[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi; Picture (The runaway couple, with a friend in between) sourced from internet]
Nadia was Pakistan's most glamorous model. Danyaal was an eminent doctor. They were young and attractive and belonged to two of the most prestigious families in the country. They fell in love. But there was a problem. He was a Muslim. She was a Christian. Nadia's father, Reverend Dr. Alexander John Malik, was the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan and the Bishop of Lahore. Danyaal was the scion of a prominent Muslim family.
Love in the Time of Warring Gods
It was inevitable that this match invited snags. It was made in a country where religion is a delicate point. According to CNN, Christians constitute less than three percent of the Pakistani population, where ninety-seven percent of the citizens recite verses from the Koran. The country is the only nation apart from Israel to have been founded on the basis of religion in the aftermath of World War II.
Nadia, a graduate in Social Sciences, had stepped into modeling only after confronting the reservations of her bishop father. She had met Danyaal during a theater production in Lahore. He was one of the actors and she helped backstage. Their meetings, friendly at first, blossomed into romance with time. Then life took an interesting turn – for them, their families, their religious communities, and ultimately their nation.
Predictably, such daring multi-religious affairs are never easy. The heart is stupid to not recoil from these kinds of heretical diversions. It surely didn't help that both the lovers were stubbornly loyal to their faiths. Obstructions were further compounded by the reality of living in a society that, like most, was conservative at best and intolerant at worst. And both the families concerned were devoted to their different faiths and had difficulty accepting the relationship of their black sheep.
God or Child – Double Dilemma for the Parents
The parents of the love birds had to carry their own burden of disappointment and distress. The boy's parents considered themselves true believers of Prophet Muhammad's words. They had a hard time overcoming their reluctance in accepting a daughter-in-law brought up with the Bible, Jesus and (Allah forbid) modeling. And the girl's father was one of Pakistan's most senior Christian leaders. His priestly profession was at stake in the event of his daughter settling down into a Muslim household.
Fortunately, both god-fearing families cared about their children, who had to wait for five full years to witness a happy conclusion to their romantic agonies. The model finally got to marry her doctor on August, 2006.
The finale of the wedding was a sweeping flourish in a function held at an imposing cathedral in Lahore. The ceremony was led by the proud Papa-Bishop. The curious guests, among whom were the who’s who of Pakistan's fashion and film circuit, noted with awe and appreciation the gracious presence of the groom's family who must have broken many emotional and social taboos to participate in the Christian rituals of their Muslim son's wedding.
The Clash of the Civilizations
Soon all hell broke loose. The wedding left many people agitated and offended. A section of Pakistani Christians wasted no time in accusing Bishop Malik of betraying the belief of his flock. They claimed his daughter had already converted to Islam and had a discreet Muslim wedding, and that the church show was merely a blessing to trick the Christians. Bishop Malik has 'deceived' his followers, they screamed, and they demanded nothing less than the man’s resignation.
Meanwhile, as usual Islamists were deeply upset. It bothered them that Nadia underwent a church ceremony after her alleged conversion to Islam. Scriptures were dutifully cited to prove the ceremony had made her an infidel. They were also outraged that a full-fledged Muslim boy like Danyaal actually agreed to attend a service in a non-Muslim place of worship! At least one of the heartbroken Muftis was moved enough to ask for Nadia's death.
To further complicate matters, Nadia addressed the mess by insisting she had never converted to Islam in the first place. The couple, it was understood, had entered into an inter-faith marriage. They would co-habit as husband and wife while not ditching either Christ or Muhammad - a convenient arrangement to them and their families, but perhaps not to the aggrieved outsiders!
Run, Nadia, Run
With pervasive death threats from the Mullahs and no respite in accusations of betrayal by numerous Reverend Fathers, the just-married couple wisely decided that the best way to avoid any danger would be to flee the holy hothouse that is Pakistan.
So the Muslim husband and his Christian wife moved out of the country. They are presently sewing up the fabric of their new lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Apparently, both are relieved. The runaway couple of Pakistan is safe at last. May they live happily ever after!