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Dating in a Western World as a Muslim Girl

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To westerners, many are confused by the dating life of myriad Muslim students. Many can be extreme in following arranged marriages and restricted from being alone in the same room as the opposite sex. While others are more relaxed, having a similar experience as many young people in the UK. The main issue is the confusion between culture and religion. I may be bold to say that Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not.
Muslim culture is seen to be restrictive and controlling especially to females. Still, the reality is that it’s difficult not to, because of religion, but more weighed on the culture. Young people who get married for love, also known as ‘love marriages’ are heavily looked down on in some Muslim countries. Others expect the son to propose to a woman who looks a certain way, acts in a particular manner and is from a respectable family, rather than focusing on the genuine connection between the two parties. As a female, I can honestly say men have it easier; this comes from what is expected of a woman – to be delicate and to never disgrace her family in activities involving partying, late-night walks or smoking. A common misconception in Muslim communities is their perception of westernised dating as it is shown in the media rather than genuinely looking for a life partner. The term ‘dating’ has a negative connotation to any Muslim families based on the ideas that it all leads to sin and having children out of wedlock. However, the reality is that our religion does not discourage us from finding a life partner. In fact, God wants us to marry for love and nothing less.
The Quran emphasises finding someone to love, who brings the best out of us and encourages us to do good. “They are clothing for you, and you are clothing for them” [Quran 2:187], implying that partnerships cover up one another’s defects and cover the other’s weaknesses in the eyes of the world. Furthermore, it brings out that garments act as protection, therefore representing their partner as a shield. Marriage and love are promoted as finding someone who we genuinely love and care for rather than characteristics that can boost one’s ego like looks and money which can come and go in one’s life. The latter leads to lack of commitment and fulfilment of promises in long term relationships when partnerships are based on the materialistic and shallow characteristics the other person may possess. Islam ultimately protects us from heartbreak by bringing about these principles as well as the concept of Nikah – which is an Islamic marriage ceremony. Many young Muslims use this as a chance to be exclusive without ‘living as a married couple’. Dating apps for Muslims have been introduced internationally like Minder (Muslim tinder) and Muzmatch which give filters of whether you want your matches to eat halal or whether you drink, wear a hijab and even if you pray. Moreover, it gives the option to blur your pictures, deterring the possible judgements that many young Muslims are afraid to be victims of.
My dating life is lacking as a 22-year-old. I can count the number of ‘situationships’ I’ve been in with my pinkie and the number of dates I’ve been on with two fingers. I guess you can say I’m the inexperienced member of every friend group I’ve been in. I don’t know whether to state the reasons because of being conditioned by my culture to have high standards for potential suitors (which Allah discourages us from focusing on), or whether it’s to do with my own insecurities of not knowing. I tried dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to get me used to the idea of talking to the opposite sex romantically, but still, it’s out of my comfort zone. I don’t think judgements are as important to me as my own self- doubt. Society may have helped to bring my own self-confidence down as to who I am supposed to be; therefore, I often think to myself, “am I worthy enough?”. Muslim men, however, don’t have the same journey as I do in the culture. They are more relaxed and at ease because they can see what they like and what they don’t. Culture makes women inferior to men, where men can enjoy a more laid back lifestyle. Women are often blamed for what men have also been a part of. Men do have it easier, they seem to be much more sure of themselves and more in control of their own lives and what they want to become. It’s compulsory in Islam for women to marry a Muslim man, due to the fact that its seen that the men carry the religion. I don’t think I know who I really am or what I want, which scares me for a lot of reasons which is why I’m so closed off to having a relationship. I question: “What will my relationship be like if I were to be in a relationship?”. Intimacy would be a concern as I am, after all, celibate. I fear I would be expected to be intimate. Religion is not my main concern when looking for a potential partner, as the one situationship I had with a Muslim guy resulted in being pressured to be intimate.
All in all, Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not. Some of us have a lack of experience in finding a life partner, leading us to marry the wrong person. If the Muslim community was more accepting of dating and women having more control of their lives, Muslim women would be more confident in finding love.

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