Love conquers all?  Well, perhaps not everything, but according to Amal Berry-Brown, a devout, Lebanese-born Muslim, it does make up for a lot of ground in the big stuff.

She’s talking about her marriage to Irish Catholic Phil Brown, a Ford Engineer whom she met at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where they were both history majors.  Despite the difficulties endemic to all mixed-faith unions, the marriage has worked marvelously well, as their two well-adjusted children prove.  That’s not to downplay the work that’s gone into it.  Says Phil, “It is a labor of love—but it is still laborious!”

Success is not necessarily a new thing to Berry-Brown, her high school president for four years running, whose current job—Comerica’s manager for National Arab and Chaldean Business Affairs—is a dream come true.  But she wasn’t gifted the position; it is the result of her expertise both in banking and community relations.  She says, proudly, “I realized that for me, this was absolutely the best way I could give back to my people locally.”

‘Her people’, the large contingency of Arab Americans in the Detroit area, have embraced her Catholic Central alumnus husband, who’s made a trouper’s effort to pick up the rudiments of Arabic and is by now, well versed in the traditions.  Among his many concessions, he has agreed—happily—to allow his children to be raised in the Muslim faith.  “I believe that we all pray to the same God,” he says.  “So long as my children are raised to know God, to respect all humanity, it really didn’t matter to me what religion is written on the information cards.”

Still, both are quick to point out that the depth of an interfaith relationship cannot be oversimplified, and both admit that they face daily challenges.  It’s easier, they say, when there are some clear guidelines and both understand the few areas over which neither is willing to compromise.  Amal chose to hyphenate her name, for example, displaying her Lebanese heritage every time she signs a check.

But then again, these are challenges that all married couples face, no matter the details.  The overreaching solution arrived at by the Berry-Browns is a lesson that could be well learned by all:  “At that end of the day,” says Amal, “Phil and I take a unified approach to everything.”




Russell Ebeid

Flavors or the Arab World December 2nd at the Rock Financial Shwplace,
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