By ZEYNAB GAMIELDIEN
The cute guy sitting next to you in your tutorial? Off-limits. The guy in the cubicle next to yours with the cool ergonomic lunchbox? Not an option. No parties, no clubs, no bars, no alcohol. Is this sounding impossible to you yet? Well, this is the reality of being a young Muslim living in Australia in search of the one.
Before you decide to throw a pity party because of how oppressed you think Muslims are and what a sad existence this must be, bear in mind that this is a lifestyle choice and one I, like many others, am more than happy to make. (I won’t deny that there are cases where people are forced into things against their will, but that’s a whole other can of worms.)
I want to marry someone who shares my faith. To me, it’s not a restriction as much as it is a screening requirement, just like some people would never be with a guy who votes Liberal or who doesn’t know what song made number one on Triple J’s Hottest 100. In some way or other, we all screen potential partners based on what is important to us. Whatever floats your boat, I say, and for me shared religious values really gets the boat sailing.
Down to the meaty stuff. If you can’t imagine how it is that a person can find a partner when 99% of the population are a no-go, you’d be right. It’s pretty darn hard. If you’re content to wait for Prince Charming to come knocking on your front door, you do nothing, because chances are he might just do that. Some Muslims still operate under Austen-like parameters, with a potential suitor coming to your house and sipping tea with you and your family. It’s exactly like a blind date, except your parents and his tag along for the ride. You sit there and make conversation on the couch, being careful not to sit too close or laugh too much at first. Again, if Jane Austen were here today she’d totally understand; propriety is everything.
Meeting someone in this way can often be extremely efficient, if a tad awkward. When a guy’s coming to your house to meet you, you can be sure he’s no commitment-phobe. Both parties have no compulsion to agree to things going further than an initial visit, so if he doesn’t tickle your fancy you never have to see him again. However, a possible minus is that there’s only so much you can learn about a person over repeated tea and biscuit sessions, which is why many young Muslims in Australia are now eschewing this method and trying their hand in the Muslim social scene.
When I say ‘social scene’, I’m not alluding to the existence of some kind of underground Muslim raves. The Muslim social scene is structured around, well, stuff Muslims like, such as God. In the same way observant Christians might meet partners through attending Hillsong, Muslims often connect with other Muslims in a religious setting. In fact, there are now Muslim singles events organised through community groups to assist in the process. Matchmaking is also big amongst Muslims. We get by with a little help from our friends; married people return the favour by hooking up their single friends. Other ways friends of mine have met partners include on internet forums, public transport and even a doctor’s waiting room. (People tend to get creative when they’re in a tight spot.)
At the end of the day, whether you’re meeting someone at a party or at church or even at a mosque, the obstacles are still the same. Does he like me? Do I look good in this headscarf? Is he the one? The game of love is universal. We’re all looking for it; we’re just looking in different places. Good luck with your search.