My authored journey for BBC1's Sunday Life on 8th June 2008

I recently made a film for BBC1 Sunday Life about mixed faith relationships.  Here's a piece I wrote for their website.

Journalist Eve Ahmed talks about her experience of growing up with mixed faith parents.

When I was growing up, I hated having a Pakistani Muslim dad and an English Christian mum.

Firstly, I hated it because I was different from everyone else. In the area where I lived during the 1970’s and 80’s, life was white. There were hardly any Asian or black kids and certainly no other mixed ones.  White kids at my school called me ‘half caste’ or ‘Paki’ yet I could not understand Asian languages and did not look particularly Pakistani. Like all children I wanted to fit in, but I did not belong anywhere. I was very lonely.

Secondly, I felt obliged to be something that I wasn’t because my parents had not discussed a question of fundamental importance for mixed families: should I follow one of their faiths, both, or none at all? They struggled to agree and I ended up feeling torn in two. My dad saw me as being from his ‘side’, because you are born a Muslim through your father. So, as a teenager, I could not go out in the evening to socialise with friends, because Muslim girls are generally not allowed to mix with boys. In this and many other ways, I was forced to follow a faith-based culture I did not believe in.

My mum and dad’s different ethnic backgrounds were what had attracted them to each other in the first place. But the complicated reality of living in a mixed race, mixed faith family eventually destroyed their marriage.

That’s why, making a film for ‘Sunday Life’ on the issue, I was so pleased to meet mixed couples making a success of their marriages today. Their secret? According to Catholic/Jewish couple Grazyna and Mel, it’s compromise. For example, at the birth of their daughter they first had a Jewish naming ceremony, followed by a Christian baptism.

They agreed on three principles: respect one another’s faith; make sure your children know about both sides of their heritage; and keep talking to your parents to overcome any concerns they have about the marriage.

It’s that last point which still causes trouble, even in our supposedly-enlightened multicultural society. Couples who’d agreed to speak to me on camera (from Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian backgrounds) later backed down, claiming their families were either in the dark about the relationship, or were too upset about it for them to discuss it publicly.

I came away from the film with mixed feelings, happy that inter-faith marriage works for some but sad that, if you scratch the surface of our outwardly-tolerant society, families are still being divided by difference, exactly as they were in my day.