*Note: I’m writing about this solely from a female perspective because the rules for Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women are different, but that’s a post for another day.
I was out the other night in the city and saw a curious sight. It was a young hijabi walking along with a guy, and the two of them were very, errrr, friendly. While this was unusual enough, it gets curiouser. I didn’t know the girl personally, but the Muslim grapevine extended far enough for me to know one thing: the guy with her wasn’t Muslim.
I don’t know why I was surprised. It’s not like I haven’t heard of this type of thing before or even seen it firsthand. In fact, when discussing this issue with a friend we came to the conclusion that it’s probably only going to become more common. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the perception exists amongst Muslim girls that there aren’t enough Muslim guys to go around. For some girls, this means the prospect of ‘converting’ a non-Muslim guy becomes a sort of last resort. For others, it goes a lot deeper.
I’ve discussed this issue with several girls, some of whom have actually been in relationships with non-Muslim guys, and some of whom who think it’s not a bad idea. They say similar things. Muslim guys were too uptight, they said. Muslim guys tended to judge them based on external factors such as their looks and career choice while non-Muslim guys were more open-minded. Non-Muslim guys were more approachable and friendly. Muslim guys had too many issues.
I can understand where these girls were coming from. Many of them had had bad experiences with Muslim guys and so wrote them off as a whole. Some of them just weren’t getting any interest from within the Muslim community. They were considered to be too loud, too opinionated, too out there-the very things that the non-Muslim guys found attractive about them. For many, frustrations spilled over, so much so that they felt compelled towards looking outside of the community.
For others, it was simply a matter of falling in love. Many of these girls were deeply observant Muslims and had never imagined building a life with anyone other than a fellow Muslim, but it just happened. They became friends with a guy at uni and bam, sparks flew. They met a guy at work and over time, they developed feelings for each other. For these girls, the fact that these guys weren’t Muslim meant they let their guard down a lot more easily; they never envisioned it would go any further than friendship.
As interesting as it is to hear the perspectives from the girls’ side, it’s even more interesting to consider what it’s like for a non-Muslim guy to fall in love with a Muslim woman. This is especially especially intriguing when the woman wears hijab. I always wonder how they’re able to look beyond the all-too-visible reminder of their love’s faith and how they grow to find her attractive. Obviously an attractive woman is an attractive woman, regardless of whether she wears hijab or not, but I’ve actually heard that some non-Muslim guys find hijabis particularly attractive, not in spite of their hijab, but because of it. (As a Social Inquiry student that sends off weird Orientalism radars in my head, but whatever tickles their fancy I guess.)
I’ve observed mixed outcomes for these relationships. Many have gone sour due to the reluctance of the guy to convert. Converting to a religion isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, so it’s understandable that love doesn’t always conquer all in these cases. Other relationships have flourished and eventuated in marriage, but it’s not always happily ever after. It can be hard to have a partner who doesn’t necessarily share your enthusiasm for your faith; it becomes particularly difficult when you, the born Muslim, experience periods of low iman. At times like this, you’ll often need support to keep going, and you may find your partner unable or perhaps even unwilling to give it to you.
Personally, I’ve never been able to see a non-Muslim guy in that way. I’ve never been able to get past the fact that we don’t share the most important thing in my life, that our values are built on completely different foundations. They may be great people who I respect and get along well with on a day-to-day level, but I just couldn’t see myself building a life with them. Besides, Muslimness is just attractive. It’s attractive when a guy is an observant Muslim. It’s attractive when he possesses a lot of Islamic knowledge and wants to keep learning more and more. (It’s very attractive when he’s not a complete freak either as he goes about these things.)
What do you think? Could you ever see yourself considering a non-Muslim guy?