Thursday, May 22, 2008

Film "Muslims in Love" Just Completed

"Muslims in Love", directed by Zerina Usmen, is a 25-minute documentary discussing the situations Muslims in the U.S. face regarding marriage. The film's official web site is

The URL for the You! Tube trailer is

The film's web site has an FAQ, biographies and other useful links.

The film starts with the question, "How do you find a mate when you don't date?" The meat of the documentary is the interviews with young Muslims who describe their various experiences, some of them good and others not so good. One commonality among all those appearing in the film is the idea that love, however defined, should be a part of the marriage process or decision. More women are interviewed than men.

A friend of mine reported to me upon returning from the recent 45th Annual Islamic Society of North America convention in Columbus, OH that the session designed to promote marriage had many more young women in attendance than men. Anecdotally, I hear the same thing. I identified at least three reasons:
  1. Muslim men are incarcerated more than Muslim women.
  2. Some Muslim men marry non-Muslim women.
  3. Some Muslim men prefer to marry Muslim women who either have not achieved a lot academically or professionally or who were raised in a predominantly Muslim country.
This friend of mine also believes that this disparity of Muslim men developed in the last 10 years, and he believed that reason #3 above was the most important cause.

Some of the subjects in the film expressed these opinions as well.

The documentary balanced these complexities with the "happy" ma sha Allah la quwwata illa billah story of two who do end up getting married. The clips from their wedding party and their nascent domestic life, including a newborn, are attempts to show the happy results of the Muslim marriage process.

While this serves the idea of exposing this aspect of Muslims' lives to their non-Muslim neighbors, I fear that it may perpetuate the idea among Muslims that the worth of their lives is tied to marriage and hence some are winners and others are losers.

The single person's social life is precarious in North American society in general, and particulary so among Muslims. Is it necessary to begin creating social spaces for unmarried Muslims? For example, should Muslims develop a concept of not asking single people why they are not married and not offering to introduce them to ibn al-halal or bint al-halal? Even the idea that there are single Muslim parents escapes us. A registration form for a Sunday school might ask specifically for the father's signature, when really only the mother is in the picture.

While doing this might ease the awkwardness single Muslims may feel around other Muslims, the fact is Islam does strongly encourage marriage. I remember reading about how a performer in Nigeria would sing in front of a bachelor's house, mocking him for not being married.

Alternatively, there should be a serious discussion of why people who do want to get married don't get married. If Muslim men don't measure up, as most of the subjects implied, then there should be a systemic reason why they are inadequate. Is it because their mothers spoil them? Is it because their understanding of Islam causes them to behave badly to their prospective spouses?

One thing I noticed among the Muslim women who discussed their situation was a lack of introspection in their comments about marriage. Now this is probably putting on a brave face for the camera, but there should at least be some entertaining the possiblity that something is driving Muslim men away from Muslim women who grew up in North America.

The discussion of a recent woman convert's situation is good. Her situation combines many difficulties.

I hope that this project can be expanded to cover parents' reactions to their children's love and marriage quest.

Looking back on this review, I see that there is a "stream of consciousness" quality to it that may be more of a reflection of my own attitudes than the film. But I'm leaving the entry like this for now.

I hope that the film can contribute to an improvement in the marriage process among North American Muslims and to a "normalization" of Muslims to non-Muslims.

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