American Muslims: The Politics of Dating

BY: Asma Gull Hasan


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Especially when, fourth, I had noticed that many young Muslim women I knew who had dated and had premarital sex with Muslims and non-Muslims were now marrying nice Muslim men. They became acquainted with these boys by dating them, and now they're marrying them. Good girls like me were, as Tom Petty once sang, "sitting home with broken hearts" and had little prospect of a marriage we'd be pleased with. Furthermore, some of the players, who were the children of immigrant Muslims usually, would eventually ask their mothers to find them nice girls from their home country, not girls like me who were supposedly already corrupted by American life.

I had a few more thoughts that I didn't add, but my frustration was evident. I'm not yet ready to get married, but why shouldn't I develop relationships, maybe not more than friendship or dating without sex (if that's possible), that could develop into marriage? Why do I have to live like a nun with no companionship until I consent to an arranged marriage? Especially when many Muslim boys are dating and having sex with non-Muslim women because the community doesn't come down as hard on them. Many Muslims have a double standard in disciplining girls versus disciplining boys on such matters. Why should I marry young to fulfill desires but risk my education and career for a family? Furthermore, why is arranged marriage a viable alternative? I'm supposed to marry any boy who charms my parents enough?

Later, I came across a Minaret magazine survey of 90 Muslim students in California colleges on premarital sex. My suspicions that barring Muslim youth from each other causes Muslim youth to socialize with non-Muslim youth were somewhat confirmed. Sixty percent had engaged in some sort of physical intimacy without involving sex with non-Muslims; only 6.6 percent had with other Muslims; 28.8 percent had had premarital sex with nonMuslims; 4.4 percent with Muslims. Clearly the goal is not for Muslims to have sex or intimacy only with each other, but to create an environment where Muslims are not turning away from their religion.

Things are different in America. Men and women, boys and girls, meet all the time, in the mall, at work, in school. We can't isolate ourselves from that. Even if we cover a woman from head to toe and tell her to stay in the house all day, at some point, she'll have to call the plumber because the toilet's overflowing, and the plumber could easily be a man. American culture is challenging us as Muslims: how contemporary can we be? How will we solve this problem? The first step, for many, is admitting we have a problem. It's more than condemning pre-marital sex. As an American and a woman who wants some semblance of a career, I don't really believe in marriage at a young age. As a Muslim, I don't want to become morally lax.

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