June 14, 2011 7:49 AM Subscribe
How do I stop feeling guilty for not wanting my boyfriend to convert to Islam?
posted by guessthis to Human Relations (64 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I was raised Muslim, but no longer consider myself to be religious. My boyfriend of nearly 5 years is firmly agnostic.
Despite the length of our relationship, my parents only found out about it a few months ago. The bf and I live together in a different country from my parents, and I hid the relationship because my dad made it clear to me many years ago that if I did not marry a Muslim, I would be disowned.
But of course the guilt and worry took its toll. I became extremely anxious and depressed and went into therapy. Through therapy I found the courage to tell my parents the truth. Their first reaction was "why are you telling us this? what we don't know won't hurt us!" which shocked me to say the least. My dad told me he never wanted to see me again and almost booked me an early flight back, but my mum stepped in and asked him to wait and see if my boyfriend would consider converting to Islam.
I agreed that we would think about it (during the conversation it came out that I'm not too sure about many aspects of Islam myself, though I didn't go into it much) but that I couldn't make any guarantees.
Since then, the pressure has been building to make a decision. My mum emailed me the other day saying that nothing in our lives needs to change, my boyfriend just needs to accept Islam and everything will be fine. We don't even need to change anything about the way we live now. She says she can't believe I can't allow her this one small thing, and that I'm choosing to reject my family and culture for him. She says that if we just said yes to this she could stop feeling the ongoing pain that she has failed as a mother. I have yet to reply.
To be honest, the decision has already been made: I have absolutely no desire to call myself a Muslim, or to ask my boyfriend to convert. He is also very unwilling, and I know that to ask him to do this for me could potentially cause problems between us down the road. And then it feels like converting would mean accepting the way my dad has been acting, accepting that it's okay to disown your child because of who they choose to marry, that it's somehow MY mistake I have to correct to please him. The thought of that makes me so angry. And another big point is that I would just feel really uncomfortable calling myself a Muslim, having to fake it, when there is so much about Islam that does not sit well with me. In my parents' part of the world, religion is often used an excuse for terrible treatment of women and the oppression of their rights. So many girls in my family were denied an education, were married off to men they barely knew at the age of sixteen. So many of them are wearing headscarves so they can leave the house on their own, rather than dressing as they want and being shut up at home.
I want to stand up for the things I believe in, like same sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, gender equality, sex before marriage, separation of church and state etc., plus the right to eat and drink and wear what I want. To call myself Muslim seems to be a denial of so many things I love and which make up who I am. And somehow I feel a responsibility, to my kid sister, my younger cousins, generations of Muslim-but-not-really girls to come, to show that it can be done. I know so many girls who feel oppressed by the system, but feel powerless to do anything about it - I want to show that you can strike out on your own, make choices for yourself and not compromise on the type of life you want for yourself, and it'll be okay.
But I feel guilty, because to my mum my decision would seem so self-centred. Like I would rather lose my immediate family than go through with a name-only conversion to keep the aunties and uncles happy. Reading through other threads here, some comments make religious conversion sound like no big deal, maybe even a noble way to keep the peace. I just can't go through with it. But I'm so miserable at the thought of not having my parents in my life, too.
So to my question: How do I come to terms with my decision and not feel guilty about it?