Friday, September 28, 2007

Speed dating for Muslims

Very, very interesting stuff by Farooq Ahmed, who participated in one such event in Chicago (catch it before it goes behind the FT paywall).

At the check-in desk where I went to pick up my name-tag, stood a line of aunties. “Auntie” is used throughout south Asia as a term of endearment, referring to an older woman who may or may not be a blood relative. Aunties are often stern, judgmental and have an uncanny ability to unman a potential suitor by placing emphasis on a single word. A typical utterance would be: “Yes, yes, he went to graduate college but, dear, he is a writer.” [...]

... As we waited to meet our potential future spouses, Yasmeen’s assistants segregated us by gender, directing the women to one set of doors and the men to another. While this did seem somewhat inauspicious – only moments before we had been socialising as one loud, nervous and confused group – what followed was measurably worse. The assistants began to subdivide each gender by age: 20- to 30-year-olds on one side, 31 and up on another.

I graduated to the latter group a few years ago and reluctantly joined this line of men, most of them significantly older and taller than me.

The women entered the ballroom first and were instructed to sit in groups of five at the neatly arranged circular tables. The men were next, also in groups of five. We filled the empty seats between the women as we joined them.

Once we were all seated, we were given simple instructions over the loudspeakers. We would be given five minutes to introduce ourselves, after which the men were to move to the next table and begin the process again. The women were to remain seated. If someone at the table interested us, we could take notes or ask for an e-mail address or phone number, or more decorously, seek them out during dinner.