An intercultural marriage is, like any marriage, a delicate balancing act. Even after you realize how little you can change one another, one prime battleground remains: the children.
They are the bearers of our ancestry, our hope for immortality and our greatest responsibility. Some things are easily reconcilable, like teaching a child multiple languages. Others are harder — in our case deciding when to cut our young son’s hair, whether to wear shoes indoors and when to remove them outdoors. But the most difficult question that I have asked myself since becoming a mother is this: Can our child be both a Muslim and a Jew?
Before my wedding, my mother said that any child I bore would be Jewish. Jewish law dictates that a child born to a Jewish mother inherits her identity. Islam, on the other hand, is arguably patrilineal. For this reason, it is far less controversial for a Muslim man to marry a Jewish or Christian woman than for a Muslim woman to marry outside of the faith.
My husband and I did not make our decision to be together lightly, waiting six years to finally date. Over those six years, our daily conversations were studded with potentialities. “What if we had a daughter, would you want her to wear a headscarf?” I asked. “What would you tell our child, if he asked you about God?” Ufuk replied. We tried to feel out the future together, an uncharted territory — not without precedent (the prophet Muhammad himself had a Jewish wife named Safiyya, meaning “pure”), but certainly without a map.
When we married and had a child, our own expectations and our families’ expectations for our son Sami’s religious identity took center stage. My mother-in-law sent me hopeful, hinting videos of toddlers reciting Koranic verse.
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