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Marriage: Beyond East and West

27 October 2010 12 Comments

Alaha Ahrar

Alaha Ahrar

The one point I would like to mention to all people is to look beyond surface — they will see the sameness that lies in the core of humanity.”

University of Mary Washington (UMW) is famous for its friendly and diverse environment where administrators, teachers, and students from different parts of the world work, study and, support each other.

One of my professors, Mehdi Aminrazavi, is one among those distinct and brilliant individuals at the university. He is originally from Iran and has been living in the United States since 1976.

Professor Aminrazavi is a very liberal and open-minded person. He finished high school in the city of Mashhad, Iran.  When he came to the United States in 1976, he majored in city planning and minored in philosophy. He received two Masters’ degrees, one in philosophy and the other one in comparative religion. His Ph.D. was in philosophy of religion.

Professor Mehdi Aminrazavi

Although Professor Aminrazavi comes from a conservative Islamic country, he broke away from his tradition and married an American Catholic woman in 1983.

I find the story of Professor Aminrazavi’s life to be a message of humanity and love.

I interviewed him recently for Peace X Peace so that others could hear this Iranian professor talk about his marriage and how it is based on understanding, compromise, and care.


Was it easy for you and your wife to adapt to each other’s cultures?

No, nothing is easy in life. We had to negotiate at all major points and we had to learn the American way of living as well as the Iranian way of thinking and living. And then we tried to find a balance in between.

In order to have a peaceful and successful marriage, a couple should be ready to listen to each other and understand each other.  Both my wife and I compromised on our religious practices. Neither of us tried to force the other to follow or accept our own religious belief. Instead we discussed and agreed that we will each follow our own path and leave our children to decide for themselves once they grow up and reach an age when they can choose a path for themselves.

In a sense, we created a third culture of our own, which is a mixture of the East and West. We have created a bi-cultural life.

How many children do you have and what are their religious points of view, beliefs or stances?

I have two children, a daughter and a son. My daughter is my oldest child. She can read and write Persian very well. She identifies more with Islamic spirituality. My son, who is a teenager, is not serious about religion.

Although my wife is not a Muslim, she is interested in Islamic affairs and has read the Quran.

Professor Mehdi Aminrazavi's classroom at UMW

What is your advice for youth and women? Should they marry from different cultures or countries?

Marriage is a very difficult agreement to keep.  When you marry someone from a different culture you deal with different issues and problems but they are all solvable through negotiations.

Those who are interested in marrying someone from a different country and culture have to work very hard. As their marriage grows and especially as soon as they start having children, their differences become more apparent. They begin to realize that having different religions, languages and cultural practices are very sensitive matters. A couple should compromise and take these issues very seriously from the very beginning.

What is a particular point that you like most about Iran and what is a particular point that you like about American culture?

I love how my culture values friendship and strong family bonds. Family is considered to be a sacred institution in Iran.

Obeying rules and laws in the U.S.A. is something that I like very much. Americans follow rules, laws and respect authority. In a sense, following the rules and laws are very sacred in the U.S.A. It starts from work ethics and extends to driving and everything else.

If you could take one good point from the U.S.A to Iran, what would it be? And what one good point from Iran to the U.S.A?

Humanity at its very core is the same all over the world. We are all fundamentally the same.  The one point I would like to mention to all people is to look beyond the surface — they will see the sameness that lies in the core of humanity. Differences appear on the surface.  As the famous poet, Mawlana Rumi says:

“Conflict among people arises because of superficialities,

Once we reflect on the depth of our humanity, there is unity and peace”

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12 Comments to “Marriage: Beyond East and West”
  1. Tyler V. says:

    This is truly amazing. I’m glad that two people of two completely different cultures managed to work out a successful marriage. Many marriages like this are hard to even start at the dating level. The key to make it work is that both spouses must take a part and share in each others lives with an open-mind and acceptance.

  2. Bzorg says:

    Good article/Interview.
    I was interested in learning more about raising children and what kind of problems did you run into and solutions you came up with.

  3. Yasaman says:

    Wow, this is an extraordinary piece. I am so fortunate to have Mr.Aminrazavi as my professor at UMW and equally fortunate to call Alaha a dear friend.

  4. Valerie B. says:

    I loved having a class with Professor Adminrazavi and I really appreciate this wonderful interview. He imparts wisdom with us that would otherwise take years to learn. It is incredible how he looks beyond the cultures that we think define us and acknowledges that we are all merely ‘human’. If everyone thought like this, there certainly would be less conflict in the world. Lovely interview, Alaha, thank you!

  5. AnaT says:

    I loved this article! I liked the way it was written as well as its content. It is rare to find somebody you get along with right away, but if you love them, you have to make the effort to change/compromise. These changes are necessary in order for you (both) to stay happy. On a more spiritual note, it’s great that they can still practice the religions they want to practice and give their children the choice as well. Overall, love is capable of making anything happen, whether it is love for a specific person, your country/culture or religion.

  6. Ali says:

    Dr. Aminrazavi’s personal commitement to apreciate, respect and love another person despite drastic fundamental beliefs is inspirational. The world would be a better place if we all would listen and respect eachothers views and to appreciate our differences.
    Thank you for forwarding the article Alaha!

  7. Sarah W says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article and interview
    Thank you Alaha, you are an amazing individual.
    @ Ana T, you are right. If you are in love with someone, then you can change yourself, even your religion for the sake of your love.
    Love is the strongest that can change anyone.
    The strongest and the most motivated people can’t control their emotions and love. I also believe in love.

    Alaha, you are a very lovely friend. Your people must be proud of you. Your face shines with purity that shows the innocence of your soul. You are like an angel.

  8. Emily says:

    Alaha! I can say that you are the sign of love and humanity.
    You’re very sincere and brighten my day whenever, I run into you.

  9. Smith says:

    Wonderful wonderful job Alaha! Keep speaking up!
    Although, English is not your first language, you do great. I love your poetry and writings.
    You are an Afghan young Peacebuilder.

  10. Phoebe Johnston says:

    This article put me in the right frame of mind for understanding among peoples of the world. Let’s always remember what Professor Aminrazavi quoted from Rumi that conflict resides in superficialities. Thank you!

  11. Laura says:

    Dr. Razavi’s life is very much interesting.
    Thanks for sharing.

  12. Matt says:

    Dr.Aminrazavi is one of my most favorite professors and I met Alaha at school. She was one of my most favorite classmates that I have a lot of respect for and greatly admire.

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