Muslim-Jewish marriages herald a brave new world

Jonathan Romain, The Guardian – Comment is free, Jan.19

Muslims and Jews in the UK are beginning to get together – a living example to the Middle East peace process.

Something surprising is beginning to emerge in marriage patterns between members of different religions in Britain. In the past, “marrying out” was seen either as a religious sin, partnering up with an unbeliever, or as a social crime, betraying the faith group identity.

But in today’s much more tolerant, pluralist society, mixed-faith marriage has become commonplace. People who mix together at work, socialise together afterwards. They concentrate on what they have in common – be it music, sport or crosswords – not the theologies that divide them.

In the past century in Britain, intermarriage tend to mean Jews (the main minority faith group) marrying Christians. However, in recent years a new trend has arisen: Muslims intermarrying. It reflects the fact that not only is there now a substantial Muslim community, but it is becoming more integrated in British society.

No one is surprised that some Muslims marry Christians – they are the majority population – but to the astonishment of many, Muslims and Jews are beginning to marry each other. This is unexpected, as the Israel-Arab problems in the Middle East have affected relationships between members of the two faiths over here.

While there are many working for harmony between them, unwarranted prejudices about each other also abound, with some Jews regarding all Muslims as potential suicide bombers and some Muslims seeing all Jews as Uzi-wielding West Bank extremists. The thought that their offspring might marry is the ultimate nightmare (and, for them, much worse than falling in love with a Christian).

There is also a status issue problem. Judaism is matrilineal and Islam patrilineal. If a Jewish woman and a Muslim man marry, then both religions will claim the child. The parents may have agreed to bring him/her up in one faith, or to give a dual identity, but that may not stop grandparents trying to influence matters, sometimes very disruptively.

Read the complete article here.