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Archive for June 2012

A Mancunian Muslim Marriage Event

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A few months ago to my, er, delight, I was informed that I am now of marriageable age and must start looking for a husband.  Inspired by Jemima Khan’s article on Muslim matrimonial events, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be fun to actually go to one – surely they can’t be all that bad? (Did I mention that I have no life?)

With family and community introductions declining, divorce rates rising and some Muslims wanting more than just a domestic servant or bank balance to marry, events such as this are popular. In just three hours, between 60 and 80 men and women had to decide if someone was ‘the one’ for them.

To create a ‘halal’ atmosphere, women arrived with their chaperones, who would subsequently sit at the edge of the room, talking to other chaperones or viewing the proceedings through beady eyes. The participants wore a badge with a number, which was not such a good idea since it was difficult to remember names this way.

The event was a combination of musical chairs and speed dating. There were four women to each table, who remained seated throughout, and four men. The men would rotate around the room after speaking to the women for 15 minutes. Depending on the company, this allocated slot seemed to go by either excruciatingly slow, or impossibly fast.

Each participant was provided with a pen and a checklist with a list of possible questions to ask the other person, and a space at the bottom to write the number of the person whom we would like a further chat with.

There were, however, a handful of men who had come just for a time-pass, seasoned pros who had been to some previous events. One admitted to the woman sitting next to me that he had been to some events and asked women for their numbers, “just for the day, like”.

The majority of the men were over 30, with the eldest being 40 and the youngest 23, while the women were 28 and above. Jemima rightly pointed out that some Asian women are made to feel old or past it (to which I can personally relate) but unusually, at this event I was actually considered too young.

“You’re just so young!” they exclaimed to me, “You have plenty of time”. But then what is the ideal age? Is there a ‘right’ age to marry? One minute you’re too young and have plenty of time, but then you’re suddenly too old and you’ve missed the train to Marriage-ville. It is no wonder then that so many Muslim women cannot find a man to marry, as they’re given such a small time slot in which they can marry.

Some of the participants had been married previously, whereas some had just not got round to getting married. For such people, events like these are the only way to meet suitable men or women.

Attendees who hit it off were encouraged to swap e-mail addresses and phone numbers.  It did not seem, however, that there had been much in the way of success.

Some of the young women who I spoke to said they had not found anyone. Not one person had interested them in the slightest. According to one of the helpers, both the men and women had passed on details to be given to their ideal person, only to have them rejected. “They just took one look at them and said ‘no’,” I was told. “Some took the details and number but it was obvious they weren’t really interested.”

I was surprised. But then again, I was an inexperienced first timer, viewing this with fresh eyes as an opportunity to socialise and meet interesting people, whereas others have been playing the marriage game for years now.

One man, in his late 20s, was looking for a stay-at-home wife to look after his ill father. Another, in his early 30s, was still unmarried, despite his amazing sense of humour and easygoing nature. “I’d love to get to know him,” one woman confessed.  “But I can’t get over the height difference.” She was 5ft8in, while he was 5ft4in.

Then there were the religious men (of which there were only a handful) who had dismissed us for not being religious enough, demonstrated by our lack of hijabs. They did not say this in so many words, but the lack of conversation after the necessary introductions spoke volumes.

There are many different reasons why Muslim women and men have been delaying marriage – career, education, etc. To some women a career is more important, as they do not wish to rely on their husbands for financial support any longer. The unfortunate consequence is that some women in the UK are having to tolerate being second wives, as they are told it is the ‘best’ they can hope for.

As the day drew to an end, there was an anticipation and hope of a partner to share life with. But for many, I feared, it was back to the drawing board and yet more of the dreaded search.

 

Written by Iram Ramzan

June 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm

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