How Pakistani-Americans are entering interfaith and interracial marriages — and making them work

“I rebelled. I said ‘I’m going to marry whomever I want.'”

Saks and Suzie’s Pakistani-Palestinian-American-Muslim family

Saks Afridi and Suzie Afridi. — Photo courtesy Saks Afridi
Saks Afridi and Suzie Afridi. — Photo courtesy Saks Afridi

Fifteen years ago, at a crowded picnic in Redwood City, California, young college student Saks (short of Sakib) Afridi couldn’t help but notice Suzie — “a girl with the most beautiful curly hair”. He tried his best lines to charm her and they worked.

But as she smiled and the two made conversation, one thought tormented her: “Please let this man be a Christian,” she said to herself — only to learn that he is Pakistani, Pushtoon and Muslim.

Suzie was born to a Greek Orthodox Christian family in Jericho, Palestine. Her family was “ethnically cleansed and pushed out” of their hometown when she was 13. It was at this time that she came to the United States.

“We were absolutely forbidden from falling in love with Muslims…” she says.

“The Muslim world needs civil marriage laws… a lot of the time people risk death to be able to get married.”

Her “heart sank” as she thought of what her family’s reaction would be to her dating a Muslim. But it was too late. She was already falling for Saks; soon enough, the two were making plans to see each other again.

“I told her I’m leaving [for New York] day after tomorrow and we have to meet before that,” Saks recalls. He also did a “very Pakistani thing” to assure Suzie that he is not “crazy” — he told her that they should both bring a friend along and do a “group thing”.

The date went so well that he postponed his flight for a week later; the two met every day while he was in Redwood City. There was no turning back; hereon their relationship went from strength to strength.

“We started learning each other’s languages,” Suzie shares. He began taking Arabic lessons from a teacher he fondly refers to as “an institution”. She started to learn Urdu.

They decided it was time to get the families involved.


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