When Love Strikes, Let Your Head Guide Your Faith

Dr. Dilip Amin (center) gave a discourse on Interfaith Marriages on Saturday, July 29 based on research which is the basis of his new book, which he held up with event coordinators Gopinath Mistry (left) and Sangeeta Dua Kataria.

Dr. Dilip Amin (center) gave a discourse on Interfaith Marriages on Saturday, July 29 based on research which is the basis of his new book, which he held up with event coordinators Gopinath Mistry (left) and Sangeeta Dua Kataria.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: In the thrill of romance and a whirlwind courtship, inseparable couples relish each other’s company and languish at even the tiniest words or signs of discord. They will overlook any criticism lobbed at either of them and defend each other from perceived threats to being together. The world is their oyster and they do not wonder what abstract ideas could possibly make their love go wrong.

Least of all faith and religion, unless you come from a family in which these are strong bonds that hold it together with a larger congregation of similar minded people. Inspite of this familial attachment, the lure of love in the age of individualism can be so powerful that a young couple will continue to develop such strong feelings towards each other that the family has to give way. History is replete with stories of young lovers who are forsaken by their families – Romeo and Juliet, Heer and Ranja, the Duke of Windsor (former King Edward VIII) and Wallis Simpson, Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed – but live, and die, with each other.

If not thought out beforehand, the consequences of a mingling of different faiths and cultures can be profound and damaging, according to the research of Dr. Dilip Amin who has just published his findings in new book, Interfaith Marriages. He was in town this past weekend to give a talk to a group of attentive listeners at the International Trade Center on Bellaire Boulevard on Saturday, July 29. The event and book launch was organized by Gopinath Mistry and a group of like-minded community activists and sponsored by the American Hindu Social Services.

A native of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Amin has a doctorate degree in Pharmacology. He is a prolific researcher with 6 patents, has published 23 papers and currently works in cancer research. He has also been a Hindu activist involved in many Hindu organizations like the Plymouth Balvihar in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania and founder of the Balvihar at Sanathan Mandir in San Bruno, California among others. He has been married to a Gujarati also from Ahmedabad from for past 38 years and they have two children born and raised in the US.

It was his keen involvement in Hindu issues that prompted Amin’s curiosity in interfaith relationships and in 2009 he formed the Forum for Interfaith Marriage and Equality and the website interfaithshaadi.org through which he received over 23,000 comments. These, and his guidance of over 900 young people on their interfaith relationship issues, form the basis of his book Interfaith Marriages which has a detailed breakdown of what conflicts couples of different faiths may encounter. He said that the objective of his book was “to help educate new adults so that they make fully informed decisions before committing to a long-lasting married life”.

Amin started off with a description of religion and the difference between pluralistic ones which he lumped into Dharmic (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs) and exclusivists which he called Abrahamics (Christians, Jews and Muslims). He then gave out statistics about the percentages of people married within different faiths and cited examples of the conflicts that occur a few months before marriage or, in worst cases, just a few days before the birth of a child.

For the mostly Hindu audience, he explained the rituals and dogmas of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions and their emphasis on conversion into their faith in order to be considered married. He illustrated his points with detailed PowerPoint slides and many examples of the conflicts that conversions bring, especially when folding into Islam, which makes the process as simple as reciting a single line of allegiance and reconversions by death.

Explaining that his desire was to promote religious pluralism and tolerance among communities in the US, Amin gave several suggestions to achieve that. He stressed the need to keep in touch with interfaith married Hindu children, including inviting them to Hindu events; giving them love; going to their activities; naming of kids; installing Dharmic values and spending money on them now instead of in an inheritance. He concluded his talk by giving seven recommendations for the reform of the activities and rituals in Hindu mandirs to accommodate changing and evolving future generations.

The talk began with an introduction by event coordinator Gopinath Mistry who has two children who are in interfaith marriages, saying this was “a humble effort to start a process to impart this knowledge”. He was followed by Sangeeta Dua Kataria, a staunch Hindu activist, who added that issues like naming a child, the type of funeral rites, circumcisions and idols in the house were important items to be considered carefully before taking the plunge. Bhavna Luthra, a marriage counsellor in practice for 9 years wrapped up the talk by urging marriage counselling in mandirs, similar to those in churches.

As the event ended, Amin fielded questions from the audience – many of which were in the form of comments – which centered mostly on their repulsion to the act of conversion to Islam, many of which they believed to be coerced by conflicting feelings of love and allegiance to family and the soon-to-be spouse.