The Feed spoke to Muslim Australians about the diverse ways they date, and the misconceptions and assumptions that follow them from members their own community– and the broader Australian community.
Dating for Muslim Australians can present a number of challenges: from navigating boundaries like pre-marital sex, assumptions about the validity of your marriage from non-Muslims, and dealing with community assumptions about you based on your sexuality.
While Muslims make up just under 3 per cent of the Australian population, it’s a growing proportion, and has the youngest median age – 27 – of any religion in Australia. And as young Muslims are coming of age they are trying to balance religion, culture and dating.
All roads eventually lead back to the conversation of what represents ‘halal dating’ (permissible dating). It’s an ever-present question, and it’s one is as diverse as the over two billion Muslims around the world.
The Feed spoke to young Australian Muslims making their way in the dating world: including those meeting partners through more orthodox routes within community groups; those trying out Muslim dating apps; and others using the more conventional online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge.
‘I’m not looking for the physical bit of it, because I’m Muslim and that prohibits you from doing that’
*Salim, 23, is based in Canberra. He’s on most of the regular dating apps. He describes being on them as a waste of time because he struggles thaicupid to meet women who share his intentions and what he wants out of a relationship.
“You can’t find that person that understands exactly what you’re looking for because there’s just a difference in your culture,” Salim told The Feed .
Salim feels like there’s a barrier between some of the women he’s dated on the apps, and himself. He says the expectation that after a period of dating physical intimacy will follow has impacted him.
“I’m not looking for the physical bit of it, because I’m Muslim and that prohibits you from doing that,” he said.
“So that’s when you feel like it’s very hard to connect in that way. You always feel there’s 10 per cent or that 5 per cent is always missing.”
The two were making out on the couch, and as things started to heat up Salim pulled away. He didn’t feel comfortable going against his religious beliefs – so he rejected her advances to get more intimate.
“We just stopped talking for a bit and, like, slowly stopped communicating with each other and then ultimately stopped,” he said.
Salim believes that was the reason the two stopped communicating. It’s something that frustrates him because, he says, given some time the two could have built something together.
“You do feel a bit hurt in a way. You feel like you’re a bit disappointed and misunderstood,” he said.
But Salim hasn’t given up on dating, he says, just the other day he went on a first date with someone new, they spent the entire day together hanging out learning about each other.
“It was very nice like you do find something that’s nice, in a way as well on [the dating apps],” he said.
And for Dr Shakira Hussien, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, who specialises in Islamic studies, she thinks people like Salim represent a shift in how young Muslims are dating.
She says working out what the rules might be for halal dating is still very much a work in progress. It’s a process happening to a large extent on social media.
“Young Muslims don’t necessarily want to follow the same pattern of their parent’s generation, but they do still want to maintain their religious identity,” Dr Hussien told The Feed .