In a highly mobile, individualistic society, it is increasingly hard to find a date. So the wisdom goes. Thus the proliferation of websites like Match.com, EHarmony, and JDate. Many singles use these websites to screen potential partners, ruling out unacceptable options without having to go through the trouble of meeting in person. Still, some people prefer face-t0-face interactions, albeit with a similarly minimal amount of commitment. Enter speed dating. But, for critics, going from person to person, with just a few minutes to size up each one, epitomizes the shallow nature of today’s dating scene, with its focus on the material (good looks, salary), rather than intellectual, spiritual, or romantic connections. In other words, in many ways, speed dating is entirely secular.
Perhaps this is what gives Millanus, an organization specializing in Islamic matrimony speed dating, its special appeal. Twice a year, Muslims from around the country gather in Queens for a speed dating event, with parents watching from the sidelines, hoping that their sons and daughters will find a spouse. The events are a peculiar mix of religious and secular, East and West, freedom and restriction.
The event’s organizer, Jamal Mohsin, told New York Times reporter Adam Ellick: “Back in Pakistan, everything is arranged. Here, on the other extreme, individuals pick everything and parents, who raised you, aren’t involved. So I’ve created an event with both of these extremes. I’ve kept parents in the loop so they feel involved. At the same time, it’s speed dating. We’re being American.”
On the plus side, participants have a way to meet fellow Muslim singles, and young adults are experiencing freedoms that their parents, with their arranged marriages, did not have. And the downside? Well, as Ellick points out, it’s Muslim speed dating: all of the awkwardness, none of the alcohol.
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