- Nov. 11, 2008 -
The landmark 2008 Pew Forum survey found that only 10% of Hindus in America married outside their faith. Although the survey covered 257 Hindu families, 86% of them were immigrants and 58% between the ages of 30-49. Thus, it focused on the first generation Hindu immigrants from India and reflects the norms of interfaith marriages in India . It does not provide information on the much higher rate of interfaith marriages that American-born, second generation Hindus are entering into. My independent survey using 910 marriages shows that 38% of marriage of young Hindus, Jains and Sikhs are to people of Abrahamic faiths (Christians, Jews and Muslims).
Common family names of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs (followers of Dharma traditions) were picked from the Macy’s marriage registry for our data analysis. None Hindu sounding first names (like Fatima Patel or Anthony Reddy) were removed. Though individuals religious preferences were not verified, the consistency of results across these common family names gives validity to our conclusions. The results clearly show that at least a third of these young Dharmics have selected an Abrahamic partner as their life mate. The outcome was same for male and female subgroups.
LAST NAME Patel Reddy Jain Singh Total
TOTAL MARRIAGES 494 47 45 324 910
TO ABRAHAMICS 170 22 15 143 350
% 34 47 33 44 38
Historically in India , interfaith marriages among Hindus, Jains and Sikhs are quite common, but not with Muslims or Christians because there are fundamental differences between the beliefs and practices of the two major groups of religions — the Dharmic and the Abrahamic. Now in America , these groups are assimilating for marriage at large.
In reality, a marriage is not only a marriage of two individuals;
but to some extent, it is also a marriage of two extended families. Many a time major difficulties may arise when subtle pressure is applied by the extended family for religious conversion before a church wedding or Islamic Nikaah takes place. The challenges may get harder as years go by, especially when time comes to decide the religious fate of the children from the marriage. For example, the Islamic religion requires that children of mixed marriages must be raised in the Islamic faith. The Catholic Church strongly advocates that the Catholic parent should do everything possible to insure that a child is baptized and raised as a Catholic. It remains to be seen how followers of Dharmic and Abrahamic faiths will manage their fundamental religious differences in these new interfaith marriages.
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The study’s author, Dr. Amin, is a medial research scientist and past President of the Plymouth Balvihar (Hindu cultural school) in Pennsylvania.