More Muslims find online dating a good match
Setting aside the Muslim tradition of family-arranged marriages, Abdullah Yahya decided to choose a wife on his own. He went online and discovered a Muslim matchmaking service. Within months he met a woman from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, whom he planned to marry.Skip to next paragraph
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But in a clash of culture and technology, Mr. Yahya traveled from San Francisco to Dubai, only to discover that the woman's parents did not approve of him and wanted her to marry a cousin instead.
"It became a big mess," says Yahya, a computer programmer. "We just couldn't go through with it. I flew back to America."
Still, the experience did not dishearten him. He began his own matchmaking service, muslimmatcher.com, and has helped more than 6,000 subscribers find other single Muslims to date, with the intention of marrying.
"It's hard to meet other Muslims, and personally, I'm not an advocate of going straight through the family thing," says Yahya. "I'd rather get to know the person first."
His website is one of several online Muslim matchmaking services that have sprung up in the United States and internationally in recent years. They are used by hundreds of thousands of Muslims worldwide, most of whom live away from families willing to arrange a marriage, or who prefer to find a spouse by themselves.
This is part of an ongoing shift in the way younger Muslims approach marriage. Influenced by their non-Muslim peers, many are dating and marrying outside their religion, without the consent of their parents.
But for those who want to marry another Muslim, the Internet can bridge a divide, allowing them to do things previously forbidden, such as communicate privately before marriage.
"Living in this country forced us to go for alternative ways of searching for spouses," says Yousef Abdallah, director of public relations at the Mid-Hudson Islamic Education Center in New Jersey. "It's hard for [Muslims of various nationalities] to get to know each other or live in one area. That's why the Internet is a great way for them to find their spouses from the same cultural background."
The majority of subscribers to Muslim matchmaking websites are from the United States, Canada, and Britain, but large numbers hail from the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America as well.
As with other online dating sites, those who place an ad answer questions about their personalities and their ideal mate, and they have the option of posting a photograph. But the Muslim services also include a range of religion-specific questions. Muslimmatch.com, in Britain, for example, asks subscribers about their favorite food (curry? couscous?); their most important Islamic issue; and their level of religious commitment.
After a man and woman have connected through a site, a period of e-mail and telephone conversation usually follows. Visits to meet each other's family can be made as soon as a few weeks after beginning communication, and then the man proposes.
These sites have altered some traditional practices. Women, for example, have the opportunity to initiate contact with a future spouse.
"It's less traditional, but more straightforward," says Zainab, a Muslim from New Jersey who asked that her last name not be used. She tried unsuccessfully to find a spouse through her mosque, and then turned to an online service, where she met the man who has been her husband for one year.