Free-mixing is a funny word. To non-Muslims, it calls to mind whipping up some kind of fancy cocktail, but amongst Muslims it’s the term used to describe male-female interaction outside of what is strictly necessary. People interpret these boundaries in different ways, and the following categories are a reflection of this diversity. Again, the law student in me must add the disclaimer that I’m merely describing behaviours I have observed without endorsing or condemning them i.e. please don’t bite 🙂
Now onto the meaty stuff: the free-mixing spectrum. Here are my observations on the different types of free-mixers present within the Muslim community:
1.) The Strictly-Off-Limits
If you’re not of the same sex, you won’t know this person exists. You might see them walking down the street or sitting across the room at a lecture, but that’s about it. This type of person is only going to get married the ‘arranged’ way, because they sure as hell aren’t going to be going anywhere near a member of the opposite sex. Oh, and a strictly-off-limits person doesn’t usually have a Facebook, so unless you spot them across a crowd at a festival and approach them instantly (true story, folks, happened to a friend of a friend of mine) you’ve got no chance of making something happen.
2.) The Bro-Sis
This type of person interacts with the opposite sex on a ‘strictly necessary’ basis. For them, strictly necessary is when it’s related in some way to da’wah or a community event. They’ll accept friend requests from members of the opposite sex and will even crack a joke here or there, but will often refer to a male as ‘bro’ if female and a female as ‘sis’ if male, just to remind themselves and everyone else that they’re all business.
3.) The Online Chatterbox
As the name suggests, this person is friendly online with the opposite sex, exchanging jokes and tags and links on walls. But this doesn’t translate to their real life interaction-when it comes to that they’re category 2 all the way (whether out of social awkwardness or religiosity, no one knows).
4.) The Friendly Stranger
This is probably the most common type of free-mixer I’ve observed in the Muslim community. This person is happy to have a chat both online and in person, but not outside of what is incidental i.e. if you run into them at an event, feel free to say hello without them thinking you’re about to propose, but don’t ask them to ‘hang out’ unless you want to cop a whole lotta raised eyebrow.
5.) The Liberal
Watch out liberals, because you’ve got a rep. You’re known for being ‘friends’ with members of the opposite sex-why, you even have a profile pic with one such ‘friend’ in it! If you have a get-together, you’ll invite both guys and girls, and you’ll even check everybody in on Facebook to show it. You’re not fazed by the so-called haram police, and this gives you a weird form of immunity (if you don’t care, they can’t hurt you half as much).
6.) The Flexi Free-mixer
This is another common category. A flexi can switch in and out of the liberal crowd, attending events where guys and girls are present without getting a rep for it. They can also comfortably kick it with those at the more conservative end of the spectrum. You won’t see photos of them with members of the opposite sex popping up on your newsfeed, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t there. They just hide the evidence well 😉
So there it is. Can you think of any more categories? Do you fall into one, or several?