R'11 Day Fifteen: The "Camel" in the Room

My mom and I were driving back from Taraweeh last night and talking about marriage, and she empathized with the frustration my single friends and I are feeling.

"If you were back home, you'd be gone like hot cakes!!" she exclaimed. So does that make me a cold cake?! Flattered!

Ask any unmarried Muslim what one of their top concerns are, and I'll guarantee you that marriage will be brought up. Gone are the days when goats and chickens were exchanged and engagements were pending from an early age. Yet as the need for marriage assistance has grown since the Muslim population in Calgary has boomed and scattered, frustrations mount, and there are those of us who are nearing the threshold of full-blown public tantrums! We all know deep down that the official Muslim community will not do anything to resolve this issue, as implementing more 'Western' methods are very slow to come to fruition. Yes, MCC's website has a matrimonial section, but really, it doesn't do much to facilitate matchmaking, and I do believe that marriage is about more than religion-associated components of your personality and wants in a partner.

Well, there is now an option for those looking to get married and have tried other means including auntie introductions, word of mouth, online matrimonial sites, and sticking ONLY with desperate prayers and duas! A new program has been launched by a group of sisters (whom I have the privilege of knowing!) called Calgary Islamic Marriage Assistance Program (CIMAP). Modelled after its namesake "IMAP" in Toronto, CIMAP aims to provide a halal Muslim environment for single brothers and sisters to interact with another with the sole intention of marriage. The event is supervised with facilitators and a religious figure, and structured whole-group and small-group interactions ensure that communication between genders occurs in a relaxed and "no pressure" way. If an individual wanted to talk further with someone individually, that is arranged at the same time with a facilitator there to "supervise". Can we say "HALAL"?! Finally!

Back to the blog title, you're probably wondering what this whole "camel in the room" business is about. Ok, here are my two cents.  I think that single sisters and brothers are NOT being as assertive as they need to be. I've heard a few Muslims talk about this point, and why they don't see more steps being taken to state intentions towards someone they are potentially interested in.

Recently, I spoke at length with a VERY successful Muslim business owner who recently has become engaged after a long process. He had a very unique and brutally honest view of the marriage situation in the community, and some ideas that were innovative while still remaining within Islamic boundaries. For example, he mentioned a scenario in which a brother or a sister saw someone in the community they were interested in pursuing for the intention of marriage. He gave a few options of what could happen: (a) one party approaches the other and states their intentions then and there; (b) one party uses a mediator to state intentions and gauge interest; (c) nothing is done and things are left up to "Inshallah". The fact is that each time you see that person out and about, there is a "camel" in the room...you know what you want, but you don't do anything about it. So this Muslim brother I was speaking to suggested that one party approach the other with their intentions. And I mean really, what's the worse that could happen: (a) the reciprocate the intention and things move along in a halal way; (b) they don't reciprocate the intention and while you may feel like you've been slapped in the face, you know right away and can move on with your life; (c) they are already married, in which case they tell you they are flattered but not into polygamy! Voila, there we have it!

It's not that hard of a concept to envision, yet I think it's rarely done. Instead, you have awkward moments of lowering gazes, snickers among your same gendered friends, and an unrest within you wondering if something is there or not. Get the camel out of the room and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I think that sisters need to be more assertive in this manner, since we're constantly fighting for more rights and recognition, so we need to SHOW the community at large that we SEIZE (not literally!) opportunities when they come our way. As for the brothers, GET RESOURCEFUL and find a way to approach a sister without using a one-liner such as "Sooo, read any good suras lately?!" or "I need to break my fast, can I have a date?!" Be serious, be committed and stand behind your word.

And one last word of advice from the brother I mentioned above and something I try to advocate for. We really need to STOP JUDGING by what we see and hear about a person, and take the time to get to know someone for who they are as a person. It's so easy to discredit someone because they may not have the same cultural background as you, are newly immigrated to the country, are not a doctor/lawyer/engineer as so many gold digging sisters want (i.e. the hair/hijab flipping sort), etc. Why can't it be that if two people get along, have mutual interests and goals in life, and an interest/spark is there, that THIS is the basis of intentions for marriage?! It ain't rocket science!

Ok, I've ranted enough and yes, this is a sore spot for me personally as I do experience stereotypes that have no basis! I've had it with being told I have a shelf-life because I'm in my late 20s, have less of a status because I'm NOT Arab, and so on. And it's not solely me that experiences these ridiculous stereotypes, and while I'm not for a second affected or think there's ANY validity to any of this, I am very strong about advocating for Muslim women who don't fit the "mould" (there shouldn't even be one) of what most Muslim men want in a spouse.

It's the 21st Century and we need to get with the times. So in a word, go get 'em tiger!! ;)

Note: for more information about CIMAP (upcoming event on September 23rd), search CIMAP on Facebook or please email cimaponline@gmail.com! 

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