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Maria Almenoar
Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Singapore

1 couple, 2 faiths: Mutual respect vital

The Straits Times | Maria Almenoar | Friday, Jun 20, 2014

It is likely that future generations may in turn become more comfortable with inter-religious relationships.

An institutue of Policy Studies (IPS) survey has found that many in Singapore society are uncomfortable with someone of a different religion joining their family.

Fewer than half the Muslims and Protestant Christians surveyed were open to marrying someone of a different religion themselves. This may come as a shock to some, especially in this day and age, but it does not surprise me. As a third-generation member of an inter-religious family, I know first-hand how tricky it can be when people of different faiths come together in one family.

My late grandfather on my father's side was Muslim and married a Catholic, who converted to Islam. My parents, well, followed suit. My Muslim father married a Catholic too, though my mother did not convert to Islam.

Given our family history, you might imagine it would have been simple enough when my parents decided to marry 42 years ago. But although my mother's family did not object to the union, a member of my father's family was not entirely comfortable with her remaining Catholic.

For a few years, there was some tension in the family. Luckily, I never saw first-hand how it affected my mother or my parents' relationship because by the time I was old enough to understand the concept of religion and the family drama, my mother got along well with my father's side.

Today, our extended family gets on well. This is especially true among us cousins, even though my cousins attended a madrasah whereas my sister and I went to convent schools. But if there was friction in an extended family like mine, what more other families?

While it seems that the general acceptance of other religious beliefs is present - nine in 10 people have no issues working with a co-worker of a different religion - that "approval rate" drops significantly when it hits closer home.

With religion being a serious and emotional undertaking, there is unhappiness that a loved one may change as a person if he converts to a different religion to suit his partner.

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