Sixteen individuals who 1 self-identified as Muslim American women and 2 were actively using online dating websites participated in interviews about their experiences. Qualitative data analysis suggests that these women balance the perceived advantages of online dating e. This study contributes toward a deeper understanding of how new technologies integrate with existing religions and cultures and gives insights into the nature of technological change and adaptation in society more generally.
This is particularly true for individuals in immigrant communities found across the United States since online dating platforms facilitate net- working by connecting ethno-cultural group members with each other, both domestically and across the globe Bunt, ; Hammer, The increasing use of the Internet has redefined the ways in which religious communities exist online and offline and how their members share and propagate their views.
Information communication technologies ICTs have also shaped how individuals interact with other members of the same faith, including how they seek romantic partners for marriage Brasher, Although Muslims are one of the fastest growing religious communities in America, there is not much research examining this group. Furthermore, many Muslim Americans consider family to be the most important institution and marriage a religious duty Alshugairi, , yet our understanding concerning the use of ICTs for mate selection and dating processes within religious and cultural communities remains limited in scope.
Current research needs to keep up with the changing landscape of practices in courtship and marriage, including the use of online matchmaking, to offer better understanding of recent developments and insights into the interplay between American mainstream dis- courses and specific Muslim dimensions of the topic. Prior research exploring the Muslim online dating scene tends to focus on the experi- ences of either Muslims as a collective Lo and Aziz, ; Soukup, or Muslim men exclusively Al-Saggaf, Very few studies have actually investigated the experiences of Muslim women, let alone those residing in the United States.
Mir has also highlighted the reductionist tendencies of existing research which seeks to present the lived experiences of Muslim American women in a rather homogenized way, thereby congealing the Muslim identity into a seemingly unified perspective. While previous research may have overlooked or misrepresented their experiences, this study focuses exclusively on Muslim American women and the various facets of experiences in their usage of online dating technology.
The goal of this study is to inves- tigate the experience of Muslim American women who voluntarily use ICTs in their search for romantic partners. Three central questions drive our investigation: First, what motivates Muslim American women to use online dating systems?
Second, how is com- puter-mediated communication CMC affecting or changing the experience and practice of romantic courtship among Muslim American women? Third, what are the issues that Muslim American women face when using online dating systems? Investigating the experience of women who use these technologies will allow us to understand the com- plex negotiations between culture and religious identity, on one hand, and technology use, on the other.
Below, we provide a sketch of mate selection and courtship practices that can be found in Muslim communities based on available research. Although the intention of this overview is to serve as an entry point for readers, it is important to note the following. First, the review is not comprehensive, and so it is limited in its ability to capture the Rochadiat et al. Second, much of the existing literature has put forth a very conservative view of Muslim religious and cultural practices; in reality, like all religions, perspectives on Islam and its practice fall along a wide spectrum ranging from strict, conservative obser- vance on one end and a more open independence on the other end.
Mir , in a way, touches on this potential bias in the literature by suggesting that although Muslim cul- tural groups do feature a broad variety of interpretations and behaviors, scholarly repre- sentations tend to project Islamic homogeneity rather than diversity, further noting that Muslim representative status is often held by those with more conservative views. Additionally, we want to emphasize the fundamental significance of the constructed discursive triangle of universalized Islamic norms, generalized American values, and attachment to ethnic cultures Arab, South Asian, African American, etc.
These dynamics are in perceived and constant tension and animate Muslim American marriage practices and surrounding discourses. In the overview that follows, we high- light in particular the nature of cross-sex interactions, the selection criteria, the role of the family in the decision-making process, as well as the role of chaperones in face-to-face FtF meetings between unrelated members of the opposite sex. A brief overview of the literature examining the potential impact of online dating technology on Muslim court- ship practices is then presented.
We proceed with our interview method and data, along with analysis and final interpretation of how our findings both parallel and extend exist- ing knowledge and literature.
Below, we provide a brief overview of Muslim courtship practices, focus- ing particularly on the criteria used during mate selection and the role of the family during the process. Second, we discuss the norms that guide how men and women communicate with one another during courtship. Muslims who subscribe to these different perspectives also differ in the criteria they use when judging compatibility.
Those who subscribe to a love marriage view believe that mates should be selected based on the attraction and feeling developed prior to marriage. Such trends indicate that there is a variety of views regarding the institutions of marriage and the family.
While many attributes can be considered, the importance of religiosity within the conservative view is often attributed to the saying of Prophet Muhammad that piety is the best quality upon which to base the mate selection decision Lo and Aziz, Those subscribing to a transitional view of marriage often blend the two sets of crite- ria described above.
For example, one study on mate selection and marriage among Muslim Americans Killawi et al. Participants were found to have based their decisions to marry after some form of interaction and correspondence simi- lar to love marriages , yet many also claimed it was a spiritual decision as well similar to conservative practices.
Some described engaging in a special decision-making prayer salatul istikhara to help them decide whether they should move forward with the mar- riage, with most reported to have consulted with family members, trusted friends, and imams. Another significant feature of Muslim courtship practices is the role of the family.
Such arrangements are the exception rather than the norm, yet research suggests such stereotypes are alive and well: This is followed by an exchange of personal and family profiles and pictures between interested couples and then by chaperoned meetings between potential partners.
The final phase is the official marriage proposal that is sealed with family approval Al-Johar, Notably, in other circles, self-initiated mate selection also called self-choice is also recognized, with parents and relatives being notified as the relationship develops Al-Johar, In summary, many young Muslim men and women expect that their family mem- bers will have input—or sometimes total control—in their search for romantic partners.
Gendered relations and male—female interactions Muslim courtship practices may also govern the ways in which unrelated men and women interact with each other in public, FtF settings. From a religiously conservative standpoint, unrelated men and women are advised not to speak with each other for pur- poses of socializing, and it is considered improper for marriage prospects to indulge in intimate conversations with each other, unless there is a direct need, such as education or business Ahmed, ; Larsson, In constructing gendered discourse about their interaction with men, some Muslim women will conform to stereotypes about chastity, modesty by frequently projecting the Muslim dif- ference in their self-identity to their Muslim peers Mir, Within many conservative circles, gender segregation is imposed during the courtship process for the preservation of Islamic ethics.
This is why in conservative Islamic societies, a third party, who is often a fam- ily member, is involved during the matchmaking process. The primary purpose of third-party involvement during such male—female interactions is to ensure that proper conduct is observed between marriage prospects and that women in particular make rational, well- informed mate selection decisions Ahmed, ; Asamarai et al.
Although gender differentiation and segregation is the norm in many conservative families, gender dynamics vary considerably among Muslim people in the United States Haddad and Smith, For example, some Arab Americans feel that maintaining traditional gender roles is fundamental for preserving their ethnicity and reproducing Arab culture in America, while others pride in their Arab heritage yet discard such cus- toms and perceive them as inhibiting their integration and achievement in the US society Haddad and Smith, Furthermore, these attitudes about gendered interaction can vary by social class and generational status, with stronger attachments to traditional val- ues being more common among foreign-born or rural individuals Read, Regardless, conservative courtship practices suggest very limited personal agency for young Muslims, and women more specifically.
The restriction of individual agency is particularly amplified by the role of family members in the process, as well as the prag- matic nature of measuring potential marriage partners against an ideal set of criteria, as opposed to the development of romantic attraction. The advent of online dating technolo- gies, however, may alter these practices to some degree.
Parks and Floyd, ; Rice and Love, In terms of mediated romantic relationships, Kelley posited that the barriers to meeting romantic partners offline, such as the lack of time to seek out potential partners and the lack of access to available partners, can be mitigated by CMC.
Online dating has been shown to provide greater convenience and control, as well as increased access to potential partners Finkel et al. Certain hindrances to relationship formation, such as communication apprehension in FtF interactions, may also be ameliorated in CMC. This brief review points out the appeal of online dating sites for romantic relationship initiation, but online dating may be particularly salient given the current shift in the way younger generations of Muslims in the United States approach marriage.
This appears to be the case with Muslim online daters as well. Muslims looking for partners who share similar cultural, ethnic, or racial backgrounds but happen to be living in different geographic locations can now connect more easily Armario, Considering the ease for young Muslims and their families to seek out or search for specific preferences, Muslims are increasingly drawn online due to sheer efficiency Bunt, Grewal found that younger Muslim Americans have resorted to social net- working services, such as naseeb.
This is in line with findings from Peek that have suggested a gradual shift toward a more auton- omous mate selection process for young, second-generation Muslims in Western nations like America. Mediated communication between Muslim partners In addition to increasing efficiency and access, online dating may affect interaction between Muslim men and women.
While similar sequences may occur in the Muslim online dating context, the role of the family and certain cultural—religious sensitivities may pose a different process altogether.
Lack of physical co-location between online daters may sug- gest that the conservative rules governing male—female interactions may not necessarily apply to cross-sex interactions that occur online. The advent of Muslim online dating sites may also raise new questions over the need for a third-party chaperone between potential marriage partners when the relationship is initiated online and courtship com- munications are exchanged in a mediated context.
When a chaperone is present, introduction and matchmaking process can cause embarrassment among young Muslim men and women, as they must not only deal with the stress of meeting potential romantic partners but the third party usually a family member as well Green, CMC may then facilitate Muslims of the opposite sex to communicate privately before marriage without involving a third party in the process, therefore circumventing certain conservative Islamic and cultural norms Kaya, and ushering in a more transitional or blended approach to marriage.
In this way, cross-sex interactions over the Internet can be discreet. The beauty of meeting and relating online is that you can gradually collect information and then make a choice about pursuing the relationship in the real world. You are never obligated to meet anyone, regardless of your level of online intimacy. Bunt, Increased intimacy of online interaction.
While previous research on Muslim online dating has yet to examine the exact dynamics of mediated interactions between daters, existing theory suggests that CMC may have a profound impact on interaction during courtship.
Communicators are able to utilize the asynchronous nature of CMC to selectively curate their self-presentation. Hancock and Toma have found that online daters tend to not only disclose more personal information with each other but also project idealized self-portrayals in the process. While the propensity for greater self-disclosure may have been demonstrated in early CMC work described above, such experiments were often conducted between unac- quainted interaction partners that were not seeking romantic connections.
Thus, it is not yet known whether Muslim online daters view CMC as an advantage or disadvantage during courtship. This possibility suggests that the process by which Muslim women merge their use of online dating technologies with their religious identity may be more complex than meets the eye.
For example, while Muslim online daters may want to engage in greater online self-disclosure, it is also possible that this kind of intimate cross-sex interaction may produce other, less desirable effects. If she were to engage in such disclosures, a Muslim woman would perhaps gain greater intimacy with her partner, but she might also feel like she has violated more conservative rules regarding male—female interaction. Such a dilemma may produce a feeling of cognitive dissonance: While she is able to interact with potential partners freely online, she might also feel that her religious identity is called into question.
How Muslim women view the impact of ICTs on overall mate selection and court- ship practices remains unknown. Whether and how Muslim online daters negotiate their use of online dating technologies with their own religious identities remains to be seen. Based on the above literature review, three research questions are forwarded: What motivates Muslim American women to use online dating systems? How is CMC affecting or changing the experience and practice of romantic courtship among Muslim American women?
What are the issues that Muslim American women face when using online dat- ing systems? To investigate the research questions stated above, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with Muslim American women across the United States. An invitation to participate Rochadiat et al. Facebook and Twitter and through email blasts.
Recruitment messages were also re-posted by followers and prominent fig- ures in the Muslim American community on behalf of the primary researcher. All interviews were conducted through Skype and were recorded using the Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype software. After 12 interviews, the saturation point was met, but four more interviews were conducted as additional confirmation.