- Deseret News - Monday, November 23, 2015

Online dating is often awkward, but young Muslim singles in America may have it worse than most.

Because of the traditional rituals surrounding marriage in the Islamic community, many Muslim-centered dating sites allow moms and dads to play matchmaker, sorting through potential romantic partners for their children, as NPR recently reported.

“Finding someone to spend your life with can be hard under any circumstances, but young observant Muslims will tell you that here in the U.S., it’s doubly so. They have to navigate strict Islamic dating rules while interacting with the opposite gender in a Westernized world,” the article noted.

However, a new app promises to take parents out of the love equation. Ishqr, named after the Arabic word for love, allows young Muslim singles to connect with each other on their terms.

“This is the first website for the Muslim community in which the person looking to meet someone is creating their own profile, and they are more involved in what goes into the profile and in talking about what they are looking for,” said Ummehaany Azam, one of the app’s users, to NPR.

Faith-based dating apps, such as Ishqr, Christian Mingle or JDate, are a prominent part of the online dating universe, Today reported in April. In a digital age, these programs connect people who hope to share personal faith with their future partner.

“People come to us because they are really interested in forming a long-term partnership with somebody,” said Michael Egan, CEO of the company that owns Christian Mingle and JDate, to Today. “They’re not dating to date, or serial daters.”

As a recent article from The Washington Post noted, the success of any romantic pairing depends on three main factors: in-person compatibility; individual characteristics like intelligence and surrounding circumstances, such as where the pair grew up; and their financial status. Religious affiliation influences at least two of these areas because it shapes a believer’s current personality and habits as well as their future expectations.

Historically, faith communities have served as marriage facilitators for young members, but advanced technologies like the Internet and smartphones have ushered in a new era of matchmaking, relegating religious leaders to a more informal role, Deseret News National reported in February.

Religious leaders can “push individuals to think through the kind of believer they want to be, and, in turn, the level of faith they expect from their partner,” the article noted.

They may also want to familiarize themselves with the online dating world because apps like Ishqr are changing the way people fall in love.

“More than 6,000 people have signed up on the Ishqr website since it went up just over a year ago,” NPR reported. “The app went live on iTunes in October.”

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