Millennial Muslims and the technology of love

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SHAFAQNA – MUSLIMS INSPIRED BY SERVICES LIKE TINDER AND AIRBNB ARE CREATING THEIR OWN MUSLIM APPS TAILORED TO THEIR CULTURE.

Khalil Jessa, a 25-year-old Muslim developer who lives in Vancouver, Canada, was just like other young people his age – he too wanted to meet the right person with whom he could spend the rest of his life. However, after trying Tinder and still having no luck finding that special someone (he wanted her to be someone who shared his faith), he decided to create Salaam Swipe, an app along the same lines as Tinder, but for Muslims.

For Muslims, alcohol is ‘haram’ or forbidden, so they can’t really walk into bars and hope to strike up a conversation with someone they find interesting. Getting to socialize with the opposite sex is also not easy as gender-segregation is prevalent at mosques, and many Muslims end up getting hitched to their spouses in ‘arranged marriages’. Who they marry depend on the connections and acquaintances that their parents, uncles or aunts have; and post-marriage, it can turn out be a frustrating experience afterwards if the personalities of the couple don’t match.

Salaam Swipe hopes to avoid the role of relatives in the process, enabling young Muslims to meet their potential mates without interference. Khalil Jessa says he knows a lot of Muslims who have two personal Facebook accounts, one where they are very reserved and project the appearance of being good, practicing Muslims; and the other where they can be their true self with their friends. With Salaam Swipe, you can browse through profiles of Muslim people in the vicinity, swipe left to like one, or swipe right to dislike it. If the other person also likes you, you can start up a conversation. On your own profile, you can mention your denomination and/or political affiliation, if any.

There is also UmmaSpot, a site which matches Muslims looking for short-term stay with hosts who share the same faith as them. Explaining the idea, Sarah Ahmed says she wanted to create a portal where Muslims could stay at a place and eat halal or wear a hijab without being uncomfortable. While Muslim dating is nothing new, most of the existing sites are filled with middle-aged men looking for second wives. Or even third or fourth. Salaam Swipe offers users anonymity, but dating without the knowledge of elders may not exactly be ‘halal’ (permitted), according to Alaa El Sayed, an Imam who also serves as the Director for Religious Affairs with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Canada. Salaam Swipe is scheduled to be launched in a few months exclusively for iPhone users.

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