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Rocky has been so engrossed in his medical training, a male friend standing next to him explained, he has had no time to meet potential spouses. If a man or woman finds someone they are interested in, the next step is to meet the parents.His predicament is becoming more common, said Altaf Husain, an assistant professor of social work at Howard University and an ISNA trustee. “Young Muslims tell me, ‘My parents can’t help me because they don’t know anyone where I live.’ ” Another problem is that women outnumber men, Husain said, including at the banquet. “Muslims value the process of getting married not so much on the individual level, but as a process between two families,” Husain said.In theory, his MD gives him an edge, Raza and Kadir lamented, doctor being the most preferred occupation among parents.There is one problem with doctors, however: It takes so long to become one.As they sat on a small stage, about 400 men and women wishing to copy their success sat before them, waiting for the three-minute rotations to begin. “Brothers and sisters,” he beseeched them, “if you are here for the matrimonial, please go in.” Then the doors closed.Outside, the moderator, a woman named Nida in a white blazer, was giving her volunteers their marching orders. Organizers had left pieces of paper with suggested questions on some of the tables. One woman said afterward that her favorite question of the night was “What is your favorite vegetable? For the last half-hour, the ballroom doors were left open.Increased mobility also takes the young away from extended families that could facilitate introductions. Observant Muslims must also contend with one major constraint that many non-Muslims in America don’t face: a prohibition on premarital relations between men and women. “That way you can place a person in the context of several relationships.” For the families of Asma Ashraf, 28, and Jaweed Mohammed, 31, it was a whirlwind romance.That means no dating in the conventional sense “to protect the dignity and modesty of each,” Husain said. The couple met at an ISNA matrimonial banquet in Chicago in 2010.
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Before the room went dark, Rocky the neurosurgeon emerged to pray.
He said he had fun meeting people, but to his sister’s chagrin, he did not write down anyone’s number or e-mail address.
The pairs then spent three minutes chatting, at the end of which the men moved down a seat to talk to the next woman. For traditionally minded Muslims, families are intimately involved in the selection of a mate from the start.
In the course of two hours, there were to be 27 of these three-minute rounds, along with a dinner, and then a “social hour,” where they could mingle more freely. Such a scenario was playing out a few yards away, where Rocky, a neurosurgeon from Chicago, was being prepped by his sister and two of her friends. “ ‘ Rocky, a big, tall guy in a gray suit with no tie, laughed.
“It’s ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and there’s no hard feelings,” she said.