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17. Understanding Islam
SECTION SIX: UNDERSTANDING CONVERTS FROM ISLAM
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: SOCIETAL DIFFICULTIES FACED BY NEW CONVERTS FROM ISLAM

14.2. Marriage


If the convert lives in a Muslim-majority country, it becomes extremely difficult for them to form a new family if they are male, and impossible if they are female. This is because most such countries require official registration of everyone’s religion, and once registered Muslim at birth it is impossible to change. According to Islamic teaching (and thus laws in most Muslim-majority countries), a Muslim man is allowed to marry a chaste Christian or Jewish woman; a Muslim woman however is only allowed to marry a Muslim man. So in the case of a male convert who remains a Muslim on paper, he might be able to get married to a Christian; however, all his official papers will still say he is a Muslim, and if he has children they will be registered and educated as Muslims. A woman however does not even have this option open to her, and in fact she may even find herself unable to refuse a family arranged marriage to a Muslim, making it almost impossible for her to live a Christian life.

Some churches try to solve the problem by introducing convert couples to each other with a view to arranging their marriage. Although this seems like ‒ and in many cases is ‒ a good solution, it is not without its difficulties. This new family would be starting out without any cultural or religious inheritance as they have both left their Islamic culture and at the same time they are strangers to the new traditions they now belong to. They have to start to form a new culture and traditions for themselves. They are also most likely starting out without any family support. The church needs to understand this, be accommodating, and offer support where it is needed.

Some of the happiest times in the church culture might actually trigger negative feelings for converts. Times like Christmas and Easter, when church and families gather to celebrate, might be times when converts remember they have no family to celebrate with (and this of course applies equally if not more so to single converts).

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