Ramadan and the Single Girl
Fasting as a single woman, perhaps I will reach its truer meaning--sympathy for those who are hungry, hurting, and alone.
For Muslim women in America, however, finding a mate is not so simple. Many female readers of my first book have recently begun asking: where do I meet eligible men who are my age, who will support my career and help me raise a family, and who are also Muslim? This query was probably the most frequent one I heard when I attended the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention on Labor Day Weekend. (I also heard, quite frequently, "Wearing hijab is required," from Muslim men about the same age.) The fact that these women were asking at ISNA shows how dire the situation has become. ISNA is populated primarily by immigrant Muslims and their children. Because there is no matchmaking wedding season in America, ISNA fills the void. How? To put it bluntly, the annual convention is known as a "meat market," where second-generation Muslims flock from all over the country to check each other out.
Every year, ISNA hosts a "matrimonial" event--which is usually ignored by Muslim singles in favor of the main drag. But this year, ISNA kept pace with current culture--holding a "speed dating" style function instead of the usual benign reception.
I was stunned! If you know anything about ISNA, you know how odd a "dating" event at ISNA is. (Imagine an evangelical Christian conference hosting a keynote speech explaining how to support gay rights, and you'll see why I was surprised.) But perhaps ISNA is finally taking notice of the marriage crisis gripping many young American Muslims.
Sadly, speed dating is probably not the answer. Reports from the event were that well-intentioned women in their late twenties showed up, only to meet men who were either dressed gang banger or like maulvis and just shy of their sophomore year in college.
"Aunties were gathered outside the speed dating room, inspecting all the women who came in," a dotcom founder attending ISNA told me, rolling his eyes.
"Just like back in Pakistan," I added.
I appreciate that ISNA is trying to address the marriage problem in a creative way. It's too bad, though, that the effort was not fruitful.
One online Muslim dating service had a strong presence at ISNA, giving away lipsticks and tote bags at an exhibit hall booth. The company's promotional flyer, with a picture of a happy, young Muslim couple (of non-descript Arab or South Asian ethnicity) was supposed to have been included with the materials each registrant received when they checked in--a spot the company had paid for. But at the last minute, the conference organizers pulled the plug, leaving the flyers to be passed out individually or stacked on tables. The woman in the flyer was not wearing a hijab, and ISNA didn't want to be perceived as endorsing her lack of modesty.