Maintaining a healthy relationship is already a challenge in itself, especially if both individuals have different religious beliefs. Being raised in a Malay Muslim family, my mum would always say, “You better make sure your future wife is small sized, slim, obedient and must be from a Madrasah!”
She would remind me, time and time again that this was the standard and that there are no exceptions. So imagine her surprise when at the age of 17, I brought back home a Chinese Buddhist girl.
“GET THAT DEMON GIRL OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!”
We left but I kept bringing demon girl back anyway. Over the years of nagging and scolding I endured for being with demon girl, my mum and extended family finally accepted her. This was largely due to demon girl being respectful of the elders in my family. Plus it helps when my aunts, uncles and cousins introduce their new partners to the family, partners who tend to be rude. Well the catch is that they think demon girl is going to be a Muslim one day.
On demon girl’s side of life, her family found out about me and also nagged at her to break it off because of my race and religion. To soothe their ailing hearts, she lied and said that she did break it off. A few months after the fake breakup we were talking at a bus stop after school when she saw her grandmother some distance away, walking towards the bus stop.
She smacked me hard on the arm and anxiously said, “GO! Don’t let her see you!”
Trust me when I say that you would have never seen a fat boy run so fast before. Luckily I got away in time and 7 years later, we are still hiding in the shadows, avoiding places where we might bump into her family members.
Looking back on all the adventures we’ve been on together, aside from family acceptance, religion had never been an issue for us. When demon girl and I fell for each other, we didn’t think of race or religion but rather, we saw each other as people. However, we knew the day would come when religion will be a barrier to us getting married.
I did not want her to convert to Islam and she did not want me to convert to Buddhism. So, very early into our relationship, we came to an agreement that if we were to get married, it will be a civil marriage or both of us would leave our current religions and enter another religion together.
What made things easier was that as we grew together, we also grew weary of religion together and we eventually became agnostic. Now the only challenge lies with minimizing the uproar from both our families.
It’s not that we don’t love our families that we choose to lie to them. It’s just that lying is the only way we know how to deal with the situation.
We are sure that there are many others like us who have faced or will face similar situations. This is a problem that couples with two different religions face but also Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists who have partners in the same religion but a different denomination.
If you are looking for a different way to manage the difficulties you and your partner face, come join us for a hearty discussion on 25 March to a workshop organized by Crit Talk and the Council of ex-Muslims of Singapore. Those without partners from another religion or denomination are also welcomed! We are looking forward to hearing your stories and opinions.
TICKETS AVAILABLE AT
Fat Boy and Demon Girl