had traveled for years looking for it, he could not find that elusive piece. But now, he stated, that piece is here, part of your mosaic, a shining piece of golden glass. I need that piece to join mine and you could easily replace it with something else.

The creator of the finished mosaic shook his head, stating that this was not possible because if he removed just one piece of his mosaic, then his would not be complete, but yours would be at the expense of mine and mine would be weaker for it and ugly. The strength of my work is in the number of its component parts and my faith in its construction will outlast time itself. But the other pleaded that he needed the piece to match the one he had in his creation. The other artist again shook his head, stating if he were to remove just one piece of his creation and place it next to yours, it would defile mine as that piece was never destined to be next to yours, as your pieces were never destined to be part of mine.

They say that love conquers all. Perhaps, but not the weakening of a faith.
Last edited by Dusak on Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Life is your's to do with as you wish- do not let other's try to control it for you. Count Dusak- 1345.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Zooropa »

newcastle wrote:
Bearded Brian wrote:Just shows how man's (or woman's) interpretation of (any) religion is just so stupid. Let people practice their religion just for themselves and not try to inflict their beliefs on others.
Aaaah....but then you wouldn't be able to "control" people to the same extent, would you? :urm:
From an atheist standpoint, I think the saddest thing is the fact that this is done because its thought that, A, that its what their deity wants but as hopefully we all know its what the religious leaders want but they say its come from the boss upstairs, and B because they think great reward awaits them.

As usual this is dripping in contradiction, ive no idea about the Muslim marriage vows and no one probably knows what the original wording was as, like all the other religions its probably been hacked to death and changed to suit, yet again, religious leaders and their agendas.

I would have thought, that it would have been about loving your partner and doing right by them.

That's all that's basically required in my view.

The ultimate sadness is they are sacrificing their only opportunity of happiness, ie this life for a happiness that does not exist in a place that does not exist.

Most people left alone, rub along quite ok despite social and cultural differences, its religion that causes the divide and disharmony and fighting and sometimes war.

I don't know a single religion that does not claim to be about love, respect, peace and harmony but most of them only offer that if you accede to their cause otherwise expect the opposite.

I give thanks that largely speaking, I live in a country that allows me to do that (accede) and protects me from any reprisals.

What kind of insane world do we live in where people allow a situation to develop where the nicest, most helpful and caring person in the community could be shunned and even attacked because he prays to a different god?

Its time we got rid.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Glyphdoctor »

newcastle wrote:
I can understand the legal problem (muslim woman/ non-muslim man).....I would suggest the law is a bad one (but hardly unique when you base laws on religious dogma).

I don't think your comparison is a good one Glyph. Laws against theft make sense in any society, secular or religious. But assuming a muslim woman and a non-muslim man wishing to marry are not themselves put off by the dictates of the Qur'an, why should the state put obstacles in their path? Should the judgement/consequences of their action not be left to God? The state doesn't intervene in every religious prohibition or dictate. Thank goodness or we'd be having public stonings etc.

The other case referred to seems to be one of sheer prejudice.
You only understand part of it. Re-read the article carefully and note that the biggest obstacle is not the laws that apply to Muslim women, but the rules of the Coptic Church. Copts are not allowed to marry outside their faith by their church at all. They can't even marry other Christians unless one party converts first. Male and female alike.

I understand your point but maybe a better comparison is this. While in some countries first cousin marriage is allowed/not allowed, in many cultures it just is frowned upon regardless of its legal status. People are raised to think of marriage with their cousins as something undesirable and weird. So people don't grow up thinking someday I may marry my cousin, or he is a potential marriage partner. Because the culture doesn't condone it.

I think marrying outside one's religion is the same way in Egypt. Most people are going to grow up imagining marrying within their faith. They aren't going to view those who have different religions as potential spouses to begin with, simply because it's just not done. They aren't going to feel they are being denied something, because the thought of having it doesn't cross their mind in the first place.

This is making a mountain out of a molehill

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Who2 »

Quotes on religion by far greater minds than mine:

All thinking men are atheists. — Ernest Hemingway

Lighthouses are more helpful then churches. — Benjamin Franklin.

Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche.

The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. — Sigmund Freud.

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. — Edward Gibbon.

The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. — Ferdinand Magella.

Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses - Arthur C. Clarke.

The world holds two classes of men - intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence. Abu Ala Al-Maari.

Religion is "so absurd that it comes close to imbecility." - H. L. Mencken.

And just how many more people do religions need to kill to try to prove their point and their lack of intelligence ?…… :cool:
"The Salvation of Mankind lies in making everything the responsibility of All"
Sophocles.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by newcastle »

Glyphdoctor wrote:
newcastle wrote:
I can understand the legal problem (muslim woman/ non-muslim man).....I would suggest the law is a bad one (but hardly unique when you base laws on religious dogma).

I don't think your comparison is a good one Glyph. Laws against theft make sense in any society, secular or religious. But assuming a muslim woman and a non-muslim man wishing to marry are not themselves put off by the dictates of the Qur'an, why should the state put obstacles in their path? Should the judgement/consequences of their action not be left to God? The state doesn't intervene in every religious prohibition or dictate. Thank goodness or we'd be having public stonings etc.

The other case referred to seems to be one of sheer prejudice.
You only understand part of it. Re-read the article carefully and note that the biggest obstacle is not the laws that apply to Muslim women, but the rules of the Coptic Church. Copts are not allowed to marry outside their faith by their church at all. They can't even marry other Christians unless one party converts first. Male and female alike.

I understand your point but maybe a better comparison is this. While in some countries first cousin marriage is allowed/not allowed, in many cultures it just is frowned upon regardless of its legal status. People are raised to think of marriage with their cousins as something undesirable and weird. So people don't grow up thinking someday I may marry my cousin, or he is a potential marriage partner. Because the culture doesn't condone it.

I think marrying outside one's religion is the same way in Egypt. Most people are going to grow up imagining marrying within their faith. They aren't going to view those who have different religions as potential spouses to begin with, simply because it's just not done. They aren't going to feel they are being denied something, because the thought of having it doesn't cross their mind in the first place.

This is making a mountain out of a molehill
I had noticed that Copts fare even worse under the legislation regarding marriage.

I agree that, in practice, it's a "molehill" of an issue....which begs the question as to why the state would wish to involve itself at all.

I've often wondered what "insecurities" lie behind decisions to bolster religious norms with the force of civil law.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Zooropa »

Religion is indeed a mighty force.

I cant think of any other body, power or organisation save the law that can make people so readily subservient to it.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by newcastle »

Zooropa wrote:Religion is indeed a mighty force.

I cant think of any other body, power or organisation save the law that can make people so readily subservient to it.
In some societies religion commands much greater respect than the law of the land !

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Scottishtourist »

newcastle wrote:I believe we have adherents of religion on this forum. Probably a range of faiths too.

I'd be interested (genuinely) to hear how they view the misery engendered by stories such as these. So sad...and in my view so unnecessary even if you believe in a higher power.
O.k here goes!
Putting on the flak jacket as I type!

Why does this man THINK he is so unhappy?He has stated that he has a beautiful wife of his own religion who has given him children.Is he unhappy with her?I very much doubt it!
He says he doesn't love her.
I say he's talking crap!
He's maybe hankering for "the one he couldn't have,the one who got away."

What do we all do when life catches up with us?When we realise that a partnership has to be worked at?When the burdens of reality and family responsibilities appear unfair?

We think back to a "lost love"and wonder "what if?"Cos,we were younger then.We thought that we could over-rule guidance and our religious doctrine.

We can't!At a young impressionable age for someone with faith...religion DOES make a difference when choosing a "life partner.Cos the one thing we want is agreement on how to bring up children and what religion(if it's applicable)they will follow.

It's all very well being so "liberal"and saying it doesn't matter.But for anyone who follows a religion...it does!And very much so!

A load of claptrap?
Well,why do so many interfaith marriages fail?
It's because the beliefs interfere with the relationship!

Just look at the failure rate between the European (so called) Christian/Atheist women who have married Muslim men in Luxor/Egypt.
I don't always think the reason is the age gap(if there is one.)It's the fact that they were not willing to accept and embrace each others religion.

I could elaborate immensely on this.My own background is one where my mum was a convert to the Catholic faith.Did it bring problems?You bet it did!
Quite frankly..my dad would NOT have married her if she hadn't converted!
Glad she did though..or I wouldn't be here spouting off on a forum about religion!

Imagine some would be uttering a sigh of relief if that was the case!

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Glyphdoctor »

I would note that every other poster besides you and me ST on this thread is likely legally prevented from marrying just about any Egyptian whatsoever: female, male (because no gay marriage), Muslim, Christian. Not saying they want to do that, but I always wondered how it must feel to be like that to settle in Egypt and then not be able to get married to a local.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Dusak »

Its not just religion that can kill true love, the families also control it. I know of several cases that the woman/man has found true love within their own religion only to have it destroyed by the family as the male/female has not been good enough for their son/daughter. And from what I can gather, when these people have eventually married the 'correct type', they can never forget their one and only first love that was taken from them. Egyptian women, mostly, would love to fall in love with the man of their dreams, they see it happening all the time on their TV's. But such lucky ones, sadly, are few and far between. They are not stupid, they know the difference between having sex on order to that of making love with someone that you are in love with.
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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Scottishtourist »

Can I ask a very personal question here re converting to a different faith?

If an adult non-circumcised male converts to Islam in order to marry a Muslim woman..does he then require to be circumcised?
Or is it personal choice?

Just wondering,cos I once saw a programme where a Christian man was converting to Judaism to marry his Jewish fiancee,and this was a requisite before marriage.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by carrie »

Oh interesting question ST I have no idea but eagerly await replies.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Glyphdoctor »

He is supposed to and I think I have heard about it happening once, but I come from a country where most men are circumcised anyway regardless of religion so most converts I know probably already had been cut as infants.

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Re: Egypt: The forbidden love of interfaith romances

Post by Bullet Magnet »

Zooropa wrote:Religion is indeed a mighty force.

I cant think of any other body, power or organisation save the law that can make people so readily subservient to it.
Religion reinforces law. Or Law reinforces Religion depending on how you view the situation down here.
Either way, when you realise that, then there are many other institutions that demand questioning.. :cool:

I see see 3 Laws.
You dont kill anyone, you dont harm anyone, you dont steal another individuals stuff.

Therefore Corporations have zero protection under common law, so events need to take place so the people demand laws to be put into place..

A long time ago came a man on a track
Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back
And he put down his load where he thought it was the best
He made a home in the wilderness
He built a cabin and a winter store
And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore
And the other travellers came walking down the track
And they never went further, and they never went back

Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, and then came the rules

Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads
And the dirty old track was the telegraph road
There's a time for everyone, if they only learn
That the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

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