Muslim marriage events are soaring in popularity due to traditional arranged marriages being in decline. When I first heard of such events, I could not fathom why one would attend such an unromantic notion and feign interest in strangers. Only now, I do.
A wise man once said: "getting married is easy, staying married is a hard decision and finding the right partner is hard work." Being a single Muslim woman looking to marry, I can attest to the latter part of the quote. So can numerous others who are in search of their Mr Right and long to start a family.
Anyone who is familiar with the Muslim community knows that the lack of suitors for women has hit crisis point, as has the rise of spinsterhood. With guys being in such short supply and us girls who are now in our 30's have to bear in mind that we are very close to passing our sell by dates, by Asian community standards anyway. With a tad bit of trepidation, I decided to attend a marriage event.
I booked on to one by Islamic Circles, who say they have been organising these events for over ten years and marriages have arisen from them. By the founder's own admission, they are still very much testing the ground with them, as it is a novel idea, inevitably welcomed by some and reviled by others.
In principle, these events appear to be a good idea as you can meet a mass of men looking to marry in a halal setting as possible. Those in attendance have the option to bring a mahram for an additional charge. Priced between £20-£35 these events are not cheap and certainly not under subscribed either. There are a few organisers out there making a tidy sum of money by setting up these events in addition to their day jobs.
On arrival, I had to confirm my registration and once verified a sticker was issued for me to wear, which started with the letter S and then a number. No, the S was not for my initial but sister and the number was assigned in accordance to how many other sisters attended. Just charming I thought, I have come to find a husband and instead of being me, I am now a number!
Once we got started, it became apparent that these Muslim marriage events follow the same process as speed dating only with an Islamic hallmark. The process takes form by an icebreaker session and if anyone takes your fancy, you make a note of his badge number. However, here lies the problem.
During the icebreaker, the only information you get about the person is their name, age and occupation and perhaps their location. Akin to being in an online chat room in my younger days where the first question as standard would be ASL please, acronym for age, sex and location. There is literally no discussion to show any intellect or personality.
Based on the superficial icebreaker one is to decide whether you want a one to one chat with the person. It becomes extremely repetitive; all you end up saying each time is your name and occupation. Naturally, you feel like a broken record and no doubt, my body language spoke volumes about my boredom as did others and I knew my efforts to find Mr Right would be to no avail here.
The worse is yet to come when you enter the second phase. Men and women are then segregated to stand at opposite ends of the rooms glaring at each other while the host calls out your number if you have received interest. Only now, the host is starting to lose patience as he frenziedly announces numbers of people. I felt as though I was in a cattle market and a little degraded at having your number announced if you have caught someone's eye! The process is so contrived.
People I spoke to said how they felt awkward about initiating contact with anyone when there is so little to go by other than their looks. Then there is the chap who will brazenly approach asking, "would you be interested in me?" A question like that only warrants a yes or no answer based on a snapshot judgement of the person.
Undoubtedly, these events are providing a viable solution to a growing social problem. I noticed how many more women attend than men do. Muslim men are spoilt for choice in that they can marry Jewish or Christian women if they will. Muslim women find themselves limited in meeting men and continue to book on to these events. Perhaps if the organisers re-think the logistics and showed more diligence then more matches can be made on compatibility.