My American-Christian best friend is marrying a Ghanaian-Muslim – I’m upset and confused, please advise!

in Advice, Intercultural dating, Intercultural Marriage

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A Promise

I am a white, Christian, American woman and am having a very hard time with my best friend’s (also a white, Christian, American) recent announcement that she is getting married to a Muslim, African man (from Ghana) that I have never met. She and I are extremely close, more like sisters and have been friends/ roommates for years.

She is in the Peace Corps and has been in Ghana for 2 years. They met in a market in her town there and have been dating for a little over a year. Honestly, I do not care that he is African (she has dated Af-Am men in the past and I was fine with them). He proposed and they are getting married in September, so that I can be there for the wedding when I come to visit her.
However, I do have a HUGE problem with the fact that neither I, nor anyone else in her family or friend circles has met this man. She kept the relationship secret at the beginning, for fear of disapproval, but finally came out with it a few months ago. I had no idea that they were/are THIS serious, and various phone/ internet issues have left me out of the loop.
I trust her judgment, but I also know that culture shock/ being away from the US for a long time, has probably clouded that judgment.

Her family is completely against all of this (she couldn’t even tell her Mom on the phone for fear of her reaction), and so I feel like I have to be supportive b/c I am the only person in her life who is.

We chatted for a few hours on Skype yesterday, and I asked a million questions about him, his family, religion, his expectations, etc. She seemed to have talked with him about all of the issues I brought up which made me feel a little better. They are planning to move back to the US when her service is over and are aware of the complications that the process will entail.

I am just very confused and upset by this whole thing, and just want to be able to be happy for my friend; however, without knowing her fiancé, this is impossible for me.

Any advice for me (or her!) would be most appreciated.

Ashley

Hi Ashley! I totally understand what you feel, anxiousness and worry for your best friend whose happiness and safety are what you care the most. I once dealt this same predicament when my best friend dated a Muslim (we’re both Christian) albeit being same race. As a best friend, your tendency is to protect your friend from what you think is a probable danger to her. I was younger then and my way of protecting my best friend was complete opposition to her relationship mainly because she was too young to be in a serious relationship and especially because it was interfaith. But she loved the man. My lack of support and opposition caused us to be estranged.

My best friend and her Muslim boyfriend did truly love each other, however, the man was promised to a Muslim girl since they were kids and breaking up the arrangement would cost him his family and clan. He chose his family. It broke my best friend’s heart and she ran back to me for support. We eventually reunite after a long time of estrangement.

My point is, you and your best friend don’t have to go though this similar pattern. You may have reservations towards her relationship but always keep your understanding open. Discuss to her your concerns (which I believe you’ve started doing) in a logical and reasonable way, avoid being emotional. Stick with the issues such as faith, conversion, marriage, child-rearing and immigration. Ask her, is she going to convert to Islam? Doesn’t Christianity matter much to her to consider converting? Would she still have freedom to exercise her faith even after marriage and would there be no force conversion? Will she be the only wife or a polygamous marriage is possible? What about the children? Most likely the children will grow up Muslims, what’s her stance towards it? Etc. etc.

Read: Threat to Wife, Muslim-Christian interracial and interfaith marriage

Also bring up to her the need to seek her parents’ blessings. Although an intercultural and interfaith marriage can possibly be driven by rebellion, seeking the parents’ blessings can contribute to the success of marriage (I know this is debatable but a lot of marriages that are unblessed by parents are said to struggle). The parents may oppose or refuse to give their permission and the couple can choose to ignore them and go ahead to follow their hearts, but at least they’ve informed and reached for the parents.

You’ve mentioned that you trust her judgment, that must be because you know your friend’s capability to make sound judgments and to take care of herself.

… but I also know that culture shock/ being away from the US for a long time, has probably clouded that judgment.

I don’t think that being away from the US had clouded your friend’s judgment. In fact, being able to travel and live away from home must have enlightened her judgment. She is able to appreciate other culture, overcome stereotypes and think outside the box. The way she thinks and processes her views now is no longer the same as when she hasn’t left the US.

However, I understand your point. Just like those missionaries who’ve done community work in the mountains, they experience crisis of falling in loved with the simplicity of life of the indigenous people that they would rather stay in the wild than go back to the civilization. To prevent this, young missionaries are usually sent to mission with the company of a boyfriend/girl friend which will remind them that there’s a family worth building for in a civilized plane. But indigenous and civilization aside, you’ve mentioned that your best friend and her fiancé plan to move back to the US. Therefore I believe that this “clouded judgment” crisis may not apply to her.

So what can you do?

If you can afford to go visit your friend a few months before September, that would give you a chance to evaluate the fiancé before the marriage occur. Right now, you can’t make a fair judgment about him because you haven’t met him in person. If you can do visit them, then you can discuss your impressions and observations to your friend based from reality.

However, if you cannot afford to do so, you can search the internet about the typical stories of Christian women who married Muslim men and what are the challenges that they met. Try to use statistics, what’s the percentage of these women who got converted into Islam upon marriage?. Discuss these to your friend. Try to know if deep inside your friend, she considers converting to Islam. You can just offer a different perspective to her, but at the end, it’s her decision. At least, you’ve done your job.

Finally, you must pray for her and let God guide her in her decision to marry someone of different race and faith. All you can do is give support no matter what her decision may be and let God’s will be done.

All the best to you and your friend!

Hugs,
Gleenn

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naomi

Really good post! Good insight and interesting story….sounds frustrating. the more opposition she gets, the more she will want to stay in isolation and therefore feel closer to her fiance since he’ll be the only one that understands her. I fear that she’ll get back to the states and feel it was a big mistake, but by then it’ll be too late. Glee’s advice was good, just give it to God, after you’ve done your part.

gleenn

That’s true Naomi, the more opposition she gets and the less understanding she receives, the more likely she’ll become closer to her fiance. It can be a counter reaction or simply a plain rebellion. Whatever it’s called, the more that they feel that it’s them vs. the world, the more that their relationship will get stronger.

White Bhabi

Gleen has given you some fabulous advice. I too agree with Gleen that living abroad has not clouded her judgment though I think you may have meant it has weakened her faith. Sadly that kind of thing does happen when you see what members of prominent religions do while abroad. Christians doing missionary work abroad are not the same as Christians you socialize regularly with on Sunday mornings. I don’t mean to offend you, just sharing my own personal experience having been born and raised as a Christian woman.

You are right to respect your friends decision though it is difficult for you. Since the bible says “judge not lest ye be judge yourself” it is wise for you not to make any rash decisions about the relationship. The best thing you can do for your friend is ask questions, try to understand what she sees and feels and it just may surprise you. Since you asked her a lot already you know she isn’t going into this relationship blinded completely. She has done her homework. Try to ask more thought provoking questions as Gleen has suggested. Questions she may not have thought of. Gleen gave some great examples and I’m sure more abound on the internet. I personally would ask about what is expected of her after the marriage in terms of her duty to him, continuing her work, etc.

Also, I would ensure that she have some kind of background check done on this man. That is smart for any marriage no matter what country, race, religion etc. It’s too easy for someone to lie, hide or cheat the system so to speak and she should know everything before she agrees to an intercultural relationship for sure. (Yes, I did that to my husband, he got upset but understood since I’m a criminal investigator by trade and because the world is full of creeps.) She can even tell him if she wants as honesty is essential in any relationship. It should also be understood this has nothing to do with his faith and that he has the same right to perform the same check on her for the same reasons. The world is not a safe, happy go lucky place unfortunately.

They also need to discuss where they will live afterwards, will they stay in America forever? If so, how often will they pay the expenses of traveling to see his family (realistically this is rarely more than once a year under the best of finances) and children absolutely must be discussed. His family has the right to be involved with the children as much as possible and that won’t be easy. Also, what religion will they raise the children, etc.

Good luck, and remember it is not your place to choose for your friend but to love her whether this turns out to be a huge mistake or the marriage of dreams.

gleenn

Thank you so much White Bhabi, you’ve given very useful tips. I especially love that you suggested the background check. I support this too. I know some credible investigation companies offline and there are even background check companies online. I believe this is an SOS especially for an intercultural marriage.

Also, I can’t agree more to your last advice. A friend, indeed, loves a friend through thick and thin, through successes and failures. Thank you for such fabulous input!

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