Cupid’s work is interrupted every five minutes when Zuhri jingles a hand-held bell to signal it is time for the men to switch tables.“All right, time to move on everybody. Several women said the difficulty finding romance by traditional matchmaking agencies, websites, or just by chance, had spurred them to take part.“I have used apps to try and meet Muslim men. Siti’s father Jamali Kamarudin said they had tried other methods including matchmaking via friends but “it didn’t work out very well.”“This is very new and it’s our first time, but hopefully it works out.Halal Islamic speed dating in Malaysia is a new event organized in Kuala Lumpur that caters to Muslims in the country who are seeking partners in a strictly conservative community.
Looking out nervously from her pink headscarf, Malaysian single Siti Aisha chats with a man she has never met, but who could become her husband following their Islamic speed-dating session.
The pair talk shyly for a few minutes under the watchful eyes of Siti’s parents until a bell prompts the dozens of male participants to shift to a new table and a new prospective wife.
The Malaysian concept, staged in a Kuala Lumpur restaurant, is a new twist on the practice of heavily chaperoned matchmaking, but aimed at modern singles for whom time is of the essence.
Siti, a 29-year-old graphic designer, has not been in a relationship since her university days.“I’m here to find someone for marriage because I’m too busy to meet anyone and I spend all my free time with my family,” she said during a break, as her parents eagerly compared notes on the male prospects.
Organisers said more than 2,000 people had applied to take part in the session this past weekend, the second staged so far by “Halal Speed Dating”, which uses the term denoting practises that comply with Islamic rules. But unlike Western-style speed dating, which is geared toward matching up people for later dates and courtship on their own, couples in the Islamic version are expected to seek marriage soon after both sides agree, including the parents.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has long practised a moderate form of Islam.But conservative attitudes are rising, and the speed dating sessions have been embraced as an alternative to online matchmaking sites or apps that many Malaysian Muslims view as geared more for Western-style casual flings.As an added incentive, Malaysian Muslims face possible fines and jail terms for committing “khalwat”, which means being alone with a member of the opposite sex other than a spouse or close relative.“A true gentleman would seek permission from the woman’s father first,” said Zuhri Yuhyi, co-founder of Halal Speed Dating.“That has been the way for thousands of years and it’s only in the last two or three generations that we have lost this beauty.But we hope to bring it back.”Zuhri and his wife met at an unrelated matchmaking event in 2012 and now have a baby boy.But he wanted to create something more in line with Islamic principles.Promising an Islamic courtship in a “dignified manner,” Halal Speed Dating requires that women be chaperoned and that all participants ultimately plan to wed.