These practices began to disintegrate as women started entering the workforce, demanding their rights for universal education and pursuing higher education, Arian says. Segregating because of religious dogma became harder. And so, as the genders mixed, dating relationships also took root in some societies. This, he says, further facilitated the imitation of Western relationships.
These apps allow people to filter their searches based on level of religiosity, the kind of relationship they’re looking for and other aspects such as whether the woman wears a headscarf and the man sports a beard
Changing ideas about modernity, widespread urbanization and the West’s cultural hegemony influenced something as intimate and personal as relationships, Arian says. But the most influential factor is globalization. “We’ve seen the full impact of globalization . in pop culture, in particular. Western cultural productions: music, film, television shows,” he says. These “shared experiences,” as he calls them, have given birth to third-culture kids. These multicultural generations are growing up with a “very different moral compass that is rooted in a number of influences; and not just the local, but the global as well,” Arian says.
Before social media and the prevalence of pop culture, it was a lot easier to enforce whatever ideologies you wanted your child to follow. But as globalization increased, this changed. Young people became increasingly exposed to the rest of the world. Today, their ideologies and values no longer find a basis in what their priest or imam preaches but in what social media and pop culture influencers might be saying and doing.
Dating apps and websites that cater to young Muslims looking for meaningful long-term relationships are easy to find. Muzmatch, a dating app launched two years ago, has 135,000 people signed up. Other apps, like Salaam Swipe and Minder, report high success rates for young Muslims who previously had a hard time finding a partner.
While the men behind these apps launched them with the hope of giving young Muslims a positive platform to interact on, they say there are still many in their societies that oppose the idea of young couples interacting.
Haroon Mokhtarzada, founder of Minder, says that a lot of this disapproval stems more from the fear of people in their communities gossiping than it does from the actual interaction the couples have. “There’s this general concern that people are going to talk. So I don’t think it’s the parents who are worried for themselves because they don’t want their daughter talking to a guy or whatever, as much as it’s them worrying about their family name and people talking and becoming part of a gossip mill,” he says.
To combat this, Shahzad Younas, founder of Muzmatch, incorporated various privacy settings within the app, allowing people to hide their pictures until the match gets more serious and even allowing a guardian to have access to the chat to ensure it remains halal.
Like many Muslim women, Ileiwat has chosen not to wear the hijab, but that has not saved her from glares and stares if she’s out in public with her boyfriend. Because of the prohibition on premarital sex, older Muslims often frown upon any visible interaction between unmarried young people, no matter how innocent. This can sometimes lead to assumptions that two individuals of the opposite sex who are just hanging out have an inappropriate premarital relationship. “I think a lot of older people are under the assumption that all premarital communication between the opposite gender equates sex. Which is ridiculous, but it makes for a juicy story,” Ileiwat says, adding that even some of her younger married friends are subject to the gossip mill.