Love, Muslim American Style

The New York Times reports on an event organized by the Islamic Society of North America that is trying to bring about "hybrid" marriages among conservative Muslim Americans, a practice that falls slightly to the left of traditionally arranged marriages:

Scores of parents showed up at the marriage banquet to chaperone their children. Many had gone through arranged marriages — meeting the bride or groom chosen by their parents sometimes as late as their wedding day and hoping for the best. They recognize that the tradition is untenable in the United States, but still want to influence the process.

The banquet is considered one preferable alternative to going online, although that too is becoming more common. The event was unquestionably one of the big draws at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual convention, which attracted thousands of Muslims to Chicago over Labor Day weekend, with many participants bemoaning the relatively small pool of eligible candidates even in large cities.

There were two banquets, with a maximum 150 men and 150 women participating each day for $55 apiece. They sat 10 per table and the men rotated every seven minutes.

At the end there was an hourlong social hour that allowed participants time to collect e-mail addresses and telephone numbers over a pasta dinner with sodas. (Given the Muslim ban on alcohol, no one could soothe jumpy nerves with a drink.) Organizers said many of the women still asked men to approach their families first. Some families accept that the couple can then meet in public, some do not.

A few years ago the organizers were forced to establish a limit of one parent per participant and bar them from the tables until the social hour because so many interfered. Parents are now corralled along one edge of the reception hall, where they alternate between craning their necks to see who their adult children are meeting or horse-trading bios, photographs and telephone numbers among themselves.

Note that in the paragraph above, the writer, Neil MacFarquhar, carefully chose words to reveal the generational power shift that takes place within immigrant communities. In the old world, children are "forced" into marriages "arranged" by their elders; in the new world, parents are "barred" from "interfering" and "corralled" into the powerless gesture of "craning their necks to see."

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