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    Posted February 11, 2013 by
    Katy, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

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    Interfaith marriage

    After my second divorce, I had given up on any possibility of a loving, caring relationship and on that note, at the start of 2011, I had removed my online dating profiles except for one. I could not tell you what made me leave that particular one but I did. The next day, when I went to remove it, I saw a profile of a man who had joined the next morning and who had viewed my profile. I thought his profile was interesting. Only one thing that I saw about him that I was not certain about. He was Muslim. I was not. I was not the most Christian of people but still, I was not Muslim. After studying the profile for awhile, I sent a smiley face and just told myself if he responds that would be great and if not, well, life goes on. I had been married twice and both were to nonbelievers so I figured a religion was better than none. Defending my beliefs against my spouse was not something I was prepared to do again. We met and hit it off right away.
    As the relationship began to intensify, meeting each other's families was in order. My meeting his Egyptian Muslim family went well. They hugged me and were just as warm and friendly as could be. My Christian family was a little different. My mom and stepdad were nervous and edgy but my not-then husband put my mom right at ease. My stepdad remained edgy, bordering on hostile, despite the fact that my boyfriend had gone out of his way to serve my parents' favorite foods and drinks. My parents and siblings eventually came over several times, always enjoying themselves and soon relaxing around my Muslim boyfriend. However, the religious issue came up with my stepdad just coming right out and telling us that he hated all Muslims and thought they should all be dead. Pretty much after that, they all stopped coming over and things chilled quickly after that. Once, after the confrontation when we went to help my parents move , my youngest sister who had never met my then- fiancee ran, hid, and locked herself in a room rather than meet him. All of this was very distressing for me and made me feel caught in the middle like some small child. I knew how this man made me feel and what a wonderful person he was. My family's hateful behavior was terribly hard to bear.
    Despite how badly my mom, stepdad and siblings behaved, it was nothing compared to my minister dad. When I called him and told him that I wanted him to meet my fiancée, he flat out told me that no Muslim would ever grace his doorway nor would my dad ever shake my fiancee's hand. My dad told me that I was a weak Christian, the Bible forbade such relationships and my future in heaven was lost. If I continued on with this relationship, he told me that the next time I would see him would be in heaven in front of God Himself. He made me feel like some 12 year old who did not have a clue and not the 48 year old mother of three and grandmother of two that I was. I was just devastated and hurt. I felt like I had committed some kind of mortal sin and had been excommunicated from my family. I thought at least my family would give my fiancée a chance but my Christian family did not and I was humiliated. His Muslim family had been more tolerant and kind than the Christians in my family. 
    We got married a few months later and only my children and grandchildren came to the wedding. No one else could make it, they said. At our reception, one of my siblings was forced to come to "represent" my family. Our wedding was not well received by the Christian side of this union. Despite the marked absence of my family, the wedding and reception, while small, inexpensive and non-traditional, was a very joyous and happy event. 
    Fast forward a few months and one major surgery later, my sister called me and asked what we were doing for Christmas. She had called my dad and they discussed how they had been unfair to my husband and would like to get to know him. They could all see how happy I was with him, even after almost losing him in a difficult heart surgery two months after the wedding. We made arrangements, my dad called my husband to personally invite him to come and I even invited my mother who has been divorced from my dad for over 40 years. We all went and we had one of the most amazing Christmas celebrations ever. It was full of love, peace and happiness. What actually ended up happening was that everyone who met my husband instantly liked him and respected him. They all said that he was not what they expected from a Muslim. The person they found offensive was my Christian stepdad who still was acting angry and confrontational months later.
    Maybe my family reacted out of fear of the unknown. Maybe they thought I would be speaking Arabic and wanting to move to Egypt. I have no idea why they behaved the way they did but they did. However difficult it was for that year or so, marrying someone outside of my faith was one of the greatest things that I ever could have done. I know it does not always happen this way for others. For me, it opened my knowledge of another religion, deepened my faith in God and drew my family together in a way I never could have dreamed and I am entirely grateful and thankful for that little smiley face that I sent on a whim.
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