Bending The Rules For Love

Renita Greener & Alan Bender, Yasmin, Khaled, Norah and Rania

We are impatiently awaiting the upcoming Royal Wedding of British Prince Harry to American, need I add mixed-race; Dutch-Irish/African-American aka Black actress, philanthropist Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018.

But, for some this wedding may just be treated as an ordinary wedding. There are those who do not  care and think  It has no bearing on their lives. Sound familiar?

However, for todays brides-to-be, it is another source of inspiration to plan their own wedding.  For those in the bridal industry, it is the wedding of the century. However  for World Bride Magazine it has so much significance. The Royal wedding represents what we have been preaching for 14 years; love is color-blind.

History has captured a couple royal weddings of mixed-races…from Cleopatra to Caesar and Mark Antony to  Prince Rainer III of Monaco to Grace Kelly to name a few…we’ll let you, our readers, do a little research.

The beauty of love  being color blind in America is that it is no longer illegal.

We are amazed at the profound numbers of interracial love and, marriages that have transpired since the inception of the institution of marriage.

Fictional characters have been created to allude to those relationships in the fairytale stories we tell our children.

What if I told you that in our lifetime there have been  countless love stories of people from all walks of life that have weathered an assortment of societies “isms”, classism, racism, sexism, gender bias etc..these stories are part of the heritage of this nation and the world is enjoying our ability to let love live…

In this article, I will share with you one that may not be known to you on the surface.  But worthy of discussing.  Alan Bender.  Who? Well, Mr. Bender for the purpose of this article is a respected businessman, a mediator, a negotiator to some of the most powerful men in the Gulf Region, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia not to mention North American Affairs. I live in a society where titles, position precedes the name of everyone that wants to move ahead in this society. What seemed like forever, he refused to let me give him a title.  His humility was not something that I was expecting based on the company he keeps.  It was refreshing.

Four Season New York

Sitting with him in the opulent lobby of the Four Season seemed to suit him.  Let me paint the picture, Mr. Bender stands 6ft if not taller, wearing a dark blue pinstripe suit, I presume,  Italian made, with a crisp white shirt and what could have been an embroidered lined shirt, possibly French cufflinks, and perfectly fit. Dark shoes shined to complete his ensemble.  He stood up as I approached to greet me.  He towered over me. For some, it may have easily been intimidating. But I have been accustomed to meeting tall men in the modeling industry so I brushed it off, but it was his voice that made me feel small. It was powerful, commanding but yet soothing.  His salt and pepper hair added to his distinguishing stature.  His English perfect!

I felt a little pressure and wondered if this was a good idea to interview him, would I be able to do the story justice.  Well, I’m here I thought, too late to go back now.  I will just ask the questions and it will be quick and painless.

I was there to talk about his personal life–who was this man that walked with royalty? Diplomats, political influencers?  What kind of man was he?  Where did he come from?  What made him who he is?  How did he get here?  What sort of family did he come from?  How did he get to where he was?  Was he a father? A husband? What sort of child was he?  All the questions were coming fast.

Mr. Bender has a certain amount of clout in the region that if it were in the hand of someone less humble would be dangerous.

But I don’t want to focus on speculating on what I think to know about the Royal families, and the Arab, Muslim culture.  I would surely do it a disservice and I did not want to misinform you.  This is not a political article, but historically, there have been marriages through the ages have very much become a union that has built and destroyed empires, for the purposes of peace, commonwealth, and for African-Americans the very union of marriage which was denied them, freedom.

Its shocking to think the institution of marriage has that much power over a society.  If you don’t believe me, check your history–Rome, England, African Empires formed  alliances through the union of marriage.

Bending The Rules

Born in Kuwait, to Iraqi parents–he spent most of his life in Kuwait.  In one of the poorest areas of Kuwait. He is no stranger to poverty. The living conditions were what we call less than favorable.

He attended High School in Kuwait and Law school in Damascus Syria.  Scholarship–paid his way through school.  Thus, the basis that literally pinpoints the brilliant mind, that gave birth to such rare ambition.

Bender migrated to Canada as a refugee in February 1990. His culture shock was not simply the people, nor the language, it was the weather condition that proved to be a challenge and major  adjustment.

Hearing the rough beginning of his childhood, was all too familiar, no different than any other American or European child with a similar background.  I asked him what was his inspiration to get to where he was now, he slid forward in his chair and looked me in my eyes and told me his mom. His mother as he describes her was a simple woman, that was widowed, and had six children, wanted no more than to provide the best living she could for her children.  She took various jobs she could to ensure that her children ate, and were provided with the schooling they would need to be better than she could ever be.  As I listened intently.  I could not help but see the similarity between my mom, and even myself.  The desire of a mother to invest all her energy not into making life better for herself, but to create a place for her children that will place them in a position in society so they can help others.

Khaled, and Alan Bender

Family values

Fast forward, Bender begins to tell me about his wife, the artists, the mother of his children, the Caucasian Christian woman raising his four children.  I was blown away. She just wasn’t any Christian woman, she was an artist, performer in the Christian faith, with two songs released.  I was so surprised, how is that possible–a Muslim born man with such a challenging background found his way to Canada, barely speaking the language, goes on to marry a Christian woman.  Simply put, love.

As he speaks of his wife and children you can hear the pride and his desire for their happiness come through in the words he uses and the tones in his voice. He is committed to providing his family every opportunity that he did not have growing up.   But, make no mistake, he assures me he doesn’t spoil them.  He teaches them the value of giving back.  Knowing himself that nothing came easy for him, he wanted his children to have those values.

Yasmin, Khaled, Norah & Rania

I asked him how does he and his wife raise the children.  His reply took me off track for a moment.  He informed me that his wife takes them to Sunday school.  I was shocked.  Why didn’t you take them to the mosque I asked?  Why didn’t you make your wife convert? He laughed, and said “Make her convert?  Why would I?  I met her a Christian, it has to be her choice.  No human being should force anyone, influence anyone to do something they are not comfortable with doing. If I were to do that I would be a hypocrite.  What my wife and I agreed to was when our children get of age, if they  should choose to no longer attend Church Masses we won’t force it upon them.  We will let them choose for themselves.

What Is In A Name

In the Arab, Middle Eastern culture unlike in the Western culture–the wife doesn’t have to change her last name.

It is a way of showing appreciation and respect to the family that raised the bride.  Your family is an honorable thing in their culture.

In Islam, lineage is very important, thus the reasons why many women don’t change their last names. Your identity, her identity,  is important to carry on the traditions of the culture.  Even in marriage a wife  is said to  have the right to maintain her own identity.  Learning about this important information was fascinating.

And, while we are speaking of this topic with an Arab born gentlemen clarified any misinformation I may have had prior to this conversation.

Bender and his wife agreed it would be her choice to take his name but not a requirement; thus showing her honor and respect and that of her family.

Renita Greener is her own woman with her husbands blessing.  She is free to celebrate her faith, raise her children in her Western culture, giving them love, and honor but also enlightening them about  their Arab roots.  True love is not restrictive in the Bender and Greener household.

Young Alan Bender

This liberal thinking was definitely not what I was expecting of this gentleman.  His extensive knowledge of African, European, and​ Middle Eastern history and love for education​ explain​s ​why he ​is so accomplished in the art of diplomacy and business.

As we enter into Ramadan ​,my countless of associates and ​friends begin to celebrate​; ​I became more curious about the celebration and those who chose to integrate with non-Muslims.  How did they fair outside of a​ society that​, traditionally, has not been so welcoming because of their faith and customs? ​I must say,​ Alan Bender​’s story, his wife and children are just inspirational.

And, with them in mind, I cannot help but muse about the upcoming royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, their​ very foundation of the Royal family and their tradition of being of pure blood has been shatter
​ed​; by Meghan Markle a mixed race, actress, philanthropist, feminist will now hold a title in the family of the royal monarchy of England.  What does that mean for the rest of the world?  Simply put–it is a hopefully a sign of the world chang​ing​ of the guards. Diversity is not only coming ​it is​ here and growing.
​Please be mindful, ​Alan Bender’s story is not only of religious diversity surviving, but one of cultural diversity, and social growth on the basis of hard work and determination. And our favorite–Love! Unbreakable love!


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