Many young interracial couples still find it hard to get their parents’ blessings despite growing number of interracial marriage in Singapore.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.
Unbeknown to his Sri Lankan Muslim parents, Amir Zoruk, 19, has been dating his Singaporean Chinese girlfriend Addy Tan for the past 2 and a half years.
Amir knows his conservative parents would like their daughter-in-law to be a conservative Muslim. He doesn’t want them to know he’s in love with a Chinese Christian girl.
“I love Addy but if I tell my parents about it, they wouldn’t allow me to see her. I don’t want that to happen,” Amir told The UrbanWire.
In fact, he said he’s not even encouraged to find his own girlfriend. Arranged marriage is still preferred in his family.
On the other hand, his girlfriend Addy, 19, has introduced him to her parents.
Addy’s parents are accepting of Amir as their daughter’s friend, but they make it clear that they will not support their marriage since they don’t share the same religion.
“Till today, I’m not sure if I will have to convert (to Islam) to marry him and this, to me, will greatly hinder any marriage decision because I am a strong Christian,” Addy said. “I’ve heard multiple accounts from people who are in the same situation. None of us can come to a consensus about this issue of conversion.”
Under the Singapore Women’s Charter, a legislative act to protect the rights of women and girls, a marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim can be registered with the Registry of Marriages. However, a more common practice in Muslim families is for the non-Muslim spouse to convert to Islam before registering the marriage with the Registry of Muslim Marriages.
“It is heartbreaking,” Addy said as she stole a glance at Amir, “but we’ll tackle one problem at a time.”
Amir and Addy are not alone. Based on the findings from an online survey conducted by The UrbanWire from Nov 12-17, more than 75 per cent of the 103 respondents said their parents would not want them in an interracial relationship. Close to 78 per cent of them said they have heard derogatory comments in reference to interracial relationships from their family members or friends.
“One time when we were holding hands on the bus, an old Malay man cursed at us under his breath, Addy recounted. “Even after we alighted, we saw him gesturing violently and vulgarly at us.”
“I also notice that we tend to get disapproving looks from a lot of the older people in public,” she added.
Nevertheless, Addy believes that young people are more accepting of interracial relationships as compared to the older generation, who might be less inclined to accept what they are unfamiliar with.
“Nowadays, with more common ground, people befriend each other based on personality, not race,” the 19-year-old said. “I don’t think many people have a violent opposition against interracial couples, but they will be inclined to gape at them for their oddity.”
While interracial relationships are still stigmatized by some quarters in the society, their numbers are rising steadily.
In 2015, more than one-fifth (21.5%) of the marriages in Singapore are interracial, up from 14.9 per cent in 2005, according to the Department of Statistics Singapore.
With time, as interracial marriage becomes even more common and with more children born into these families, interracial love is likely to be more widely accepted.
For now, open-mindedness and respectfulness is the key to overcoming the barriers, said Addy.
“An individual is not defined only by his race or faith. What’s important is what we maintain between us,” she said, adding that better immersion in each other’s culture will definitely give rise to better understanding and stronger bonds.
“You have to give the other person space to exercise his own cultural differences and not enforce your own on him.
“From that, acceptance is strengthened, and it’s be easier for us to negate the toxic disapproving voices of society,” Addy said.