Jewish- Muslim Intermarriage

“Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.” 

Erich Fromm

In some communities, ‘marrying out’ provokes a strong visceral response on the part of the family, friends and wider community. But marrying someone of a particular group can be seen a positively and absolutely taboo.

This has been, and for some still is the case, for Jewish and Muslim couples, where intermarriage may be looked upon as marrying the sworn enemy of the people.  Stereotypes and the tightness of a community drive most of these perceptions.  Some Jews regard all Muslims as suicide bombers who want to push Jews to extinction. Some Muslims are affected by the self same anti- Zionist propaganda of the far right, with many succumbing to a belief in a global Jewish conspiracy.

To illustrate the point there is little readiness or acceptability of even discussing the occurrence of Israeli Jews marrying Israel Arab Muslims. Indeed a film documentary on the subject called ‘Marock‘ about director’s own life as a Muslim married to a Sephardic Jew in Morocco was received with great controversy. The film was first stalled and then banned. The director faced criminal charges because the government claimed that the film, ‘insulted Islam, which is against Moroccan law.

In Yemen, Jewish Muslim intermarriage has been used to score points and as a tool of hegemonic dominance. It  is regarded as a tragedy for the Jewish community- and a triumph for the Muslim community. According to the Yemen Post, at least 10 Jewish girls have married Muslim men in Yemen in 2010.  The situation is one with a veneer that such intermarriages are normal. Except that there are accusations that Jewish women have been forced to convert to Islam as well as forced to marry Muslim men. To further exacerbate the issue, when a Jewish woman in Yemen marries a Muslim man, the Jewish community responds by sitting shiva– the Jewish practice of mourning the dead.  The rabbi of Raida explains that when a Jewish women in Yemen marries a Muslim the members of the community meet at her father’s house and offer their condolences for a full week, for the family and the whole community which has lost one of its own.

The arguably intractable conflict in the Middles East, the high degrees of self imposed segregation and endogamy of both communities and historical animosities, stereotypes and tragedies all make it highly unlikely that Jews and Muslims interact, let alone intermarry.

But Britain is a pluralist society; people of all cultures, faiths and backgrounds interact at work, socialise after work, encounter each other at schools and universities and play sports together. Indeed there are a plethora of organisations devoted to increasing understanding and tolerance between Jews and Muslims in Britain. Therefore it could only be inevitable that some Muslims and Jews might fall in love and marry each other.

Most of the time when discussing interfaith marriages it is in regards to Christians, nominal or devout, and a person of another faith. Which is not surprising considering that even a nominal Christian identity is still the majority faith in Britain today. Despite, their status as minority faith groups,  a long history of endogamy and a catalogue of mutual prejudices, nevertheless Jews and Muslims are marrying, and the trend is beginning to become dominant; approximately 50% of Jewish people who marry, are marrying non- Jews.

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