Mohamed M. Begg, Simon Rogerson, Paul Luker and N Ben Fairweather
The phenomena of Personal Introduction Agencies has existed in the West long before the Computer Revolution. It has not been so popular in the Eastern countries and particularly in the Muslim countries where seeking help through such agencies is seen as for those who may be regarded as some sort of ‘rejects’ in the community. In Muslim countries finding a marriage partner for adult children is usually regarded as the duty of parents or family who are seen as ‘wise and know what is best for their children’. (Consent of the parties concerned is an Islamic requirement). Usually the elderly female members of a family act as brokers for potential couples and are seen as elders with a ‘vision’ of a lasting marriage. This traditional system does not work well for young Muslim males and females living in Britain, Europe, U.S.A. and Canada mainly because the Muslim families live too far apart and also because the young Muslims are under the influence of ‘Western styles’ of choosing a partner.
Despite the ‘freedom’ in the West, finding a reliable marriage partner conforming to some Islamic norms is a nightmare for most individuals and their families. All sorts of methods have been tried, Marriage Bureaus, Newspaper Advertisements (still very popular), word of mouth and going back to home country and ‘importing’ the partner into the country of residence. None of the methods have worked particularly well. Divorce rate is steadily on the increase.
With the Computer Revolution, young Muslims have come up with some innovative ideas, one of these being setting up Muslim Introduction Web-Sites through which young Muslim males and females place an Ad on the Web-site together with their e-mail address and await response from suitably interested parties directly without the involvement of parents. The COMFORT ZONE (www.ummah.net/comfort) is one such web-site which has raised hopes and controversy. More such web-sites are now accessible.
One of the most important question that immediately arises is whether these services will be provided by genuine providers who truly conform to Islamic principles and whether the users will also conform to such principles when placing an Ad, replying to an Ad and eventually when meeting the person in person. Professor Siddiqui, a Communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an Islamic scholar in U.S.A., argues that monitoring such a service is essential if it is to function within the Islamic moral framework. However, the question that arises immediately is: Who would monitor such a global service on the Internet? Will it be the Sunni Muslims or the Shiaite Muslims? Will it be the fundamentalists or the liberals? Does such a service cut across Islamic guidelines on choosing a marriage partner? Some hold the opinion that it will, while others believe that this is the only way forward particularly in the west.
This paper examines the impact of such Internet services on young Muslims within the local Muslim community in Leicester and its wider implications on the Islamic traditions/faith and the likely consequences of such services in future. Some effort will also be made to examine areas in which some ‘re-thinking’ is required by Muslim scholars and Muslims living in the West.