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The Struggles of Halal Dating

If you’re twenty something, single and not living under a rock then you’ve probably tried meeting someone online. Now this can be a struggle for everyone. But when you’re twenty something, single and Muslim, it gets hard. As if being a Muslim in this day and age wasn’t hard enough you know?!

Young Muslims normally grow up in fairly traditional households, with their parents, aunties, uncles, neighbours and random people on the street asking them when they’re going to be getting married. I mean, you grow up with your parents telling you off for even talking about the opposite sex, let alone speaking to them. You grow up with dating being such a taboo subject and the words boyfriend or girlfriend were just never in your vocab. But then one day, you turn 21, have just finished uni, and suddenly your mum turns around and is like, “so when are you going to bring home someone suitable to marry?”. Don’t worry, we’ve all experienced the whiplash you get when someone goes from 0 to 100 and its annoying AF.

Alas, with technology and apps, young Muslims have found a way around this and the threat of having to settle for marrying their cousin that’s 3,000 miles away. Known as ‘halal dating’ Muslims can now with a simple click of an app find someone they think might be the one (and someone who hopefully thinks the same). They can get to know them whilst sticking to their Islamic values. When Muslim men and women date one another, it is with the intention of marrying one another or deciding against marrying. But in a world where most dating apps are still predominantly western, the struggle to maintain the halal in halal dating is hard work.

Avoiding the players

Online dating is FULL of people just looking for a casual, one night only sort of relationship (if you can even call it that). Being Muslim and trying to date halal is hard when you go through the effort of chatting to someone for a while only to find out that they aren’t looking for anything long term (let alone marriage lol). Also don’t get girls started on the 2am’ers who come around asking ‘what’s up’ and if ‘we’re free’. Let’s just all be thankful to Allah that Muslim dating apps like muzmatch are a thing now or we’d all be single forever.

Trying to find the one

You know what’s hard? Trying to find that one Pakistani guy from the same region as your family who ticks your parents’ boxes but also ticks your boxes as well. Like finding someone who shares your sense of humour, you find attractive and not just looking to find a girl who wants to stay in the kitchen all day while singlehandedly taking care of the kids. Actually, you know what’s worse? Finding the one for you and it turns out he’s not Muslim…

Keeping those urges in check

Look, let’s not beat around the bush shall we, we all have urges and they’re not going away any time soon. It’s a struggle going on dates, trying to get to know the person you might potentially marry and having to jump ten feet apart if your hands happen to brush against theirs. Just remind yourself that it’ll be worth the wait.

Telling your parents that you met someone on the internet

To be honest, most Muslim parents have come a long way considering they grew up with entirely different backgrounds and social norms, but it will never be easy explaining to your dad how you met your future husband or wife on an online app. Or explaining how the whole ‘don’t talk to strangers on the internet’ mantra just isn’t really a thing anymore.

When they ask for pictures

This one is more applicable to the girls really but it can also happen to guys, I’m not here to discriminate. Sometimes you’ll be chatting away to someone and they suddenly ask if they can see some more of you. Now this can be as innocent as just asking for another picture of you out and about to see what you look like. Or it can be less innocent, if you get what I mean… at least it weeds out the ones who aren’t serious about you.

Finding someone right before Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is all about being mindful and carrying out one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s definitely not about getting to know the guy you just started talking to. Meaning that you’re basically out of commission for a month out of the year and the only date that’s going to be acceptable is the one you eat when you break your fast.

These struggles are only scrapping the barrel but you get the idea. Have fun #keepingithalal girls and boys and remember that your date might be hot, but Jahannam is hotter.

1 day ago

5 Things You Can Do To Help Change Mental Health Stigmas

Each year, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day where people around the globe raise awareness for mental health to try and help those who are suffering. But one of the major barriers to helping are the social stigma's that still encompass mental illnesses. Loads of people still question the very existence of mental illnesses, saying people are just 'looking for attention' which we need to help fight. Although people from all cultures and walks of life experience these unwanted stereotypes, there are a particular few that are less likely to ask for help.

In the UK alone, ethnic minorities such as South Asians are often the last to seek help for mental health issues despite the prevalence of depression and anxiety being higher in this community than others. Because in these communities it's often the case that if you aren't suffering from physical pain, why would you ever go to the doctor? In consequence this community are often the ones to suffer from lower life expectancy rates and general poor health outcomes. Whilst there are many contributing reasons to this phenomenon, such as language barriers or a general lack of awareness of available services, it is the cultural stigma surrounding mental health that is arguably one of the most prominent driving forces. And anyone who has suffered from mental illness can tell you that you can't get through it on your own.

Asian and Middle Eastern communities still suffer from a culture of shame and silence surrounding mental health, especially when it comes to their own families. Many fear that a family members diagnosis of a mental illness will bring shame upon the rest of the family and ruin their 'reputation', whilst others fear that no one will want to marry them if they're labelled as 'crazy'. But mental illness is unfortunately not something that one can just 'get over'.

Perceptions are slowly changing over time with more people feeling comfortable to report their sufferings. However cultural stigmas still somewhat linger in the fabric of our society. So in honour of World Mental Health Day, muzmatch have put together five ways you can help change mental health stigmas and make this world a bit of a better place. Share, discuss and educate, because the deafening silence around mental health is a slippery slope.

Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu 

Think Before You Speak

“I fight stigma by reminding people that their language matters. It is so easy to refrain from using mental health conditions as adjectives and in my experience, most people are willing to replace their usage of it with something else if I explain why their language is problematic.” – Helmi Henkin

Often we'll hear that someone is feeling down, or experiencing anxiety and come back with 'just think about others who have it worse than you' and 'you'll get over it'. Although said with the best intentions (most of the time), these words can often make someone who is mentally ill just feel worse about themselves. Even though mental illnesses can be triggered by environmental causes, but these individuals are biologically predisposed to a certain disorder. No one chooses to be mentally ill, just like no one can change their disease with a click of a finger.  

Instead of saying things that may hinder someone's recovery process, it may be more helpful to let them know you're there to listen. Mental illness can be incredibly socially isolating and symptoms can be exacerbated by loneliness. Just ensuring your loved ones that you're there for them if they need to chat through whatever they're feeling is better than nothing.

Keep Educating Yourself

“I take every opportunity to educate people and share my personal story and struggles with mental illness. It doesn't matter where I am, if I over-hear a conversation or a rude remark being made about mental illness, or anything regarding a similar subject, I always try to use that as a learning opportunity and gently intervene and kindly express how this makes me feel, and how we need to stop this because it only adds to the stigma.” – Sara Bean

Learning about mental health is essential to fighting against the stigma surrounding mental illness. Although having a day dedicated to raising awareness for mental health is amazing, the education should and needs to continue beyond this. Whether it's you suffering from a mental illness or a loved one, mental health effects us all to some extent.

Luckily, there are millions of resources out there now that are easily digestible and really informative. Documentaries such as Thin (eating disorders) or Don't Call Me Crazy (various illnesses) can be watched on Youtube or Netflix. TED talks can also be a powerful way to learn more about mental health. Guy Winch's talk on loneliness should be on your watch list, as well as Andrew Solomon's discussion on depression. Mind, the UK based charity is also an extremely useful source of information.

Check Your Biases

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all – Bill Clinton

Human beings are riddled with cognitive biases, prejudice and stereotypical thoughts; it's just in our nature. But being aware of these biases is the first step in helping change mental health stigmas. Research studies have demonstrated that often people will say what they think but unconsciously, actually believe something else entirely. For example, in one study, people said they thought that those who suffer with mental illnesses are helpless but not blameworthy, but their implicit beliefs suggested they thought these people were helpless and blameworthy. So basically, if you found out that your colleague at work had bipolar disorder, you'd probably say that you know it's not their fault and your opinion of them doesn't change. But, you may also find yourself unconsciously turning down lunch invitations with them.

These implicit biases are caused by many factors that just aren't in our control to change. But what we can change is our behaviour. Make a conscious effort to go to lunch with that colleague and fight against the implicit bias. In turn, you'll help fight the mental health stigma.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

“I fight stigma by not having stigma for myself—not hiding from this world in shame, but being a productive member of society. I volunteer at church, have friends, and I’m a peer mentor and a mom. I take my treatment seriously. I'm purpose driven and want to show others they can live a meaningful life even while battling [mental illness].” – Jamie Brown

If you yourself are suffering with a mental illness, then don't suffer in silence (as long as you feel safe doing so). Speaking out about your mental health can create a domino effect in allowing others to feel comfortable talking about themselves as well. Your mental illness does not make you weak, it is not your fault, and it is definitely okay to talk about it. Choose empowerment over shame because no one should dictate how you feel about your mental health.

Don't Confuse Mental Illness with Religion

I’ve lost count throughout my life how many times I’ve been told that any doubts and difficulties I encounter are due to a weakness in my faith.              – Rabbil Sidkar

Relating mental health to the supernatural has been an issue since the early 1900s when people with psychological problems would be labelled as 'possessed' by the spirits. Unfortunately, these assumptions have somewhat been carried on by some communities. Many South Asian families will often cry 'jinn' any time someone experiences symptoms associated with mental illness such as hallucinations. In Islam, jinn are supernatural creatures that are made of smokeless fire and can harm humans. These beliefs can interfere in the treatment of mental illnesses as many may choose to visit their religious leader instead of a medical professional. However, mental illness is something that is caused by factors separate from a supernatural world and also have cures that are separate from the supernatural.

As Muslims we often get told that any issues or ailments we face can simply be cured by the power of prayer. Moreover, actively discouraging people from seeking treatment and to 'leave it in Gods hands instead' is incredibly reckless (the Quran does not discourage seeking mental health treatments). Albeit this is slowly changing as people get more comfortable talking about mental health, but we've still got a ways to go.

For more information on mental illness visit The Mental Health Foundation, Muslim Youth Helpline, Sakoon Counselling and Inspirited Minds.

4 days ago

6 First Date Ideas to Build Real Connections

Let's grab dinner!

Words that I personally hate to hear when I'm planning a first date with someone. Especially when I've never met them before. While getting dinner or coffee for a first date can be good starting point, they can also be quite nerve inducing. Like if the conversation slows down, there's nothing to distract you both from the awkward silence that inevitably follows. And then you might jump to the conclusion that you're not right for each other or they're boring when actually it's just the nature of how first dates are. To avoid this, here are six first date ideas that can help build real connections by keeping the vibe light and fun!

1. Board Game Cafe

Forget normal coffee shops! Let out your playful side and play a few games at a board game cafe with your date. Whether it's Monopoly or Catan, there's something for everyone and you and your date share similar interests (although stay open minded, maybe they'll introduce you to something new!). Besides, nothing teaches you more about someone than when you both get competitive.

2. Crazy Golf

Another first date idea that brings out that competitive spirit is crazy (mini) golf. A classic date idea that can be the perfect ice breaker and lets you release that inner child inside you! Conversation will be more likely to flow better as you're loosened up. And whether you've got major skills or you're like me and manage to hit the ball to the other side of the room, you're bound to have an epic time.

3. Outdoor Markets

Image by Latitudestock Getty Images

Food markets. Flea markets. Farmers markets. Flower markets. There are so many options to pick from depending on what you and your date might enjoy. Markets can be a lot of fun to wander down, maybe stopping along the way to try some nibbles or marvel at what's being sold. If you're in London, some of our favourites are Borough Market and Camden Market.

4. Museums

Find out which museums or art galleries are local to you for a cultural first date. What ever you choose to do, there will always be something to talk about as you explore together. Also, walking around a museum can be a great way to get to know someone; find out whether they enjoy learning new things or would prefer to be watching a movie than reading about history.

5. A Standup Comedy Show

Sharing the same sense of humour can be very important in a new budding relationship or marriage. What better way to test this out than go out to a stand up comedy show? The chilled out vibes set the perfect tone for the first date and if you decide to go for dinner after, there will definitely not be an awkward silence in sight. Plus, laughter has been known to lift our moods immediately and is one of the best bonding experiences. Just make sure to avoid the front row, unless you want to be picked on...

6. Make It Seasonal

Each season brings it's own unique list of first date ideas. In summer you can go for a picnic in the park with the sun beating down. Or in winter, there's ice skating which will forever be one of the most romantic date ideas. Alternatively, you could find local botanical gardens to wander around during spring and enjoy the cherry blossoms. Or get into the spooky Halloween spirit and carve pumpkins in autumn. These first dates might be skimming the fine line of too cheesy, but who cares, it'll be a bonding experience you'll never forget!

First dates that are activity based have been argued to be better than the standard dinner and a movie; Rhonda Milrad, Founder and Chief Relationship Advisor, Relationup has claimed that “you create intimacy by doing”. When you experience something new together, you're probably more likely to form a deeper emotional connection with that person and are likely to build a stronger relationship in result. Besides, think of it this way, even if you still don't click with your date, at least you had a great time doing something fun!

10 days ago