My Take: Top 5 myths about American Muslims’ love lives
February 14th, 2012
01:25 PM ET

My Take: Top 5 myths about American Muslims’ love lives

Editor's note:  Ayesha Mattu, an international development consultant, and Nura Maznavi, an attorney, are the co-editors of "Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women."

By Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, Special to CNN

A lot has been written about Muslim women, but very little of it has been written by Muslim women ourselves.

The sensational stories — child brides, forced marriages, honor killings — always get the headlines, but nowhere do we see the stories of the independent, opinionated and hilarious Muslim women we know.

We decided to change that.

Starting five years ago, we asked fellow American Muslim women to share their stories of searching for love. We chose the topic because love is a deeply intimate yet universal emotion — and one not usually associated with Muslims.

We received 200 submissions in response to our call for stories, which we broadcast via social media and email.

Twenty five of the best submissions form our new book, “Love InshAllah,” which means “God willing” in Arabic and expresses the idea that it’s only through the will of God that we attain what we seek in life.

Taken together, the stories offer a portrait of the millions of Muslims in America, which represents the most diverse Muslim community on the planet. It includes families whose roots go back to the founding of our nation and immigrants from every country imaginable.

While compiling the book, we ran head-on into lots of myths about the love lives of American Muslim women. Here are the top 5:

1. Muslim women marry men their parents choose for them.

While some women do meet their husbands through their parents, Islam gives women the final say over whether or not to marry that person. Family plays a strong role in the lives of many American Muslim women, but the majority who submitted contributions to our book did not meet their partners through family recommendations.

The women of “Love InshAllah” fall in love at college and work, online and through mutual friends. One writer, Angela Collins Telles, met a handsome and mysterious stranger while traveling in Argentina, had a whirlwind romance, got married and now lives in Brazil with her husband their two sons. Not exactly an arranged marriage.

2. All arranged marriages are loveless.

For many of us, the idea of marrying someone you are not in love with is shocking. It brings to mind images of a couple bound together for life by duty, not love. Aisha Saeed writes about meeting a young man on the recommendation of her mother and, within six weeks, deciding to marry him.

If that seems foreign, consider that she bases her decision on their mutual chemistry after discussing shared values, passions and goals. They’re the same factors most of us consider when choosing a lifelong partner, albeit usually over longer periods of dating.

Though Saeed may not have been “in love” with him in the conventional sense on their wedding day, a decade of married life later they are madly in love with each other, with a love that continues to grow deeper over time.

Saeed chose her partner on the lasting qualities of mutual respect and kindness and they have built a beautiful life together.

3. Muslim women who wear the hijab are repressed or asexual.

Throughout history, the lives and bodies of Muslim women have been politicized.

We are either hypersexualized — think belly dancers and harems — or thought to be desexualized, as though wearing a scarf on our heads extinguishes all feelings of love or desire, and our very agency over our lives.

In “Love, InshAllah,” writers who wear hijab challenge that notion. Whether they are recently divorced and miss the sexual intimacy of a relationship, single and tempted by their hot personal trainers, or discovering the joys of a new relationship through the sweetness of holding hands for the very first time, Muslim women who cover share the love and longing of all women.

4. There is no such thing as a gay Muslim.

Actually, there is. Not only are there gay Muslims, some of them are deeply orthodox, with faith playing a central role in their lives. Two of our writers relate very different experiences of being gay Muslims — one from a secular background, the other from an orthodox perspective.

The surprises don’t end there. The more secular writer comes out to her strict Muslim parents and is accepted, while the more orthodox woman has not yet come out to her non-Muslim family. In the end, a parent’s reaction has less to do with his or her family’s religious affiliation and more to do with individual family cultures, communication and dynamics.

5. Muslim women are unable to escape unhappy marriages.

Muslim women have had the right to divorce for the past 1,400 years. That is not to say it has always been easy, or that cultural or legal impediments have not existed. The same barriers that prevent many of us from moving on from a bad relationship – fear of being alone, children, or economic issues – come into play for Muslim women, too.

But many of the writers in “Love InshAllah” write openly about unhappy marriages and eventually leave them behind. They find love on the second — or even third — time around.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (478 Responses)
  1. children of Israel

    *Genesis 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way,.. *Judges 5:17 Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? *Ezra 9:9 For we were bondmen: *Deuteronomy 28:68 And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you. *Luke 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; *Jeremiah 8:20-22 The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; *Psalm 60:7 Judah is my lawgiver;

    August 29, 2013 at 2:37 am |
  2. children of Israel

    The satanic world is hiding behind the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac. But the world forgot Jesus Christ came out of the God of Jacob and he is the Star of Jacob. (Numbers 24:17) *Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. *Revelation 13:10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. *1st Thessalonians 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (Obama care) *Jeremiah 8:15 We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! *Matthew 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. *John 14:14-15 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. (Nehemiah 9:16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,)

    August 29, 2013 at 2:01 am |
  3. children of Israel

    Esau and Jacob mother Rebekah is a Syrian woman. *Genesis 25:28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. *Genesis 27:13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them. *Psalm 109:14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

    August 29, 2013 at 1:15 am |
  4. children of Israel

    Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. *Luke 1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, *Psalm 77:15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. *Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. *2nd Kings 14:7 He slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand, and took Selah by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day. *Genesis 25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. *Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

    August 29, 2013 at 12:49 am |
  5. children of Israel

    Allah is an evil dead satanic spirit. The God of Jacob rules (Genesis 31:29) *Psalm 108:8 Judah is my lawgiver;

    August 29, 2013 at 12:20 am |
  6. children of Israel

    The God of Jacob is real and he is coming against all the religious dead souls. Christians and Muslims will be destroyed together, and Allah is dead. The God of Jacob rules (Psalm 59:13)

    August 29, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  7. Sharan Gerdiman

    It is not easy to keep the relationships alive; it needs a lot of effort. You may require a lot of patience and you need to convince yourself that I need to save my marriage for the sake of all the good times and for the children. There are always some hope and ways to resolve the problems your marriage. The conflicts in married life may be because of ego or some misunderstandings.:;.:

    Catch you around

    June 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  8. Jawwad

    The concept of arranged marriages itself is an outdated one. It dates back to the time when monarchs and tribal leaders arranged marriages for their children in order solidify power. Unfortunately, Muslims have let these old cultures and traditions be considered as part of Islam, instead of moving ahead with the times. It must be noted that Muhammad (Peace be upon him)'s marriage with Khadijah was based on love, not arranged by some elder. I do not mean to say that arranged marriages are bad per se – the point I'm trying to make is that arranged marriage is not an Islamic concept.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  9. Jawwad

    No offence to the writers, but they need to step out of their little bubble and take a look at the conditions of Muslim women around the globe. Although it is true that Islam gives women the final say in whether they consent to marriage, that is rarely what happens. The concept of hijab and 'purdah' has been used by men to oppress women and create a patriarchal society for centuries, so much so that many educated women in urban areas like Karachi are brainwashed into being passive and submissive.

    August 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • arzoo

      I honestly couldn't agree with you more. People are turning islam around, they are trying to oppress women and forcing women to arranged marriages and so much more. I think its mainly culture that is hurting the actual image of Islam. Islam is one the most beautiful religions, but if one was truly educated in the religion they would not confuse "culture" and "Islam".

      February 17, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
  10. Santiago

    1400 years ago some influential ppoele were afraid to say "no" to a pedophile who claimed God told him he was the "last prophet" and you must do as I ...

    July 29, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  11. Jens

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zkceOiJYNU&w=560&h=315%5D

    March 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Jens

    I don't think this is representative of Muslims. Just what CNN wants you to know.

    March 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • sharonmizbani

      Jen, how many muslim women have you met? I am one and it is nice to meet you. I can really relate to this article! especially about the trainer part haha. Just because i cover my body doesn't mean mine is any different than yours.

      June 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  13. Iqbal khan

    Watch all three parts.... and U be the judge....




    February 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  14. Usman Akhtar


    Watch these videos to see who your Lord, Your Savior, is truly and who take Jesus back after his Cruisifiction. I Challenge you to deny these videos and the massage in these videos. Paradise, who’s Paradise? Think about your kids and what they believe in. Listen to these creatures very carefully. These creatures are saying the name of their and every bodies Creator. May be GOD wants to give you a chance? I hope you won't call these creatures terrorist. Good Luck. I hope after finding the truth you will love the One and Only Provider, Savior, Creator and Owner of Paradise.
    Watch these videos.

    Watch where this Red car is going.
    Usman Akhtar

    February 18, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  15. Muneef

    A British man came to An arab and asked: Why is it not permissible in Islam for women to shake hands with a man?
    The arab said: Can you shake hands with Queen Elizabeth?
    British man said: Of course not, there are only certain people who can shake hands with Queen Elizabeth. 
    The arab replied: our women are queens and queens do not shake hands with strange men.

    Then the British man asked the arab: Why do your girls cover up their body and hair?
    The arab smiled and got two sweets, he opened the first one and kept the other one closed. He threw them both on the dusty floor and asked the British: If I asked you to take one of the sweets which one will you choose?
    The British replied: The covered one.
    The arab said: that's how we treat and see our women.

    February 18, 2012 at 6:49 am |
    • Karimah

      As a muslim woman I don't like being compared to food. I am a human being, not a piece of candy.

      May 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  16. nimesh

    These muslims will take over america and then they will sc-re-w over other minorities like us. Remember once muslims attain a majority, freedom of worship disappears.
    And what was right about the actions Lindh and Jihad Jane? Why shouldn't that have been reported?
    The suggestion here is that when muslims do something wrong the press should not report on that.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • clay burtts

      so 200 folks ,, and that is a segant of the population you are going to publish this on,,, shame on you ,,, go back to school... and check your ratios.........again and again,,,,,,

      February 19, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  17. reallyfubar

    What did the men say?

    February 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  18. Iqbal Khan


    February 16, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Islam is one sick crew

      rag headed rug rubbers

      February 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.