Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Courtship of young Muslims"/ dumped advice

Jun. 30, 2017 "Something old, something new: The courtship rituals of young Muslims": Today I found this article by Rosa Saba in the Globe and Mail:

As people attempt to align their values with Western culture, many are increasingly moving their search for love online

Growing up, Olivia SmithElnaggar was definitely a romantic. “We watch movies and we read books and whatnot about people who are falling in love,” she said. “And there’s the one hand where you’re like, ‘This is normal for me to want’ … but you’re also kind of expected to be removed from that.”

By “that,” Smith-Elnaggar means falling in love, finding a life partner and getting married. The 24-year-old is definitely interested, but she’s also Muslim, and Islamic traditions for courtship and marriage often conflict with North American dating culture.

Those traditions can vary greatly, of course – there are several million Muslims in North America whose ancestors come from all over the world. They range in orthodoxy from extremely devout to moderately strict to more culturally Muslim than truly religious.

But among practising Muslims, the core rules for finding a partner remain more or less the same. Young people are expected to involve their families in their search, and chaperones are commonly present when potential couples are getting to know each other. Engagement and marriage are the goals of courtship, and it is only after marriage that a couple is physically intimate – everything from holding hands to kissing and sex.

“In my idea, a proper kind of courtship would be going to normal, fun events, like dates – but with a chaperone or at least in a group,” said Smith-Elnaggar, who lives in Washington. Like so many other Muslims of her generation, she’s figuring out how to align her religious and cultural values with Western society, technology and what she wants for herself.

Following traditional courtship rules can make it difficult to meet like-minded young people, especially since interaction between genders is often discouraged in Muslim communities. So many move their search online.

Among the many dating sites and apps geared toward Muslims is Salaam Swipe, launched by British Columbian Khalil Jessa in August, 2016.

“There was a major need for this within the Muslim community,” said Jessa, 28, who agreed that gender segregation can make it difficult to find a partner. “It’s harder for somebody who is Muslim to meet somebody else who is Muslim in a serendipitous way. … This is a way to use technology to expand our network.”

He said Salaam Swipe provides a “middle ground” for young Muslims who want to seek relationships in a way that aligns with their values – one that also gives them a chance to meet people from outside their immediate communities. The app lets users identify their level of religiosity, as well as their sect, and filter matches based on the same parameters.
It also offers a feature called Incognito Mode, which allows users to hide from friends and family.

“A lot of Muslims are inherently more private,” Jessa said. “Everyone is looking, but nobody wants to be seen looking.”

Other apps include Minder, modelled after the popular dating app Tinder, as well as muzmatch, which was launched by Londoner Shahzad Younas in 2015 after he quit his job as an investment banker.

“For a lot of people, the existing methods just weren’t working,” Younas said. He believes it’s ultimately positive that Western dating culture has resulted in more relationships between different ethnicities and cultures, but he wanted to provide an option for those who were determined to marry within their faith.

Muzmatch leads new users through a 15-question survey to determine how devout they are – to ensure they are matched with someone with a similar lifestyle and beliefs. It’s the only Muslim dating app to offer a “chaperone” option, which allows a designated third party to access the possible couple’s communications.

In addition, the app places great emphasis on privacy and security. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are verified. Users must snap a picture of themselves on the spot so the selfie can be verified against profile photos. Users can also choose to keep their pictures hidden until they are comfortable sharing them.

Of course, not all young Muslims follow the traditional courtship rules that apps such as muzmatch and Salaam Swipe try to emulate. At one point, SmithElnaggar was on two dating websites – one for Muslims and one with no religious affiliation. She found that when courtship moves online, many of Islam’s traditions and standards can fall by the wayside.

» “It’s kind of unfortunate that I have yet to meet a Muslim guy who … held by those standards,” she said of her experiences. Although she made it obvious in her profile that she wasn’t “fooling around,” Smith-Elnaggar found that even Muslim men were still expecting a kiss on the first date or were pressuring her to be alone together.

Making things more frustrating, she said, is that basic conversations about sex, relationships and marriage are lacking in many Muslim communities. In her family, the rules were simple: “Be platonic.” Still, she said she feels lucky she could talk to her parents about relationships and sex at all, even if they were predictable at times.

Young Muslims growing up in North America often feel unable to talk frankly about such subjects, especially publicly or with their families. Many people contacted by The Globe and Mail wanted to be able to talk about dating but were wary of having their names published.

Ottawa student Nishat Khan, 22, said her parents never explicitly told her she couldn’t date – but the expectation that she wouldn’t was obvious.

As she got older, their rules about sex and dating made less sense to her, and the lack of conversation didn’t help. The Pakistani Canadian found herself questioning her religious traditions. She still identifies as a Muslim – but in a more spiritual sense. She participates in Eid celebrations after Ramadan and spends time at a summer camp for Muslim youth. But when it comes to dating, Khan does not usually follow Muslim rules.

“I thought it was haram to have a crush on a boy for the longest time,” said Khan, using the Arabic word for “forbidden.” But when she found herself liking someone, she said “it felt natural,” so she began to think about dating in a different way.

“The reason I don’t feel bad about it, I don’t feel guilty, is because I know that it’s not wrong,” she said. “It’s just a feeling I have … I can feel when I’m doing something wrong.”

And yes, television and movies influenced some of her views. “It really normalized the idea of North American dating culture,” she said. “It looks like a good thing, the way they present it.”

Khan now has a boyfriend whose family is from Saudi Arabia. The two met during university and dated in secret for almost a year before her parents found out. “It was a huge fight,” she said. “I always wanted to tell them about it, just because I wanted to share it with them. It’s such a big part of my life.”

Now that her family is warming up to the situation, Khan says she feels more pressure – obviously, her parents want it to lead to marriage. She says her father was more understanding than her mother. “It’s the sex thing,” she said. “She looks at me differently.”

And while she understands where her parents are coming from, their reaction still hurt.

Toronto-based helpline Naseeha aims to help Muslim youth across North America untangle subjects they may not be able to broach with their parents. The organization handles calls about mental health, spirituality, sex, abuse and relationships, and its goal is to address and normalize these often stigmatized topics while maintaining a Muslim perspective.

This includes issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, who often face difficulties exploring gender and sexuality. Since many Muslim courtship traditions are built on the assumption of heterosexuality, they may find themselves wondering whether Islam has a place for them.

Ify Okoye, a nurse, student and writer in Baltimore, Md., converted to Islam at 18. In a way, this spiritual decision pushed her deeper into the closet after spending her childhood and adolescence questioning her sexuality but feeling unable to talk about it.

“I knew I was queer since I was a kid,” Okoye said. “Nigerian culture is not pro-gay … so that was something I couldn’t talk about.”

When she converted, she stayed closeted for a while, trying to find her place in this new community but also feeling uncomfortable with the way queerness was addressed all around her. “It was highly stigmatized,” she said. “There are these ideas of what a man is and what a woman is … so I went along with it.” She went as far as being engaged to a man on two separate occasions.

Okoye came out in 2012, in part through an essay in the anthology Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which she originally published under a pseudonym before using her real name in the second edition.

To her dismay, she found that the community she had grown close to over almost 10 years began to distance itself from her. The event that really initiated the separation was the Facebook announcement of her marriage in 2014 to a wellknown Muslim woman from the same community.

“People I thought were friends just stopped talking to me,” Okoye said. “People tried to counsel us, to help us see the error of our ways … and that led to us being ostracized from the community.”

She began going to retreats for queer Muslims. Eventually, she found a community where she didn’t need to worry about keeping her sexuality a secret.

Smith-Elnaggar also says it was a book that helped her to not feel alone: Randa AbdelFattah’s novel Does My Head Look Big in This?, which recounts the struggles of a 16year-old girl who starts wearing a hijab full time while dealing with things such as school, friends and first crushes.

Smith-Elnaggar is seeing someone now, but she doesn’t like to call him her boyfriend – to her, that word is associated with dating. They go on group or chaperoned dates and occasionally meet up alone.

Through Abdel-Fattah’s book, Smith-Elnaggar learned that other Muslims had worries similar to hers. “I loved seeing this protagonist who was in doubt but still faithful,” she said. “I feel like Islam is a religion that allows you to have doubts and questions.”

Mar. 26, 2018 "Was dumping my boyfriend the right thing to do?": I found this advice column by Ellen Vanstone in the Metro.  I don't read the Metro, but this was on the front page so I read it:
Hi Ellen,

I broke up with my boyfriend of 10 months because I felt my feelings for him were not strong enough. I was really judgmental of him. I thought he bowled weird, he ate with his mouth open, he talked too much at times and his jokes were not funny.
I began to focus on these small things even though for the most part he has the qualities I want in a man — he knows how to have fun, likes to try new things, is open-minded, incredibly intelligent. I could be completely myself with him and he was totally accepting of me. His sense of humour was also improving.
We talked about my doubts and he really wanted to work through them, but I could not see a future if I felt the doubts every single day. I don't know if I have a fear of relationships or if it was something else. I think about him a lot and wonder if I did the right thing.


Dear Ruby,

I must point out that this is an etiquette column, not a relationship column, but since I love giving all kinds of advice, I’ll politely try to help you here.

It's entirely possible that you are a judgmental, mixed-up person who’s terrified of commitment and in desperate need of therapy. That doesn’t mean you should have stayed with your rather nice-sounding, incredibly devoted and patient boyfriend.

If you’re not feeling it with someone, you do them no favours by staying in the relationship out of guilt or fear of being alone. Cut them loose, I say, and get to work on your own psychological problems.

The first thing you can do is stop indulging in vague regrets at possibly having made the wrong decision by letting him go. It’s done. You had your reasons, whether you understand them or not, whether they were reasonable or not. Let the poor man get on with his life, and get on with yours. A good place to start is to stop wallowing in self-doubt, which is distracting you from the real issue, and work on where all your doubts are coming from.

I suspect it’s not really about his eating habits or bad jokes, or bowling fails. It’s about something in you that can’t get past the reality of a less-than-perfect partner.

A lot of people think therapy is selfish or self-indulgent. I think each of us has a moral obligation to try and understand our own motivations, and how our emotional confusion can sometimes hurt other people. Having an honest dialogue with yourself, with help from a competent therapist, will make you more self-aware, happier in the long run, and a better person all round.

Need advice? Email Ellen:

My opinion: It's good that she did dump the guy.  She did say her feelings for him weren't strong enough.  It seemed like she was looking for and creating stupid reasons and excuses and a way out to not be with him.
She wasn't that into him and it seems so-so.  He's putting effort in it and she isn't.  They shouldn't be together.
It's not like a job.  The job is not that interesting, but you're good at and it you get paid so you work there.
It's not like friends.  My friends at the Screenwriters and Filmmakers meetups, I am not really close to, but we get together for meetings to talk about TV and movies.
Christy Whitman's "Celebrate the closeness of the match": It also reminded me of this video of this life coach and author did.
She says she wants to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show as a guest.  However, she did get to be an audience on the show.  She is still working on it.

Apr. 3, 2018 "It's too late to make amends, so what now?": Today I found this advice column by David Eddie in the Globe and Mail:

The advice column in the Metro news didn't mention any specific jokes so I can't judge if it's funny or not.

David Eddie mentions his wife's April Fool's jokes like how they recently bought a house and she called to say she got fired from her job.  He thought it wasn't funny.

Then his wife played a joke on her boyfriend way back when she was 19 or 20 where she got her roommates to tell her boyfriend that she was dead.

My opinion: Neither of those jokes were funny.  They were mean.

Here is the 2013 post of "joke flops/ funny and annoying/ funny wedding video" where I list all the funny and annoying things I say and do to my sister.  It's totally fine if you don't find it funny:

My week:

Apr. 6, 2018 "Family killed in car accident": I found this article in the National Post in the Edmonton Journal because there was this young black boy hugging a white police officer:

WOODLAND, Wash. — The two women and their six adopted children traveled to festivals and events, offering free hugs and promoting unity, friends said. They raised animals and grew vegetables and last year moved onto a piece of land in rural southwest Washington, a dream of theirs.
The Hart Tribe, as they were known, also took spontaneous road trips to hike or camp, and friends believe they may have been on one of those adventures when their SUV plunged off a scenic California highway.
"We know that an entire family vanished and perished during this tragedy," said Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman on Wednesday as he appealed for help retracing where the family had been before the vehicle was found Monday.
The Harts, who went to events such as rallies for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, often showed up in matching T-shirts.
The family gained attention after Devonte Hart was photographed during a 2014 protest in Portland, Oregon, over a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri. The boy, holding a "Free Hugs" sign, stood crying. A Portland officer saw his sign and asked if he could have a hug, and an emotional Hart embraced him in a picture that was widely shared.
The Harts moved to Woodland, Washington, a small city outside Portland, Oregon, in the spring of last year, partly overwhelmed by the media coverage. The multi-racial family also received death threats, Ribner said.
In 2011, Sarah Hart pleaded guilty to a domestic assault charge in Minnesota. Her plea led to the dismissal of a charge of malicious punishment of a child, online court records say.
Max Ribner, who has known the family since 2012, said allegations from neighbors don't square with what he knows about the Harts.
"They are beautiful examples of opening arms to strangers, helping youth, supporting racial equality," Ribner, who lives in Portland, told the AP. "They brought so much joy to the world. They represented a legacy of love."

My opinion: At first it seemed so nice with a lesbian couple adopting 6 kids.  Then in the article it mentioned about Devonte going to the neighbor's house asking for food because the parents punished them by withholding food.  The neighbor calls Child Services.

The second article says that all the kids were adopted from foster care.  I am very supportive of fostering and adopting kids.  I guess this story stood out to me because it was about race and a touching picture of a black boy hugging a white cop.

Then it was about how a happy family did not really seem that happy once you get deeper.

Easter long weekend: I worked all weekend and it was so busy.  I know Easter Sunday has lots of reservations.  I had to stay an hour later than usual.

Job interviews: I am writing about all these interviews I did in the last few months.

The highlight of the week: I see that I got T&E channel that stands for Totally Entertaining.  They air Buffy and Angel

Angel: Right now they're airing Angel season 5.  I was very happy and excited that I got to see an Angel episode I missed called "Why We Fight":

"Angel's past comes to haunt him. An ally from World War II takes Fred, Gunn, and Wes hostage while seeking Angel. This is the only vampire Angel sired after he got his soul back. Angel relives the past and must determine his future. "

Eyal Podell was in it as Sam Lawson who was the star of the episode.  He's very good here:

I also watched some of the "Smile Time" ep where Angel is magically turned into a puppet.  It's a really fun and funny episode.

The show reminds me of when I was a teenager and had a passion of wanting to be a TV writer and producer.  The season aired when I was 18 yrs old.  I haven't seen these episodes in 14 yrs.

Kim Van der Heijden Design the Life You Desire: I listened to the 10 day telesummit.  It was good and inspirational.  I wrote down notes.  I did this little survey afterwards to give feedback on it.  I was surprised that she called me.  I didn't think she was going to.

We talked a little bit about my job search.

Apr. 6, 2017 "Wildlife Hockey Story": Today I found this article by Fish Griwkosky in the Edmonton Journal.  It was about the movie Indian Horse and they interviewed the actor Tristen Marty in it.  The article mentions a the Brick Twilight Lookalike contest.  The older brother Ricky Marty Jr. looks like Taylor Lautner and got 1st place: 

Here's the photo of Ricky Marty Jr., but it's not a close up so I can't tell:

Burden of Truth: I saw the season finale.  The whole 10 episodes was average.  I did read that the American network show the CW has picked up this show to air during the summer.  That's good that this Canadian show is getting more viewers.  I did read in John Doyle's TV column in the Globe and Mail that it got a 2nd season.  I didn't see anything about it on the internet.  If there is a 2nd season, I would probably watch it. 

Little Dog: I saw the season finale of this show.  The whole 7 episodes was average.  If it got a 2nd season, I may watch it.

Prettiest Present: This store is closing down.  It sells home d├ęcor.

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