Muslim Singles Event in Sacramento Hopes to Facilitate Marriage
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Muslim Singles Event Organizers
The Sacramento League of Associated Muslims (SALAM) will once again be at the cutting edge of the American Muslim experience locally as it hosts and co-sponsors this area’s first Muslim Singles Event on January 24. Interested parties (Single Muslims and/or their parents) are asked to visit The SALAM website at www.salamcenter.org or call 916-979-1933 for details of this program and must register by January 13 for an evening filled with activities, dinner and a keynote address by Imam M.A. Azeez, focusing on finding a life partner for marriage within our community. Tickets are $15 (fifteen dollars). This event will be open for singles 18 and older (Mahram strongly recommended). Other co-sponsors of this program include the Muslim American Society (MAS)/Social Services Foundation and Islamic Relief.
This writer has covered many issues while focusing on the American Muslim experience over the years, including inter-faith, inter ethnic and trans-sectarian and interracial marriages within our community here in Northern California and can attest to the fact that Muslim children of immigrants from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East are having some difficulty in going through the more traditional channels (Matchmakers, Marriage Bureaus and just going “Back Home” to find their spouses). Added to that is the issue of gender segregation which is practiced within our community, which itself is a part of a society where young people are openly encouraged to find their own future life-partners via dating and gender interaction.
I have talked with many individuals over the years, some who are even CEOs of successful companies, here in the United States, but they are still unable to understand how their daughter (especially) or son needs to go about finding their future husband or wife and why some of their children are now looking outside their religion, race and ethnicity for finding their spouse. A friend had even started a website www.naseeb.com for online “Halal Dating” to help. But humor aside, this issue is serious.
As parents, I can’t say that similar questions have not crossed our minds. And to top it all off, we know that some of the experiences of finding a husband or wife from “Back Home” for our American children have not been good. So when I heard about this event I communicated with three leading ladies from the Muslim community in the Sacramento area, namely Sister Durriya Syed, Sister Suzana Malik and Sister Shemeem Khan for their views which are presented below. For this article only Sister Shemeem was called on to do a full interview because she is directly involved with this upcoming event.
Sister Durriya Syed had this to say: "I am proud that SALAM is addressing an issue that needs to be addressed. Marriage plays a crucial role in one’s life and is the most encouraged Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). The setup of the American society and culture has made it very difficult for young Muslims to find a partner in an Islamic manner. Sometimes we are uncomfortable with non-traditional efforts being held at Islamic centers. However, we need to overcome these feelings for the sake of the next generation."
Sister Suzana Malik added: “The Muslim Singles Event sponsored by SALAM is an opportunity for Muslim singles to meet someone special who shares their views in a positive, controlled and dignified environment. At present, there is no such program that brings Muslims of marriage age together. Having lived in the Sacramento community since 1991, I have seen our Muslim children grow up into successful young adults. This event is a great service for these up-and-coming Muslims to meet and converse with potential matrimonial candidates. It serves as an excellent outlet for meeting like-minded people in the context of a wholesome environment.”
Sister Shemeem Khan commented: “My drive in making this event a success is that I feel that there are Muslim parents, single Muslims like recent converts, divorced Muslims, new Muslims in the country, and some young Muslims that need an event like this, where they can all come together on one day, to get to meet and know other Muslims that are in the same predicament of finding suitable eligible spouses. I personally think that if you are not socially involved with the community and you do not have a big circle of friends, finding a Muslim spouse for your child or for yourself is a difficult task to undertake.”
Sister Shemeem Khan (S.K.) also answered the following questions for our readers below:
Q: What motivated you to be a part of the Muslim Singles Event to be held at SALAM on January 24?
S.K.: “I am a committee member of the SALAM Matrimony Singles Task Force. Imam Mohammed Abdul Azeez selected me and four other members to make up this Matrimony Committee which would help single Muslims find matches. The committee consists of four sisters and one brother. Our mission and goal is to help Muslims find spouses. The applicant fills out a detailed application with a photograph of themselves, and a $50 fee. We work with their criteria and requirements that are on the application to make matches. This service is ongoing and separate from the event on January 24, 2009 . Please see the details of this service on SALAM's website under Matrimonial Services. You can also see the detailed application form. Many people are getting this service and the event confused and think it is one combined venture.
The rest of the names and phone numbers of our committee members are listed on the Matrimony application. Please feel free to call them and talk with them also. One of the members is a student at the Sacramento City College; her name is Afshan Keval. This (Singles) event was an idea that Brother Tamir Sukkary envisioned. He is not a member of the above mentioned committee. He is the one who approached the Imam with the idea that started the workings of this event.”
Q: Why do you think that such efforts are not more widespread in the Muslim community?
S.K.: “I am not sure why, but I think that because this is a new approach to helping our children and other singles find spouses. It is something that Muslims will have to experience in order to get used to the idea, an idea which is the first of its kind here on the West Coast. One or more successful events will set a positive tone for future events to be more widespread in the community, and attract many more singles and families to attend. I think that for the single, older and divorced Muslims, this is something they are comfortable with, but for the younger Muslims, they are probably not comfortable being put in the spotlight especially with their parents around. This event allows Muslims that are eighteen to twenty to attend along with their parents. I am not sure what (other) avenues they plan on using to meet their future spouse.”
Q: In your opinion, is it possible that gender separation amongst Muslim youth is hindering their prospects of marriage within their own religion in America?
S.K.: “Yes, I think that this is part of the problem. Most of our Masjids (Mosques) and functions segregate the opposite sex from a very young age. I am not condoning mixing of the opposite sex without Mahrams, but how are our Muslim children supposed to show interest in the opposite sex when it comes time for marriage if (during) their whole time spent with Muslims they are separated from the opposite gender? They lack the basic skills to approach and show interest in the opposite sex, and the fear that they might be perceived by the community members as too modern and not of good character. The fact that there are roughly ten million Muslims in the United States who are surrounded by three hundred million non-Muslims makes it rather difficult to find a Muslim spouse, especially if most of their day is spent working and schooling with them. Non-Muslims have no problem approaching our children in the workplace or at school, and if our children are not strong enough to resist the temptation, then they easily fall in to relationships that are easy and comfortable with little or no effort on their part. I feel that our children find it easier to talk to non-Muslim women or men compared to talking to our Muslims of the opposite sex in our community.”
Q: Has the response from Muslim parents been positive to your group efforts of uniting Muslims in marriage?
S.K.: “Yes, we have many parents who tell us that this is a great idea and that we are doing a much needed service for the community, but when asked if they would bring their (own) children to an event like this, they claim that they do not want to be perceived as desperate. It seems that the first generation Muslims feel that this not an Islamic and cultural approach, but the Muslims that are born and raised here are more receptive to this idea, because they feel that this is a safe way for them to meet suitable spouses as they understand how challenging this can be for them out in the real world.”
To conclude on can point out that there is a great deal of online activity these days that can bring young people together and help them to communicate without meeting personally. But marriages are not an online experience. And American Muslims have their own unique issues which they have to deal with by using new approaches. This Muslim Singles Event is one honest attempt to bring people together to find their future spouses. It certainly needs to be given a chance, or better yet be actively encouraged by all of us.