In our article “Interracial Relationship Are Cute Until Marriage Enters The Conversation” first published on 10 March 2021, a portion of the article made references to S.M Faliq S.M Nasimuddin and his spouse, Chryseis Tan based on a tweet on Twitter.
We wish to highlight that it was not our intention to single out, ridicule, or disparage them as devoted Muslims.
The Editorial team regrets any misunderstanding or implications caused by the initial publication of the article.
The following article was first published on 10 March 2021. It was re-edited on 29 March 2021.
As a country that prides itself on its heterogeneity and diversity, interracial relationships are bound to happen and in fact, it’s even celebrated as a symbol of unity across cultures and races.
Without interracial love, we wouldn’t have such rich influences when it comes to food, music, art and even fashion. This is evident in the Baba-Nyonya culture as well as Mamak culture to which we owe a lot of our modern tributes to.
While these relationships are appealing to the eye and bring us pride due to the wonderful things it births for Malaysian culture, it’s not easy to sustain a relationship with someone of a different faith.
We are all aware that apostasy is a criminal offence which in turn, means no Muslim can convert out of their religion in order to marry. However, the same is not applied to non-muslims who, in this country, must convert into Islam in order to legalise the union.
This highlights the main issue in every interracial or interfaith relationship because naturally, the next step to a relationship is marriage.
Despite the fact that this conversation is evergreen and has been debated numerous times before, it was brought up again on social media when a tweet went viral due to a caption that incited the debate over interracial relationships.
Many netizens brought up the issue of conversion, stating that it was unfair entrapment for non-muslims to convert in order to marry someone they love, thus abandoning their religion and cultural familial ties. In Malaysia, compromise by meeting in the middle does not exist.
Another alarming discovery was the abundant fetishisation where Malay-Muslims considered it a “prize” to marry someone of a different race because it was considered exotic or that it would lead to cute “mixed” babies. When this mindset prevails, the non-Malay partner simply becomes a vehicle to drive their need for aesthetics and status. At this point, why marry a person if you’re going to treat them like a trophy to place on your mantle?
For the most part, debates began to spur revolving the discrepancies between couples in positions of wealth and us normal folk since their influence does allow for them to get away with certain things we could not.
For example, the double standards present within our authoritative system have been apparent many times before when it comes to the elite. This leniency allows for them to enjoy the benefits of their union without looking over their shoulder for religious crackdowns by police in case their lifestyle does not fully-adhere to Shariah law.
When it comes to the common folk, interfaith relationships are a dead-end. Living with your partner before marriage poses obvious threats due to police raids and is considered taboo but marrying them invites a different debacle since conversion is obligatory for the non-muslim party.
Not only do non-Muslims need to give up the faith they have been raised with since they were born, but they must break the news to their family who arduously instilled those beliefs and values in them. Having to abandon their identity for love is an impossible task to ask of someone yet that is the reality for all non-Muslims in our country who wish to marry a Muslim.
Marriage is supposed to be a joyous union that celebrates love against all odds. But when religious sensitivities are forced under the rug at the expense of the non-Muslim partner’s feelings and familial ties, that is when resentment begins to build leading to “dishonour” and “shame” within the non-Muslim family.
Even in our neighbouring country, Indonesia, where interfaith marriage is legal, couples convert in order to make things easier so they don’t have to face cultural discouragement and harassment from religious authorities. It’s even common for civil servants to deny them this right simply because of its taboo.
In Singapore however, which is a stone’s throw away from Malaysia, interfaith marriage is legal without any hitches. The only thing an interfaith couple must do differently is register at the Registry of Marriages instead of the Registry of Muslim Marriages.
So why aren’t there more interracial marriages in Singapore between Muslims and non-Muslims? Ironically, many Singaporean Malay-Muslims believe their partner should still convert as it brings shame on their families if they marry a non-Muslim. Currently though, it is said that the younger generation of Singaporean Malays don’t feel the same.
It’s important for Malaysians to know these things before continuing a relationship with someone of a different faith. It’s true that we can’t help who we love but it’s better to be prepared for all the hurdles up ahead so long as Malaysia does not change its stance on conversion.
Interracial relationships are beautiful and I am an advocate for uniting cultures but we can’t have our cake and eat it too. One of the pillars of a strong, healthy relationship and marriage is compromise yet non-Muslims are forced to bend to the will of Shariah law.
It’s only a matter of time before they break.