Race, Religion, and Romance:
Interracial and Interfaith Dating and Marriage of South Asian Muslim Immigrants in Canada

How immigrants think about who they date and who they marry provides an intimate window into how immigrants lay down their roots into their new country and how they perceive their host society to being open to accepting them as their own. South Asians comprise the largest visible minority in Canada.Yet, they are one of the two least likely groups to marry outside their ethnic communities. South Asian Muslim immigrants may especially face challenges navigating marital integration because of the intense stigma they face based both on their race and religion. Yet, religious and racial stigma alone are but a part of this complex story. However, because premarital dating, gender-mixing, and interfaith/interracial unions are still taboo in many Muslim communities, these spaces for identity-making are often hidden from public eye, and consequently, overlooked in scholarly discourses.

 

Using an innovative research design on online dating and in-depth interviews, this book project examines the personal, social, political, and global geopolitical factors that encourage and discourage Muslim South Asian immigrants from dating and marrying outside of their communities. With a large and diverse team of undergraduate and graduate students (click here to meet the RRR team!), this project seeks to conduct 130 interviews in Canada with five groups of people: South Asian Muslim college students and young professionals; their non-Muslim and non-South Asian peers; mixed couples in which one partner is South Asian Muslim; South Asian Muslim divorcees/partners of former interracial/interfaith unions; and South Asian Muslim parents with unmarried children.

 

An important feature of this project is that it looks at both sides—the Muslim South Asian immigrants as well as their non-Muslim, non-South Asian peers—to provide an in-depth, holistic account of interracial and interfaith romance as experienced and perceived in everyday life. A strength of the dataset is the sheer diversity of the participants' religiosity and romantic interactions with partners from outside ethnic, racial, and religious groups. 

This book project has already produced articles in different stages of development:

Shams, Tahseen. 2022. "Race, Religion, and Geopolitics: Dating and Romance Among South Asian Muslim Immigrants in Canada." Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review. https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srac015.

 

Shams, Tahseen. “’Interactive Online Fieldwork’: Studying the Back Stage and Front Stage of Online Dating Using Zoom and Smartphones.” (Under review)