*Call me cleopatra the way I’ll conquer your heart <3
*Serial Netflix watcher
*Love my cat more than I’ll love you
I had planned to start this piece by saying I downloaded Minder (Muslim Tinder) for purely journalistic purposes, a last-ditch effort to contribute to Love in Color before graduating as a chronically-single senior. But in all honesty, the application was on my phone weeks before the inspiration to write this piece struck.
I never really felt like love was meant for me. Whether that’s a symptom of growing up without a huge Muslim community or just a product of insecurity, it was never really on my to-do list. However, like most people reading this, I found myself with all this time on my hands after quarantine, too much of which was spent aimlessly scrolling through my phone, before I realized — maybe halal dating could fill this gap. I downloaded Minder for a total of twenty minutes, including the time it took to create my profile. I barely began scrolling. One second, I saw a familiar face, the next second, the app was deleted off my phone and all traces of my profile’s existence were gone.
Then I came across a Vice article of three people swiping right on Minder for a month, and before I even finished reading it, I knew — if I couldn’t stay on Minder for myself, I could at least do it under the guise of research. I forwarded the article to Maya, and the rest is history.
The second time around, I was relaxed enough to appreciate all the app has to offer. From checking off your Islamic priorities, to getting straight to the point about willingness to relocate and marriage timing, your profile included all the no-nonsense communication to avoid games and keep things halal. While seeing marriage timelines of “less than 1 year” was terrifying and made me question my entire existence, it also gave me all the necessary information to get to know someone seriously without having to guess their intentions (and also very valid reasons for swiping left). If this was my Google Play review, I would give the Minder profile setup a 10/10 — and if you’re off-put by the reference to an Android, don’t worry. So were most of my Minder prospects.
The profiles themselves are a different story. I only made it a day on Minder before the guilt of my ulterior motive of writing this article ate me up, and I added it to my profile. I went for a cute and quirky, “Here for an article, but swipe right if you still want to chat!” Most people ignored the tidbit or asked about it in shock days after they reached out, leading me to believe that men don’t actually read what you write. Prove me wrong.
As for the profiles I saw, there was a severe lack of creativity. Along with the classic set of questions, Minder lets you choose three extra prompts to put on your profile. I cannot express the sheer amount of men who chose the question “What do you love about your mom?” and I’m still wrapping my head around how many of those answers were along the lines of “Everything, she’s an angel.” I’m unclear about whether the whole brown boy obsession with their mothers is sweet or alarming. There was also a huge demographic of non-Muslims just there with the motto, “‘If she’s white, don’t swipe right’ -me, 2019” (a direct quote from a fratty-looking white man). To be honest, I’m not sure what these self-proclaimed non-Muslims expected to get out of Muslim dating, especially on a platform that exists explicitly to meet other Muslims. You could call it interest in other cultures and religions, but I prefer to call it what it is: fetishization. On the other end of the spectrum was the plea of, “Please no girls who are westernized — no makeup, must wear hijab, and not be a protester in the streets. If you support BLM or Gay Rights, please astaghfirullah just unmatch.” (This wasn’t supposed to be an exposé, but here we are). That, too, was a huge red flag. All too often I feel like my religiosity is written off because I don’t wear a hijab, so any profiles explicitly mentioning the hijab ate away at me bit by bit. But more than that, I was appalled how <Unnamed Muslim Man> expected women to swipe right on a person who explicitly opposed the most integral tenet of Islam: standing up for justice and helping the marginalized.
Every once in a while, I would come across a regular Muslim guy who was chill and woke, and we’d chat. I went through many of the same conversations consisting of someone asking me about my favorite Netflix original, me answering and conversations fizzling out naturally. A couple times I took conversations off the app, looking for the elusive “click,” and while I met some really great people, things never panned out for one reason or another. A couple people were just geographically too far away — a side-effect of me setting my profile to national to avoid only seeing people from our Muslim Students’ Association. One guy accused me of friend-zoning myself right off the bat (he wasn’t wrong).
Another blocked me after a pretty standard conversation, which took many days of friend-therapy for me to realize I hadn’t done anything wrong (That is a PSA: Saying you’re not interested is infinitely better than blocking someone). There was a time or two when someone checked all of the boxes, every single one, but the thought of spending my life with someone scared me so much I exited.
Honestly, while I deleted Minder and do not foresee returning back to it in the near future, I do not regret the experience. By the end of my month-long trial, I no longer felt the urge to throw my phone at the wall when I saw someone I knew, and I gained some important communication skills in the process. Especially as a Muslim woman, it was valuable for me to destigmatize talking to people romantically. There is so much internalized judgement in the Muslim community surrounding dating, but as long as your intentions are pure, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting to know someone or exploring your feelings. In another world where I was a bit more emotionally ready, who knows? I could’ve found my naseeb on Minder.
*Looking for my Arabic ting
*If this doesn’t work out it was a dare
*A life goal of mine: to go viral on TikTok
I consider myself a hopeless romantic. I grew up fantasizing about the Hallmark, cheesy relationships I saw on TV and dreaming of the day I could someday come to experience a love of my own, catapulted by a quirky meet-cute and followed by love letters and dancing in the rain. I blame Taylor Swift for a large portion of this. Being Arab and Muslim, however, and growing up with rigid expectations of what love looked like and the sequence of events that it should follow (meet someone, immediately get parents involved and start planning your future together), I never really saw that type of love in the cards for me. Still though, a girl could dream.
It wasn’t until I grew up that I began to see things were not all black and white when it came to religion and dating, and that things could be done in a more modern way while still being kept halal (well, depending on who’s definition of “halal” we’re using). I still had, and to an extent have, crazy high expectations for love and hopeless romantic ideals, and the short-lived relationships I’ve had can definitely speak to that (If I’ve ever made you a playlist, you owe me a V-Day present). So, when the idea of a Muslim dating app came up, I was very reluctant at first because I had never considered meeting people in such a systematic way before. I liked love to be spontaneous, hitting you out of nowhere — on a study abroad or on a random night hanging out with a group of friends when you realize there might be a little something more between you and another person. But for the sake of quarantine, and writing this piece, I decided to give it a shot. Similar to Nada though, while I downloaded it under the guise of MiC content, I secretly hoped it would lead to something akin to real romance.
I have had the app for about three months now. That’s three times longer than I originally planned to have it, and I hate to say it, but I have indeed not found love. I bought the three-month premium membership because I had a crippling fear of being found by people I knew, which may stem from the irrational feeling that dating apps are a “last resort” when I know that’s not true and the sheer embarrassment of having to announce to the world that I’m single. I have found a friendship that could have maybe eventually turned into a relationship if he were more serious and if we didn’t live on opposite sides of the country. It started off great, but sort of fizzled out as things often do when someone stops putting in as much effort and it begins to feel like more trouble than it’s worth. In terms of Minder, it proved to me that I could indeed vibe with someone I met online and that I do have the capacity to sustain something with distance and delayed gratification if need be. It also dispelled the notion I had ingrained in myself that romance can’t be real if it has intentional, planned beginnings. In terms of guys my age, it proved the usual — diving in too quickly still isn’t the right move for me and pretty words often amount to zero actions or follow-through.
I have also found several short-lived conversations that ended abruptly, a couple reasons to change my phone number, many cheesy bios, many weirdly hypersexual profile pictures and a much clearer picture of what I do and don’t want in a potential partner. And that counts for something, right?
What struck me the most was the discrepancy between the types of guys on the app and what they wanted, as well as how many men simply do not know how to talk to women — be it from shyness, impatience, not being serious about the app or whatever else. Some of them genuinely sounded like they had never talked to a woman in their entire life. Don’t get me wrong, my expectations for men on a dating app were not unrealistic, but where was the charisma and charm that Taylor Swift wrote hundreds of songs about? While some of my matches asked right off the bat if I would send nudes or was into something more “casual,” others brought up marriage within the first conversation. And then to echo Nada’s point, there was the outrageous laziness and lack of creativity in bios:
About me: Just ask.
The key to my heart: food.
What keeps me up at night: Netflix.
Thanks, Ali. That, coupled with your shirtless mirror selfie, really sold me. However, guys’ lazy bios and cringey photos are a running joke on most dating apps, so I definitely don’t chalk it up to religion or demographics.
All in all, the experience was quite fun and interesting, and I appreciate Minder for what it is: A place for Muslims to get to know each other and clearly articulate what they want in a partner and relationship. It definitely plays a role in destigmatizing dating in our religion, and we deserve a place where we are the norm and not an exception or a fetish, but I think my overall disappointment is less about dating as a Muslim and more about dating apps more generally. I don’t know how it is on other apps, but I think the fact that everyone was probably talking to multiple people at once –– the paradox of choice loomed over all of our heads –– kept us from truly investing in a genuine conversation and giving someone a chance. I like to think I gave each conversation a fair chance and enthusiastic energy, but when most of them inevitably ended, I often felt nothing after a day, which speaks to the impersonal nature of apps like this. You get to know someone, exchange some basic information and a couple jokes, displaying the best of your charm. Sometimes it goes on for days, maybe even weeks, but it always comes to an end. And then comes the wondering: Did they meet someone else that they just got along with better? Did they simply give up? Did they take a closer second look at my profile and realize I wasn’t actually up to par? And I’m not innocent either, I have often abandoned conversations out of boredom, and I definitely have taken advantage of the unlimited swipes that came with my premium trial. At some point it even began feeling like a game, just wanting to see how many matches I could get, watching the green “online” bubble sitting there in silence indefinitely, waiting to see which of us would actually start a conversation with the person we just swiped right on.
Dating as a Muslim is complicated. For many of us, we were not afforded a trial run in high school like Hollywood suggests is a rite of passage for every teenager. We have not had the luxury of telling our parents about the boy we met, stars in our eyes as they gushed alongside us and warned us to be careful. Many of us had to opt for library study sessions with our crushes and careful instructions of parking one block down and waiting for a signal, which I think is just as magical as wearing their jersey to a game. There is the pressure of keeping things halal, which to many families just means speeding up the marriage process. I see girls I went to high school with having babies while I can barely remember to change my cat’s litter. It’s not that I’m in any type of rush to get married or even enter a relationship, but I can’t help but wonder how so many of my peers have cracked the code so soon. Then there is omnipresent risk that comes with all love, putting your heart on the line and being vulnerable and getting hurt, or worse, changing your mind and hurting someone. For me, I think I have a lot to work through before I even begin to consider marriage, and as my Minder trial comes to an end, I’m relinquishing any and all control I thought I had over the process and waiting for my next spontaneous meet-cute, or the next time quarantine loneliness compels me to download a dating app — whichever comes first. Here’s to another Valentine’s Day spent binge watching the Twilight saga and ordering sushi with my best friend. I’m not mad about it.
*5’10, big heart
When I heard the words “Minder” from Maya, I immediately laughed. The idea of a dating app for Muslims only seemed akin to Christian Mingle. The thought of men searching for a wife to fit the spiritual checkboxes in their minds pushed me to ironically download the app to see who was on there. I am a big fan of the ego-boost and instant gratification of swiping left and right on dating apps, but the looming awareness that I am becoming shallower as I reject a guy because his left eye looks bigger than his right one in a picture always left my phone vacant of any such apps. I also have no patience for the bullshit that comes with getting to know someone online. I don’t want to be asked what my favorite movie is or if I like to hike by a guy with a picture of himself skydiving six years ago in his profile. But with its resemblance to “Tinder” in title and the hint of religious fanaticism I already associated with strict, Muslim dating, I wanted to know where on the spectrum of failed relationships other Muslims were, specifically those in my age group who were already on apps I thought were reserved for older people.
When I downloaded the app, I tried to push my natural pessimism about relationships aside. I wanted to fully experience what it was like to attract a Muslim man in a way that is oddly Western for us. If you’re Muslim, the mere title of being on a dating app is a gendered notion. In other words, you knew the kind of reputation women on dating apps had and you didn’t want to be lumped under that title. That’s what Tinder is like for Muslim women. On most dating apps, the experience largely involves either being fetishized by white men or being shamed by Muslim men who are also using the app. But my presence on Minder felt different because most of the men on there took it very seriously — far more seriously than I did. They were largely looking for a woman they can spend the rest of their lives with, in a way that rested on a kind of sincerity which erased shame from the equation. Some people did use it as merely a place to hook up, which is fine because it’s a dating app. Others specified that their goal was marriage within the next few years, which is also fine because if your views don’t align with mine I can un-match and erase you from my life forever. I liked Minder because it created a community of Muslims ranging from those who were very religious to those not even practicing. There was room for everyone, which is rare for a group of people whose faith culturally detaches them from the majority of Tinder users as they engage in hook-up culture, a kind of culture that many Muslims deliberately don’t engage in because of their beliefs.
Though I enjoyed the kind of safety this app offered, I found navigating a world of specifics such as prayer level, sect and food choices on people’s profiles before I even met them to be almost stifling. These are all concepts that place a barrier between partners when meeting through an online platform. There is already a side of me that is tempted to judge a guy based on his height and hairline – adding specific limitations such as religious sect and whether one prays or not made Minder more of an anxious than enjoyable experience for me. And while I recognize that this is an independent choice that I am able to make and some people simply have preferences for the kind of partner they want, the presentation of this kind of information as normal criteria by which to judge a partner made me question whether it fosters more division than it does unity in the Muslim community. This is definitely an internal conflict I have with how divided Muslims are among ourselves already, but there was a personal aspect to this feeling as well. The process was like if the fleeting attraction of Tinder swipes met the crushing pressure from my mom to meet the guy I should end up with. Presenting or feeling like I should present these categories as markers of myself as a partner gave me the feeling that I was auditioning for something and that these men were doing the same for me. I kept wondering whether I was meeting someone who was actually attracted to me or someone who was simply happy they met a Muslim, Lebanese woman that they were attracted to that fit the boxes of their own spiritual ratios. This distinction is important in my love life. Even when halfway through my presence on the app I decided not to specify any of these things on my profile, I abandoned the majority of conversations on there because it felt like I was being interviewed for a role of the kind of person that would fit the life of the man I was speaking to. I recognize this kind of auditioning is inevitable when presenting oneself to an online audience, but something about a man choosing to date me depending on whether I sit on a prayer mat every night felt invasive. I’m still not sure whether this solidifies that I am simply too young and not serious enough to be this specific about my dating habits or whether Minder offered little wiggle room for me to feel like myself due to the very niche, yet Tinder-y kind of dating culture it perpetuates.
In total, I was on Minder for a month. I told some of the men on there I was doing research while I spoke to others without revealing the purpose of my presence on the app. Most of the men were very honest and open about what they wanted, while others casually alluded to a kind of detachment from any expectation of commitment. Men are largely the same on most dating apps, but the main difference here was that they were Muslim and they were looking for a girl who was like them in a country where it is hard to find other Muslims who are like-minded. Though it wasn’t the experience for me, I love that it created an environment where people can find love and stability despite the limitations of dating apps. A friend of mine even met someone on there, as did her older brother. Both of them quickly sought something long-term with the other person, love guiding them to delete the app for the best reason there is for deleting a dating app. Minder will fit perfectly into the life of any Muslim whose relationship with dating apps is mildly healthy and is willing to take this route to find the kind of love all of us are longing for this time of year. It was the great Rumi who once said, “A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home.”
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