Marriage is a formal union of a couple legally and socially that is regulated by laws, rules, customs, beliefs, and attitudes that prescribe the rights and duties of the partners (Britannica, 2019). According to Puja (n.d.), marriage is “both a biological, psychological, cultural and social affair”. Marriage is a special type of relationship between permissible couple involving certain rights and obligations. Comment by Dan Jules Fermilon:
Marriage also holds a particular position in different cultures and religions. Marriage from different faiths has various rituals and rites during the ceremonial union, accustomed to the couple’s religious beliefs and practices. Religions have several similarities regarding the issue of marriage, even if there are differences in the restrictions and conditions of marriage (Zarean & Barzegar, 2016). In reality, some couples marry out of love despite their religious differences. With that, inter-religious marriage exists.
Inter-religious marriage is a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Christian, like a member of Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. (Culp, 2015). Also known as mixed religious marriage, religious exogamy, and interfaith marriage, inter-religious marriage is used to indicate a “marriage between persons of differing religions.” It is a form of intermarriage and a “type of interaction between religious groups, sub-societies, or societies” (Cavan, 1970). Comment by Dan Jules Fermilon:
Inter-religious marriages are viewed differently in different societies. It is treated, in some communities, as a behavior that is contrary to the dominant norms and values of marriage (McCutcheon, 1988). Cavan (1970) argues that “inter-religious marriage threatens values, security, and continuity of a religion.” Religious intermarriage is perceived, according to a study, to be a potential cause of secularism and thus imperiling the spouses ‘ religious participation. Furthermore, as they become more spiritual, the religious involvement of the partners declines after marriage due to the theological differences between the husband and the wife, and the resulting friction and conflict (Petersen, L. R., 1986).
In this paper, an essay entitled “The Road to Aras-asan” by Rebekah M. Alawi is analyzed, focusing on inter-religious marriage. The story is about the journey of the inter-religious marriage of Alawi’s son with Islam faith partaking wedding rites with a Catholic faith. The proponents aim to identify the effectsa of inter-religious marriage in the context of the characters in the story.
This paper will analyze the inter-religious marriage of Alawi’s son and his Catholic bride using the lens of social structure theory. Under this, Blau’s “Inequality and Heterogeneity” will be used to identify the effects of inter-religious marriage on the characters of the story.
Social structure refers to a pattern of social relationships in a society. This structure places people in a hierarchy that affects how people interact with one another in their community (new world encyclopedia).
Social structure serves as a constraint to people’s lives. This means that social structure “limits” the people’s behavior inside the society in which he/she belongs to. These constraints are influenced by the culture, politics, religion and the history of the place that the society is located (Merawi 2018).
The Social structure is governed by rules called social norms. Social norms are informal rules that dictate and control the society inside the social structure. It is mainly a product from the culture of the people included in the said society (J. Martin 2015). The ones that follow these norms are called “normal” and thus are part of the majority of the Social structure. The ones that don’t follow the rules are called “abnormal” by the society and thus they are part of the minority in their community (L.Wade 2016).
Blau’s “Inequality and Homogeneity” is a study widely used by sociologists in studying intergroup relations (F.Merawi 2018). In the social structure theory, we have constraints that limit the individuals in the society. The members of the said society have the capability to go against these constraints but the influence of these restrictions is more significant than their protest. The effect of these constraints varies depending on the society that the individuals live in. However, individuals will always be subjected to these constraints and they will never be able to escape from these in any situation in their life (Blau 1977).
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The social structure theory shows us that relations between different groups are products of different types of structural factors. “Group size, physical isolation, distinctive ideology, prejudice, the salience of group parameters” are some of the major structural factors that define intergroup relationships (Blau 1977)
Inter-religious marriage is a union of a man and a woman of different religions. It is a practice which can be traced back to when different religions were being created. The significance of inter-religious marriage varies from different societies. It might be accepted by some while others might label this as prohibited in their society (F.Merawi 2017).
When inter-religious marriage occurs, usually the couple chooses whose religion or faith is followed. One side has to give up his/her faith and must follow the religion of his/her partner. When this occurs, the constraints of the two parties involved in the inter-religious marriage may create a conflict. These cause problems in the couple’s life, their family, and even in their society. The outcome of these conflicts can vary from society to society (Jasmin 2017)
As of now, there is an increase in the number of interfaith marriages occurring even though the society does not encourage it to be practiced. This is evident in the european countries where the trend of interfaith marriage is steadily increasing (F.Merawi 2017). This means that the influence of the constraints imposed in the social structure to the individuals living in the society is slowly weakening and thus there is an increase in the individual’s freedom of expression. People now act according to their free will without minding the constraints that their society created. (B.Schlesinger 1968)
There are several factors that influence an individual’s perception about inter-religious marriage. Some of them are prejudice, parents’ religious background, religiosity, age, educational status, group size, and heterogeneity (Davidson et al., 2002).
Heterogeneity has an effect on the opinions of people on inter-religious marriage. People that are living in a community that has different kinds of religion would likely view inter-religious marriage as acceptable. Heterogeneity is the diversity of groups given in a specific area. There is a higher chance of inter-religious marriage in a diverse community but it does not mean that it is regularly practiced. It would depend whether the people living in those societies are progressive and acceptive or more of conservative and religious. (Blau 1982)
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Blau’s approach on social structure takes into consideration several opportunities and constraints that collective life imposes on individuals. The story presents a number of constraints on the characters because of the inter-religious marriage between Rebekah’s son and his Catholic bride. The decisions made by the characters are affected by these constraints which lead to corresponding situations. First is Rebekah’s son who was the reason why they traveled to Aras-Asan and witnessed a church wedding. The Muslim son was constrained by his love for his Catholic bride. His love for the girl bounded him to agree to get married in a Catholic Church, as evidenced by an excerpt from the text: “My son’s passive resignation to the demand of the bride’s family – a church wedding and solemnization of the marriage by Catholic rites – does not augur well for his unwavering devotion to the faith.” The son agreed even though it was considered an apostasy in his society. His unyielding love made him be able to go beyond what is accepted and is believed.
The next evident result where in we could apply blau’s social structure theory is when Rebekah sided with his son even though the wedding is forbidden in their beliefs she herself was constrained to her actions of being a mother “by my son’s predicament aroused my maternal instinct and bade me take up cudgels of the underdog” it is evident that she was duty bound to her role as a mother to the point of threatening her husband to file a divorce if he did not followed her wife.
Another evident result is where the family is constrained by the society where they are only allowed to follow their certain beliefs and norms shunning out other religious groups it can be seen “ My husband was outraged when he learned of the couples distribution of the invitation to the community. Although we had grudgingly consented to the arrangement , we expected some face-saving sense, some tact and discretion on the part of our son. The whole community needs not to be privy to the apostasy” it can be seen that they don’t want the community to know of this happening. They are constrained through the community because it is against their belief which .
And lastly the constraint of the father’s love to Rebekah. It is clear that the father’s love for Rebekah constrained him from following what he wanted “the battle of wills between my husband and me was played out in icy silence. We were not on speaking terms for three days and it looked like the situation- an impapss- was deteriorating
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