When I saw a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on black Muslim women seeking mates, I was drawn to it right away. It’s tough for women of any religious persuasion to find mates, as houses of worship tend to have far more women than men in them.
There’s a reason why books like Lee Podles’ Church Impotent were written in response to lots of men avoiding church. But this is a piece on the scarcity of men in mosques. That's new territory.
This intrigued me because of all the major religions, Islam was reputed to be the one that skewed heavily male according to recent Pew data.
So here is the crucial question: Is it the Muslim factor or the black factor that is causing the problematic ratios?
Naeemah Khabir, a 35-year-old devout Muslim who works for the Department of Veteran Affairs in Philadelphia, has attended matchmaking events from New Brunswick, N.J., to Queens, N.Y. She has used several matchmaking services. Khabir, of Elkins Park, who has a master’s degree from Syracuse University, even hired a private matchmaker for nine months until the counselor assigned to her conceded that race was part of her problem.
“When you look at all Muslims, of all races and ethnicities, who has it the hardest? Black women unequivocally have it the worst. Black men have it bad, too, but black women have it the worst,” Khabir said. “Everyone knows it, but it goes unspoken.”
Muslims say there’s an epidemic of educated, professional women older than 30 struggling to find suitable matches among Muslim men, who are often less bound by a biological clock and societal expectations, and more likely than Muslim women to marry younger and outside their culture or religion.
I don’t doubt Muslims are saying this, but how about quoting an expert or two? Are there any studies to back this up?
The two links in the below paragraphs have to do with black women, but not black Muslim women.
Women in the Philadelphia Muslim community, which is primarily African American, may also face a double whammy: a dearth of educated men in communities ravaged by unemployment and incarceration, said Aneesah Nadir, whose observation is echoed in research by the Brookings Institution and Yale University. Nadir is a social worker specializing in premarital education and project director of the Muslim Alliance in North America’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.
An obstacle to finding a good Muslim man through dating can be Islam itself: The religion limits intermingling with the opposite sex, prohibits physical intimacy before marriage, and requires the presence of a wali — a male family member who serves as a chaperone, go-between, and private investigator — for all interactions between two potential spouses.
So what’s a modern Muslim woman to do?
The article describes a marriage fair at one mosque, then comes up with a surprising assertion.
In the meantime, there has been a rise in the practice of polygyny, marriages in which the husband has more than one wife, particularly in cities like Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, Nadir said. (By contrast, polygamy, illegal in the United States, refers generally to the practice of marrying multiple spouses.)
The reporter sounds confused because polygamy can refer to either a man or woman; polygyny refers to a man with multiple spouses and polyandry refers to a woman with more than one husband. Problem is, all are illegal in this country. Plus, the link in the above paragraph is to a 2008 NPR story that mentions polygamy, not polygyny.
The article continues for several paragraphs about couples who pursue polygyny with no mention of its troublesome legal aspects. It being illegal, I didn't think polygamy was an issue this side of the Atlantic, but it is for some Muslims.
Talk about a marriage with baggage. Moreover, several of the people in the piece criticized single Muslim websites but there were no links to any of them.
The article also mentioned the use of the wali, or male chaperone for these women. It did make note of the oddness of a 30-something woman needing a chaperone. Is this a religious tradition found in Islamic texts or simply a culture thing? The article ends with several people declaring that Muslim courtship practices make sense even if they don’t go with the culture.
It’s truly a shame the article is so scattered because the lack of marriage-minded black men is a problem that spans the religious spectrum. How many marriages has this mosque helped arrange? We’re never told.
I think the subject matter is beyond interesting here, but such an article needed to be fleshed out a lot more with better background about Islamic rules on marriage and courtship. And the central question of the article is never answered: What do the leftover single Muslim women do when there's not enough mates?
Don't leave us dangling waiting for the answer.