Want To Hear A Frank, Funny 'Muslim Love Story'? 'That Can Be Arranged' | KGOU
KGOU

Want To Hear A Frank, Funny 'Muslim Love Story'? 'That Can Be Arranged'

Apr 2, 2020
Originally published on April 2, 2020 9:13 am

In her new graphic memoir That Can Be Arranged, cartoonist Huda Fahmy recounts how she met and married her husband. The subtitle is A Muslim Love Story — and Fahmy says it's exactly that.

"Muslims are not a monolith ... This is not The Muslim love story, it's A Muslim love story," she says.

Fahmy's Muslim American; her mother is Syrian and her father is Egyptian. She receives relentless questions about her traditional clothing and, as she explains in her new book, her parents weighed heavily into her relationship decisions — screening suitors and chaperoning dates.

This book, she says, is representation "for people who want to find love in this way." They should know "that it's OK."

Fahmy chronicles her experience as an observant, Muslim American woman in the Instagram comic strip Yes, I'm Hot in This.


Interview Highlights

On "auntie culture"

Auntie culture is just the women who are usually at the at the mosque or the Masjid who are always in your business. ... They're always looking out for somebody to marry their son. Or maybe they have family members overseas who they're looking to find a bride for. And so they're always on you ... when you become of age.

The first thing that they'll ask you is, 'So what are you studying? And how long do you have until you're finished? And do you know how to cook?' It's just like an interrogation that you never signed up for.

And, you know, they mean well, I mean, these are the women that you've kind of grown up with — have become your second moms — but it's just overbearing.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman of 25 will probably never get married. Well ... that was the truth in my community anyway."
Andrews McMeel Publishing

On attending a religion conference when she was in her mid-20s

So the whole point of it really was ... further educating myself on the religion and understanding it and finding ... my place here ... as an American, as a Muslim. ...

It was a week-long thing and I'd never done something like that before. I flew down to Houston and it was like, I'm not going to come here to look for a guy. I'm not going to come here to scope anybody out. I'm just here to learn. I'm here for education ... but in the back, my head was like, maybe, who knows? ... and actually that's where I ended up meeting my husband.

On falling for her husband from afar

I just thought: Wow, that's a good-looking man ... Just the fact that he was there [at the conference] kind of already told me that ... our beliefs are aligned. Yeah, and so just all week, I kind of was like focusing on my studies. But in the back in my head, I would see him or glimpse him.

"I wouldn't say I was head over heels. I mean, I barely knew the guy. But, somehow, I had this feeling that he was going to be the one. Or at least I really, really hoped he was."
Andrews McMeel Publishing

On how a sheikh at the conference helped arrange a meeting, though not at the conference itself.

I called my Mom and I was like, "Hey, there's this guy. The sheikh wants us to talk." And she's like, "Absolutely not. You're going to have to wait until you come home. He's going to have to come over to Michigan. He's going to have to see you here with your dad present." And I was like ... I don't want to screw this up. So I was like, "all right, that's your rule."

And he was OK with it, and he flew up to Michigan. And so that was the first time that we actually saw each other. And like as soon as we saw each other, I was like: That's it — this is the guy. I'm going to marry him. And he hadn't even opened his mouth. We hadn't even spoken yet. It really was ... just like, I could sense that I could feel it. I knew it.

On her response to people who say arranged marriage is old fashioned

To say that one culture is better than the other, or the way that one culture does something is better than another, and automatically dubs the other one weird — it's just so disrespectful and inappropriate.

Ziad Buchh and Reena Advani produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adpated it for the Web.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Huda Fahmy is an American Muslim cartoonist. Her mom is from Syria. Her dad is Egyptian. She's written and illustrated a new comic book called "That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story." In the book, she reveals how she met her own husband. It was a process that involved a whole lot of family input. She told our co-host Noel King that there was also a great deal of guidance from a group of women known as the aunties.

HUDA FAHMY: Auntie culture is just the women who are usually at the mosque, or the masjid, who are always in your business. They - you know, in the context of the book, they're always looking out for somebody to marry their son. Or maybe they have family members overseas who they're looking to find a bride for. And so they're always on you, and every question they ask - when you become of age. The first thing that they'll ask you is, you know, so what are you studying? And how long do you have until you're finished? And do you know how to cook? And it's just...

(LAUGHTER)

FAHMY: It's like an interrogation that you never signed up for. And you know they mean well. I mean, these are the women that you've kind of grown up with. They've become your second moms. But it's just overbearing. Like, one lady - this wasn't to me. This was to my sister. But, like, one lady came up to my sister and just started, like, patting her down and - as if she was, like - it was, like, in the guise of a hug.

NOEL KING, BYLINE: (Laughter).

FAHMY: And she started to pat her down. And my sister was like, what are you doing? And she was like, well, I can't tell - because my sister wears an abaya, a long, loose dress. And she's like, I can't tell what your body looks like. And it was so inappropriate. And my sister was like, get off me. Like...

(LAUGHTER)

FAHMY: Nope. This is not OK, and you need to stop. And the thing is, like, when you do that, some of them - I'm generalizing, obviously, but some of them will be like, oh, she's so snooty. Oh, she just thinks she's better than everybody else. Oh, she's, like - like, she thinks she's amazing. She's holing herself up. You know, there's always going to be that kind of aunty.

KING: In your mid-20s, you decided to go to a conference on religion.

FAHMY: Yeah.

KING: Tell me about the conference. What was your - what were you hoping to come away with?

FAHMY: So the whole point of it really was it's just one of those other - further educating myself on the religion and understanding it and finding my place, you know, as an American, as a Muslim. And it was a weeklong thing. And I'd never done something like that before. And I flew down to Houston. And it was like, I'm not going to come here to look for a guy. I'm not going to come here to scope anybody out. I'm just here to learn. I'm here for education. But in the back of my head, I was like, but maybe.

(LAUGHTER)

FAHMY: Who knows? Oh, you know? But then I was like, no. Stop it.

(LAUGHTER)

FAHMY: So it was a mental slap in the face. But that's actually - that's where I ended up meeting my husband. And...

KING: Right. So how did - you see this guy, like, from across a room, right?

FAHMY: Yes. Oh, my God. Day 1. Day 1.

KING: What was the attraction? Like, what was hot about him, to put it bluntly?

FAHMY: Oh, my God. His body.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: For real, though? This is a religion conference.

FAHMY: Like, I'm sorry I'm a woman. Yeah. No, no. Really. I mean...

KING: Really?

FAHMY: I'm sure he's going to blush. But, yeah. No, I thought - I just thought, wow, that's a good-looking man. And so I just - I was eyes on him. I mean, and just the fact that he was there kind of already told me that, all right, our beliefs are aligned. (Laughter) And, yeah. And so just all week, I kind of was, like, focusing on my studies, but in the back of my head, I would see him or glimpse him and be like, oh.

KING: A sheikh at the conference helped her meet her husband once the conference was over.

FAHMY: I called my mom. And I was like, hey, there's this guy, this religious leader, this imam. We called him Dr. Love. He wants us to talk. And she's like, absolutely not. You're going to have to wait until you come home. He's going to have to come over to Michigan. He's going to have to see you here with your dad present. It was...

KING: Wow.

FAHMY: Yeah. And I was like - like I said, I didn't want to screw this up. So I was like, all right, if that's your rule. And he was OK with it, and he flew up to Michigan. And so that was the first time that we actually saw each other. And, like, as soon as we saw each other, I was like, that's it. This is the guy. I'm going to marry him. And (laughter) he hadn't even opened his mouth. We hadn't even spoken yet. It really was one of those just, like, I could sense it. I could feel it. I knew it.

KING: To people who say arranged marriage is just weird - it's old-fashioned and it's weird, what do you say in response?

FAHMY: Man, to say that one culture is better than the other or the way that one culture does something is better than another and automatically dubs the other one weird is just so disrespectful and inappropriate, I think. And so one of the things I really hope to do with my book is to really just open up people's eyes to two things. One is just that Muslims are not a monolith, you know? This is not the Muslim love story; it's a Muslim love story. And it's representation for people who want to find love in this way and that it's OK. And it's...

KING: Ultimately, it sounds like you're happy.

FAHMY: I am. I am. I am happy. He makes me happy.

KING: Huda Fahmy, author of the book "That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story," thank you so much for joining us.

FAHMY: Thanks again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.