Muslim Dating Sites and the Technology of Marriage, Part IV

Monday and Tuesday, we examined some Muslim matrimonial sites. Yesterday, we conducted an experiment looking at how these sites functioned and how our subjects fared. Today, I’ll digest all this information and figure out what it means for Muslim women.

Something to keep in mind when joining this websites is the fact that men tend to be, in general, older. Furthermore, many of the men on these sites would like to engage in polygamy at some point in their lives, and they aim to let the women know up front in their profiles, particularly in MuslimMatch.com. Also, women who have successful careers and who are wealthier than many of these men may become an economic target rather than a marriage partner.

Whether these technological advancements in terms of marriage are more modern or not is questionable. It is still easy to see that representations of femininity and masculinity remain fairly consistent. Men still expect to marry younger women, who have never been married and who don’t have children. They also expect to be attractive to Muslim, North African and Arab women without any sense of romance, softness or even interest in the partner. However, it is assumed that a man should deal differently with Western girls.

Some men on these sites view marriage as a tool for financial and social advancement. Thus, financially stable women in the West, who are single and don’t have children, and despite their religious practices, have better opportunities of finding a husband in these websites than other women. There is no telling how stable or fulfilling the marriage may be.

The popular image of a Muslim man looking to marry and financially care for a ‘proper’ Muslim woman, whose faith is an important trait may no longer be viable. Only few men, at least in these sites, felt compelled by a woman who aimed to fulfill a “traditional Islamic” role, whose priority was her religious beliefs, and who aimed to find a religious man for marriage.

Religious traits and gender roles seem negotiable only through economics. Men in the site demonstrated that they could give up religiousness and traditional female roles to be with a successful Western woman who would become an engineer.Moreover, social taboos still play a role in these sites, which makes a divorced woman, less attractive despite her financial accomplishments.

Looking at these dating sites, it is possible to see that matchmaking technologies have evolved. However, cultural and traditional conceptions of marriage are still around. Many Muslims still hold to the ideals of traditional femininity, which according to one participant includes “Being a source of love and happiness to the family” or masculinities, which means “supporting and protecting the family,” even when these contradict their realities.

Nonetheless, things have changed a bit. Social and financial constraints have transformed marriage, in some cases, into a social mobility tool not only for women, but also for men. Marriage for love, the common Western ideal, seems to remain a taboo for many Muslims on these sites, especially when it comes to communicating with women from non-white backgrounds.

These dating sites also reflect the tensions that arise between East and West and the so-called traditional issues in Islam. The role of women has considerably changed in the last several decades and a new tension between working women and traditional notions of femininity has arisen. Yet, there is a disconnect between what Muslim women expect from their husbands and what men think they should be providing. While many still think that their only role is to be the “breadwinners,” Muslim women may be looking for something else beyond financial stability: arguably, most Muslim women want a marriage that does not only provide the basics of Islamic guidelines, but also stronger connections with their partners. The question is whether Muslim dating sites can reconcile these tensions. Or can be reconciled at all?

Readers, what are your thoughts on Muslim matchmaking websites?

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