Category Archives: Social Commentary

A Letter to my 19 year old self

I’m not exactly 100 years old, but when I look back on some of the decisions I made in my late teens and early 20s I can’t help but cringe. There are so many things I wish I’d known then, so many things I wish people would have told me and spoken about openly. But I wasn’t the first person to make a few silly decisions, nor will I be the last. In the interest of saving a few young MSA girls from treading the road best left not taken, here is a letter from me to my younger self/all the girls I see so much of myself in:

Dear 19 year old self,

I know you think you know what you’re doing. I know you have good intentions and it’s all for the sake of Allah and so on and so forth. But that’s how it always starts, isn’t it? Innocence is often corrupted not through evil, but through the misdirected desire to do the right thing.

You may think the right thing is to keep your voice down and your eyes to the ground in person, but the real danger is behind the screens. You may think the right thing is to have a chat about this event or organising that stall, but it so easily comes undone. It’s so easy to be swept away, to give your heart to some nice boy with a beard and pretty words about the ummah and what the future will hold for the two of you.

Pretty words aren’t necessarily empty ones. They are promises and well-meaning ones at that, but they are promises which may or may not come to pass. He will tell you to wait, and your heart will jump to give him a chance, but your head should form the reply ‘I wait for no one’. When he tells you he’s not ready, tell him to come back when he is. If he tells you he is ready, don’t believe him until he shows you he is. Take notes at events instead of sneaking glances across the room. Pay attention to your friends and your studies, because they are the only things you are guaranteed to leave here with.

Does all of this mean you can’t have any fun? Of course not. Have a giggle about the crushes, the awkward and cutesy encounters over the bake stalls and BBQs.  Many of them have borne fruit and blossomed into permanent and lifelong commitments. But so many haven’t.

This is why I am telling you something you probably don’t want to hear: don’t waste your best and brightest years on uncertain love. Protect your heart before you get attached. Protect your heart from those who would do harm to you without meaning to. Protect your heart from the love which just isn’t ready to blossom yet. Let the premature, uncertain love go, and trust that the certain love will come when it is ready.

PS-Just because you call him ‘brother’ doesn’t mean you aren’t flirting.

How not to be a Muslim male jerk

In a previous post here, I wrote all about the struggles faced by Muslim women in their search for a partner. I know that many men may have read it and thought, ‘well geez, sucks to be them’. But sympathy isn’t going to get us anywhere. When the system we operate in is so skewed and unequal (yes patriarchy, I mean you), real action needs to be taken and men need to play their part. I’m going to give men the benefit of the doubt and assume that you guys don’t know what you can do to help when it comes to the area of romance, so let me make it easy for you with a few suggestions:

1.) Don’t stuff women around

Are there women who are happy to engage with men without wanting it to go anywhere? Undoubtedly, yes. However, society dictates that a woman’s window to get married is much narrower than a man’s is. When she likes you, she’s not operating on your time; she can’t simply wait around indefinitely for you to get it together. If it doesn’t work out, the stigma attaching to her as a woman with a failed relationship or two is so much worse than yours as a man, so if you know you have no intent of getting married to her, leave her be. (None of this ‘I-thought-we-were-just-friends’ business when confronted with your actions.)

2.) Approach her! Tell her you like her!

She may just like you too, but she most likely can’t do anything about it. If and when women do initiate, they run the risk of being seen as overly forward or ‘desperate’, so please help her out and kick things off.

But if she doesn’t return your interest, don’t get angry. Some men seem to think they are entitled to being considered by any woman they ‘choose’, that the attention they pay to a woman is a coveted privilege they are bestowing upon her. It’s not. She has as much of a right to say no as you do.

3.) Don’t assume she’s going to say no because of your wallet size…

Please, please don’t pre-emptively pull the plug because you think you don’t have enough to offer. Let her be the judge of that.

4.) But at the same time, at least try to sort yourself out

Work at a supermarket. Do security work. Get a lemon of a car. Meet her parents. Do what you need to do to get things across the line. Show her that you’re serious about her by taking your life seriously. Stop taking six years to finish a three year degree. You can do it.

5.) Don’t be a jerk

Just don’t be a jerk, ok? Please? (And yes, if you’re generally a ‘nice guy’ who just happens to be a jerk to women when it comes to your love life, you’re still a jerk.)

*If you need some hints on how not to be a jerk and the above hasn’t enlightened you, please note the following:

1.) Sneering at women’s less-than-perfect hijab is not on.

2.) Repeated flirting when you have no intention of following through is not on.

3.) Sharing sexist jokes/memes/anything at all is also really, really not on.

4.) Repeated flirting when you have a partner already is really, really, really not on. Really.

 

 

 

 

 

Social Media PDAs

‘Hubby made me breakfast in bed!’ (Accompanied by #marriedlife and a photo of said breakfast.)

We’ve all seen posts like this. Many of us have done the social media PDA thing and thought little of it. But what are we really trying to convey when we do and what effects does it have on those in our online vicinity?

Arguably, people who post things about their partners aren’t trying to convey a particular message at all.  Many of us are so accustomed to sharing bits and pieces of our lives online that it becomes an entrenched, unthinking habit. Graduate? Post a graduation shot and watch the likes roll in. Wearing a cute new outfit? Post a selfie. Sitting at home on the couch? Snapchat a story about it. Sharing things about our partner simply becomes part and parcel of this unselfconscious sharing process.

The phenomena of making ‘announcements’ about our personal lives covers anything from a new job to a new car to a new handbag, but it’s particularly interesting to see how Muslims announce their relationships online. Because so many relationships remain undercover until the engagement, it can come as a complete surprise to many when a friend (i.e. some person we met once at a party) updates their relationship status to ‘Engaged’. (It’s rare that Muslims will update their status to ‘In a relationship’, given the ambiguity this seems to carry, but I’ve often thought that if Facebook had a ‘in-a-secret-getting-to-know-thing’ option, we’d be all over it.) Many people post little hints before the actual exchange of rings, but we seem to be used to people announcing their engagements or even marriages with little to no preamble.

A person’s posts about their partner often reflect the stages of the relationship as it progresses. Initially, there’s a lot of wonder, gratitude and general all-around mushiness. Love hearts and emojis will be thrown around willy-nilly. ‘Alhamdulillahs’ and ‘MashaAllahs’ will abound. Photos will often be high in volume and may be sweet and cutesy to the point of tooth decay. Once the wedding is over, wedding shots will be circulated for months to come, often with neat little hashtags to remind everyone that it’s been #threemonths. But soon enough, these posts will decrease in their frequency and ones which are shared will begin to exhibit a quirkier, slightly irritating side to their partner, like them leaving their socks on the dining table or making a witty wisecrack at their other half’s expense.

And then there are those who remain completely undercover. No photos will be posted and no relationship statuses will be updated, leaving the general online populace slightly confused as to whether a wedding has actually taken place. For those who use their social media presence as a political/intellectual/da’wah tool, this lack of personal updates seems fairly standard. But their online silence regarding their partner arguably leaves room for potential misunderstandings and mishaps. Some would argue that we have a responsibility to ensure that people know we are well and truly ‘off the market’, and that if our social media presence is silent on this issue, people may get the wrong idea. Is this person engaged, married, divorced or a unicorn? No one really knows.

Another issue to consider is the effect posting lovey dovey things about a partner may have on those who are struggling to find one. Frequently, we think about this from the perspective of attracting envy and the evil eye, but it’s also important to consider that the negative aspects of relationships are very rarely displayed. It’s easy to forget this when our newsfeeds are groaning under the weight of cutesy couple photos, but all relationships have their hidden struggles and disappointments, ones which aren’t easily packaged for social consumption. The stories of sorrow behind the anniversary posts and the perfectly captured holiday shots are all too easy to miss, to the point where people even begin to compare their very real, flawed relationships to people’s heavily edited Facebook relationships.

How, when and why we share things about our relationships still seems to be somewhat unclear. As with any of the things we share, there’s no real ‘need’ to do so, but there’s also nothing inherently wrong with expressing joy and gratitude for our blessings. In fact, if we weren’t able to do so on social media, it’d be a pretty bleak, boring and meme-ridden space. Family and friends all over the world can be connected to celebrations and even people they’ve never physically met, and this can only be a beautiful thing.  But it’s also important to think carefully about the way in which we depict our relationships and how this may feed into a general culture of gratuitous, narcissistic oversharing. We don’t need to tell all 500 of our followers every time our partner buys us a chocolate muffin; we can just thank them personally and tuck right in.

Is desegregation the answer to Muslim marriage woes?

Segregation is one of those topics people tend to get up in arms about, whether for or against. Some people prefer partitions. Some people won’t attend events with partitions. Those who oppose segregation tend to be either married couples who want to go to events together, or singles who lament their missed opportunity to mingle with the opposite sex. (Of course, there are conscientious objectors too, but let’s just leave them out of the discussion for now.) This begs the question: is segregation killing your chances of getting married?

At first glance, the answer could be yes. If there are no opportunities for people to see each other, let alone talk, it’s virtually impossible to meet anyone at Muslim events. Even when there’s no partition, social conventions often dictate minimal contact between the sexes. No one is going to escort you out of the building if you do talk to someone of the opposite sex, but it’s not easy. If you don’t know the person, it’s not the done thing to approach them and just say ‘so, isn’t this panel discussion on gender rights in Islam fascinating?’ Even if you have a slight acquaintance with the person, you usually need some pretext to strike up a conversation. This is particularly the case for females, who are often discouraged from initiating any form of expressing interest out of fear of appearing ‘desperate’.

Consequently, many people get into what I like to call a ‘locked eye romance’: exchanging glances and smiles over the refreshments table (everyone suddenly becomes a tea drinker at these things), maybe even a friend request, but not having the space or confidence to do anything further. This is typically the case in MSAs, where people may see each other every other week at BBQs or lectures but have little opportunity to engage in conversation. But this scenario plays out even after people have left university, leaving 20somethings to play the let’s-look-at-each-other-across-the-room game long after it was a fun teenage distraction. This can leave people dispirited and frustrated, and unless there’s a mutual friend who can help out, it frequently fizzles out and goes nowhere.

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The lack of opportunity to talk to people of the opposite sex has one rather hilarious side effect: incentivising volunteering. Muslims love a good volunteer session, because not only do they get to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but they also get an added bonus: a legitimate excuse to mix with people of the opposite sex. Whether it’s helping out on a uni Shura, feeding the homeless or planting some cute little seedlings, activities will necessitate some level of interaction, and from there, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation organically. Volunteering is seen as a less confronting way of meeting people than an explicitly matrimonial event, since everything happens ‘incidentally’. Of course, it could be seen as slightly problematic that people are volunteering partly to meet a cutie with a social conscience, but others see it as the only real ‘in’ when everything else is segregated.

But is desegregation the saviour of the shoddy Muslim matrimonial scene? Well, not really. It may eliminate some problems, such as a lack of opportunity, but it can introduce all kinds of other pesky dilemmas. If people are very casual about gender interaction, it could very likely result in a very relaxed, let’s-talk-for-years-before-we-decide attitude to marriage. This could work for some people, but for others, it’s just plain annoying and not at all conducive to finding a spouse. It’s all too common for people to get stuck in the Muslim friendzone, a place where hangouts and flirtations abound but from which marriages very rarely eventuate.

The Muslim friendzone is not an entirely comfortable place to be, even for people who aren’t particular fussed about gender mixing. It’s difficult for Muslim men and women to become BFFs in the first place because so many topics are just entirely off-limits. If they do become close, one person will often decide that they want more and end up either getting rejected in spectacular fashion or pining away in secret, reading text messages dozens of times to extract hidden meanings.  Inevitably, people tend to distance themselves from their friends of the opposite sex once they get married, so some might argue that there’s not much point in investing in a relationship which is bound to die off.

I don’t have any solutions as to how to crack the code of meeting someone. Clearly, it’s not as simple as having a big fat freemixing fest. Some people may argue that it’s not the Muslim community’s responsibility to find you a husband/wife, that if you come to Islamic classes or events your intention shouldn’t be to meet people. However, some may argue that marriage is a communal responsibility and that if we as a community don’t do more to facilitate marriages, people will resort to less reputable, riskier methods. I definitely see the issue of marriage as something we all should invest in and share as a communal responsibility, but I’m just not sure how this should be addressed. The more I see, the more I think it’s simply a matter of luck/naseeb/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, of being in the right place and the right mentality at the right time. Whether you want to wait for that to happen or try to cook up a bit of your own naseeb over a bake sale is entirely your call.

How do you think Muslims could more easily meet and form connections? Does there need to be a more concerted event as a community to facilitate marriages?

What type of Muslim single are you?

The last post got me thinking a whole lot about the life of a single Muslim. I’ve been to four weddings already this year. Last year, I went to about six. Nevertheless, I can’t seem to shake off the feeling that we’re entering some kind of weird post-marriage era, a kind of dystopian otherworld where people are staying single for yonks longer than their parents and grandparents did. This may be as often due to choice as it is due to circumstance.

As always, I insert my tedious disclaimer about generalisations being generalisations and not granite fatwas. But enough with the disclaimers, let’s categorise people now:

1.) The cynical/bitter single

This person feels that they’ve been burned too many times to even think about putting their heart on the line. If anyone brings up the topic of marriage, they’ll often make sarcastic comments or simply try to change the subject. They pretend not to care at all about getting married, and may have trained themselves enough to believe that this is the case.

How to nab them: Underneath their somewhat uninviting exterior, they’re often deeply caring and emotional. If you’re patient enough, you can draw them out, but do it slowly or you’ll scare them off.

 2.) The meh single

This person is either indifferent to the idea of getting married or just doesn’t care quite enough to do anything about it. As a result, they’re most likely going to get married through ‘traditional’ means, and they’re indifferent to that prospect too. They’re sure it’ll happen at some point, and they’re willing to sit back and wait until it does.

How to nab them: They can be quite difficult to spot because of their low-key modus operandi, but if you do, you can probably coax them into something fairly easily. (As long as they like you, that is.) They’re pretty meh, remember?

3.)  The holding-out-for-Mr/Ms-right-single

This person has most likely been in a relationship/had strong feelings for someone and as a result, is waiting to ‘feel it’ again. They feel that they’ve experienced an intense connection and as such, anything less will just be not good enough.

How to nab them: Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to engage this type of person. They have to really, really like you for them to actually pursue anything serious, and there’s very little you can do to try to ‘induce’ those feelings.

 4.) The preoccupied single

This person isn’t averse to marriage; rather, it’s just not high on their long list of priorities. Whether it’s career or study hurdles they’re trying to get over, they have their eye fixed firmly on the prize and very little will divert them at this point in their life.

How to nab them: Once they feel that they’re ready, they will commit fairly quickly, so you just need to wait for the right opportunity. Alternately, you may be in the same field or sphere as them and catch their eye as the perfect potential partner in crime.

 5.) The I’m-not-ready single

This person just doesn’t feel ready. This is either because they’re not quite sure where they’re studies/career/existence is going, or because they know enough of where they’re going to know they aren’t there yet. As such, they feel hesitant about expressing interest in someone, worrying that they just won’t be up to the job.

How to nab them: In order for them to consider you, they’ll need to know that you value them for their innate personal qualities rather than their job title or salary package. For some, these reassurances may be enough. For others, they won’t be able to commit, regardless of how much they like you or how much you like them.

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 6.) The cute youngling single

This person may be open to the idea of getting married, but knows that it may only happen in the distant future because they’re fresh out of high school. They often have an upbeat, rosy attitude towards marriage because no one has trampled all over their heart (yet).

How to nab them: Just ask! An expression of interest is sure to get their heart aflutter.

 7.) The oft-thwarted single

This person isn’t single out of choice. They’ve been trying to meet people and may have had a few close tries, but somehow they just never make it over the line. They’ll keep trying until they get there, and are open to considering just about anybody with a full set of teeth and a heart of bronze.

How to nab them: You just need to cross paths and their interest may be sparked. From here, you really don’t have to do all that much-they’ve got it all covered.

 8.) The clueless single

This person does in fact want to get hitched, but doesn’t really know how to go about it. They may not have the connections to meet people or the social savvy to be able to know how to express interest, and they’re left scratching their head as to how it’s all supposed to work.

How to nab them: Just extend them a helping hand. If you like them and they like you, there’s no reason they won’t extend theirs.

 9.) The playing-the-field single

This person’s detractors may label them a ‘player’, but they don’t see it that way. They just want to keep their options open. They want to see what’s ‘out there’, whether because they feel they’re too young/too inexperienced/too cool to commit to one person just yet.

How to nab them: Unless they feel you’re something out-of-this world, they won’t commit. But they will get bored of keeping their options open at some point, so if you’re there at that precise moment, you may find yourself the lucky final recipient of their attentions.

10.) The precise-fit single

This person has very specific requirements for a partner, and as such has narrowed their field considerably. Sometimes, these requirements are all of their own making, but they may be related to parental expectations too e.g. marrying a person of the same culture.

How to nab them: Their openness to someone who doesn’t fit their requirements will depend on their level of discipline. Some people stick to their guns no matter what, while others will let their feelings be their guide. Or alternately, you could be the lucky person who just happens to tick all of their boxes.

11.) (you thought I’d stop at 10, didn’t you?)

The single-who-isn’t-really-single single

This person’s relationship status is a mystery. They’re certainly not married, but that’s as much as anybody knows. Whether they’re pining over an unrequited love, secretly seeing a requited love, struggling with their sexuality or preoccupied with the whereabouts of the Loch Ness Monster, nobody is quite sure .

How to nab them: You can’t pursue them until you find out exactly what their deal is, but be warned: this sleuthing may take a while. Or maybe it won’t. After all, Muslims are pros at knowing things about people we’ve never even spoken to in person.

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The complexities of Muslim gender interactions

Recently, I happened to be in the same vicinity as a couple of Muslim guys. We’d just left the same event, but I was now on my own with some time to kill. After a short and somewhat stop-start conversation, the guys promptly walked off in the opposite direction without so much of a backward glance or a parting salams.

For some reason, I found myself reflecting on this incident more than I probably should have. I’d initially found their behaviour discourteous and unnecessarily awkward, but I was also annoyed at myself for not knowing precisely how to interpret it all. Maybe I’d just expected too much. Maybe I was being a bit of a weirdo to have even made conversation in the first place. Maybe I’d just been around too many non-Muslims, old people and hipsters lately.

Modernity is a game of unintended consequences. My interest has always been in the place where politics and religion meet the personal, that grey fuzzy mess where no one is quite sure how things should work anymore. How people interpret edicts such as ‘keep it to what’s necessary’ will depend very much on factors such as their religious leanings, their family and community expectations, their cultural sensibilities and their innate personal habits and character traits. Let’s examine some of these issues in more detail:

1.) Boundary-building

As mentioned above, there are any number of variables when it comes to setting boundaries. Certain environments have their own pre-established boundaries, such as classes with physical partitions down the middle, but in other places the boundaries are not quite as defined. For example, at some Muslim events men sit on one side and women on the other, but the space outside and around the refreshments section is unsegregated. Some MSA members are friendlier than others with the opposite sex, but MSA events are often heavily segregated. Someone who you see at an Islamic class may ignore you completely, but then if you see them in a different context will be super-friendly.

I find the minutiae of Muslim gender boundaries fascinating. It’s definitely not ‘necessary’ to like people’s posts on Facebook, but a lot of people do. It’s not really ‘necessary’ to add people of the opposite sex, but a lot of people do. In some circles it’d be completely normal for a Muslim guy to offer a girl a lift home, while in others it’d be seen as odd or even offensive. Some friend’s husbands are fine with having a chat, while others will run for the door if you enter their house.

If you stay in one, maybe two, social or community spheres, you tend to know and observe the rules of those spheres. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with observing the conventions of the environment you’re in or even modifying your behaviour to respect its confines, but switching in and out of modes of being can lead to interesting and unexpected consequences, which brings me to my next observation.

2.) Switching in and out

Part of the complexities of gender relations is a type of dissonance, a little two-step, between the spheres constructed by Muslims and those constructed by non-Muslims. Immediately after my little encounter with those Muslim guys, I went into a (women’s) clothing shop to kill some time. The male sales assistant approached me and started a brief but friendly conversation, asking how my day had been and what I’d been up to. The exchange barely lasted two minutes, but I couldn’t help but unflatteringly compare the behaviour of the Muslim guys with this one.

 Of course, this is hardly a fair comparison to make. The sales assistant probably just wanted me to buy that shirt I’d been eyeing, but more importantly, the sales assistant wasn’t Muslim. The bizarre condition of the 21st century Western Muslim is that we’re often far more certain the conventions of how to behave around non-Muslims of the opposite sex than we are around those of our own faith. We’re more relaxed, less guarded and watchful. I’m not saying these are good things, but we’ve all either done it or seen it in action. (I’ve heard many complaints about Muslim guys being a lot less ‘cool’ than their non-Muslim counterparts, so take that as you will.)

3.) What goes on behind the screens

I find a type of behavioural convention particularly common in the uni crowd: awkward in person, chatty behind computer screens. Some people won’t even say salams in person, but they’re happy to comment on your Facebook status or send you a private message. I find this somewhat irritating, but I do understand that for many people, online spaces seem safer, more ‘natural’.

The problem with this is that online interactions can be misleading. People may talk to you on Facebook chat for hours on end without wanting to pursue a serious relationship. People may seem really cool and funny based on their social media persona, but in person may have all the personality of a wet firecracker. You might think someone is interested because they interact with you extensively online, but they could also be doing the same with several other people of the opposite sex. It’s so easy to say things behind a screen that you’d never say in person, which is problematic for any number of reasons.

4.) Overthinking overload

The complexities and blurry grey lines of Muslim gender interactions leads to a type of second-guessing, a paranoia about being misinterpreted or judged. If I say salams first, will he think I’m being too forward? If I send her a message about something, does she think I’m interested? Was that joke I just said inappropriate or kinda hilarious? Am I really just being friendly or do I want something more here?

Of course, some kind of internal auditing system is desirable, probably even necessary. But it can be exhausting to constantly take yourself to account, to constantly read subtext beneath subtext beneath subtext. This is compounded by the fact that you’re never quite sure who’s single and who’s not. If you know someone isn’t single or isn’t looking, you’re bound to interpret their friendliness in a different light. There is so much unspoken that it’s no wonder the spoken space can become so fraught with difficulty, awkwardness and unease.

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Some people I’ve spoken to about this issue find it easy to navigate between different social circles, to maintain a consistent demeanour and manner of engagement. Others give the matter little to no thought whatsoever and just say and act however they’re feeling in that particular moment. Sometimes I think people should just plainly state their boundaries (i.e. no, I will not meet up for coffee with you because I don’t do that sort of thing, or yes, we can talk about Game of Thrones without it leading to a proposal), but then again, maybe half of the fun lies in the unknown, in the guessing games and the carving out of parameters. Or maybe not.

International Love

‘If I get really desperate, I’ll just go to Lebanon/Pakistan/insert-country-here and find someone’.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that statement, I’d be writing this from the Bahamas instead of my suburban couch. It’s terribly clichéd to say it, but I’ll say it anyway: increasingly, we are living in a global bubble. I often feel like there are so few degrees of separation between people that it’s all a bit claustrophobic. Social media gives us the sense, even if it’s not entirely accurate, that we have a portal to different countries, with those portals often being people we’ve never even met.

Even as we ‘connect’, the simultaneous sense of loneliness can fester. Routine and repetition can render us prone to the belief that we know everyone in our own city and that if there was anyone to meet, we’d have met them already. Put this sense of boredom together with the belief in global portals of discovery and we have some pretty interesting possibilities arising. We can talk to people in different countries and on different continents and see if there’s the potential of a shared life together, wherever that may be.

But it seems not all countries were created equal. There is often a marked difference in how people raised in Western countries view the idea of marrying someone raised in another Western country as opposed to marrying someone from their parents’ country of origin. This means someone in Australia may be perfectly fine with talking to someone in Canada, but they may not be as open to talking to someone born and raised in Iraq.

Much of this may be explained by language barriers. If someone doesn’t speak a language other than English fluently, they will naturally experience communication issues with someone whose English isn’t fluent. But it’s more than that. Many people refer to ways of being particular to the ‘third culture generation’: those who were raised in a Western country to migrant parents, negotiating their way through different modes of existence and forming their own mishmash of an identity. Those with a very strong sense of cultural identity may feel they relate well to people from their parents’ country of origin, and as such are very open to marrying someone who was raised there.

But even so, a kind of stigma is often attached to these unions. People whisper behind their hands, well, they clearly gave up and couldn’t find someone here. The perception exists that it’s easier to find someone to marry overseas, perhaps grounded in suspicion of the motives of those who don’t hold Western passports. It’s a common perception that many people are just after visas or green cards and will marry anyone to get it. ‘Fobs’ are the butt of many jokes, with everything from their broken English to their way of dressing becoming the subject of derision.

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I find it all very interesting, especially from where I stand as a person whose parents and relatives overseas speak English as their main language. I’ve certainly never had anyone show any interest whatsoever in my Australian passport when I go to South Africa, and so part of me feels sceptical when friends talk about dangling their passport in front of people overseas and watching the hordes run in. I also know many people who’ve simply met someone overseas and hit it off with them, just as they would with someone here, and so I hate to think that their relationship would be attributed to a mere visa hunt by the overseas party.

I also wonder just how similar the experiences and outlooks of Muslims in different Western countries are. How different is the Canadian Muslim experience to the British Muslim experience to the Australian Muslim experience? Of course, migration patterns differ between these countries, which results in different demographic mixes and community dynamics. For example, the migrant US Muslim community is known to be particularly affluent and well-educated. Friends I know who’ve mingled extensively with people from the US Muslim community comment that they seem more ‘liberal’ than people in Australia when it comes to relations with the opposite sex, which makes for interesting international love conundrums. Even here in Australia much is made of the distinction between Muslims in Sydney and Melbourne, and within cities all kinds of different communities and sub-communities exist.

Where is this all going to go? What kinds of identities will the children of Muslim Australian-US-Indian-Somali parents ascribe to? Will these apps and sites, created to foster country-wide and global connections, achieve their aims? I’m not sure. There are too many variables involved, too many factors at play. All I know is that the world for me has simultaneously contracted and expanded as I’ve gotten older. I’m more conscious than ever of all that lies beyond the city of my birth, but am also more conscious of how modernity and globalisation is condensing and eroding culture and difference into one soupy hot mess. I wonder about all the people who are getting left behind as people like me, the privileged, well-travelled, well-educated elite, continue to do our global dances from retreats to conventions to conferences, meeting more and more people just like us.

Would you marry someone from another country? Would it matter which country they were from?