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At first, I really enjoyed watching and somethings search for love and marriage in this traditional manner. By the end of the eight-episode series, however, I felt nauseous. Unlike some of my white friends who watched on carefree, I was disturbed by the obvious displays of classism, ethnocentrism, and colourism in the show.
The Netflix series glossed over this uglier side of matchmaking, but as a Black American Muslim woman who has ly been rejected by potential suitors based solely on race and ethnicity, I cannot look past it. And when I say dating, I mean dating-to-marry, because as an observant Muslim, I only pursue romantic relationships with one goal in mind: marriage.
I encounter the same annoyances found within Western dating culture Muslim women too get ghosted, mostedand harassedbut due to cultural baggage that is often conflated with Islamic tradition, I am more likely to come head-to-head with sexism, ageism, and racism. The last one of which I suffer from the most. No matter which path I take to seek marriage — matchmakers, apps like Minder, or chaperoned blind dates — I am constantly met with the sickening reality that I am less likely to be chosen as a potential partner b ecause of my background as an Afro-Latina American born to convert parents.
Having come from a mixed family, I was never warned that who I sought to love or whoever sought to love me would be premised on something as arbitrary as skin colour, race or ethnicity. I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago, when a painful relationship taught me to take caution. I fell in love with an Arab man I met through my mosque in Boston. In addition to all the little things, like making me feel heard, valued, and loved, he taught me how to centre my life around faith. In the years that followed, I continued to encounter these same infections.
I was not of the desired ethnic background, namely South Asian or Arab — t he two most predominant ethnic groups in the Muslim American community. Black American and African men, meanwhile, said they were open to marrying women of any ethnicity and race. When I began writing about the problems I experienced in the Muslim marriage market, I discovered I was not alone.
I heard countless stories of Black American and African women who were forced to break engagements due to the colour of their skin or ethnic origins. Countless other Black or African women, meanwhile, told me that they could not even make it to the stage of engagement because no one in the community introduced them to eligible candidates for marriage due to their race. This left many feeling unwanted, rejected, and hopeless. When confronted with these examples, naysayers ask, what is wrong with wanting to marry someone that shares your culture?
They raise defences based on ethnocentricity, trying to hide their prejudices under the guise of love and pride for their motherlands. They argue that differences in culture create friction between a couple, and their families. Many US-born Muslims, especially millennials and those from the Gen Z, pride themselves on successfully navigating what it means to be American embracing American holidays, entertainment, and politics while staying true to Islamic values.
While such Muslims may simply be keeping up with the practices of their fellow racist Americans, they are cutting ties with Islamic tradition. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him was sent to rid the world of pre-Islamic traditions that favoured racism, ethnocentrism, and tribalism. We created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other .
In the months since the death of George Floyd, I have seen a concerted effort by Muslim leaders and activists to raise consciousness in our community about the fight against racial injustice and supporting Black bodies. There have been many online khutbasand virtual halaqasaimed at addressing the deep-seated issue of racism within our homes and our mosques.
However, I am afraid that all such efforts to eradicate racism from our community will fall flat if we do not speak up against the cultural and racial biases that are both implicit and explicit within the marriage market. I fear that if we continue to allow ugly cultural biases to govern who we choose to love, or who we choose to let our children marry, we will remain stagnant.
Nailah Dean. Nailah Dean is a lawyer and creative writer living in San Francisco. Her current project is a memoir about the Muslim dating world. More from Author. Most Read. Driver in China successfully sues Tesla for fraud.
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