Every year, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of the country’s oldest Muslim organizations, hosts about a dozen “matrimonial banquets” across the country. One participant described it as a “halal form of speed-dating” – a way for Muslim singles to meet.
Osman, a 29-year-old insurance broker, attended one of these banquets recently in Anaheim, California. Like many young American Muslims, he says it is difficult dating in a country where most people are not Muslim and in a manner his immigrant parents would approve. “It’s really hard to meet someone in this culture,” says Osman.
“There is no consensus in the community at all about what is appropriate dating,” says Colin Christopher, who works for ISNA (and yes, is married). “Some people are super conservative, and they only hang out with a potential suitor with their parents around. Other people just have to check the box for Muslim.”
Yasmin Elhady, a Washington DC lawyer who moonlights as a matchmaker, warns of the false promises of “a swipe left, swipe right [App] culture.” She says the desire to marry Muslim and to appease one’s parents is clashing with the dating App sites that often leads to unrealistic expectations. “Our norm setting has been destroyed by the diaspora, by the geographic spread out, and because of, I think, a culture that we’re trying to negotiate to be both Muslim and American.”