what’s dating like as a young muslim woman?
"I feel like people have a certain preconception of what a Muslim girl believes about herself and I think it's a shame."
It's Love Week on i-D, so we're talking all things <3, celebrating its incredible highs and consoling ourselves over its bittersweet lows and the universally acknowledged horror of dating apps. We made a film with London-based beauty writer Ruqaiya, who shares her experiences of love and dating as a young muslim based in London -- watch it below, and then read her brilliant words as she takes on the preconceptions she's faced when it comes to her religion and romance.
“A lot of people will assume that I feel uncomfortable talking about romance and sexuality as a Muslim woman, or that I feel plagued by some kind of sense of shame and repression in regards to love. Or there is that whole weird "behind the veil" fetish that obsesses over the idea that Muslim women are desperate to experience relationships but are confined by the shackles of their religion and their parent's wishes. Really none of those things are true about me. I follow my faith out of choice, not to mention it's my mum who is the one pushing me to meet guys.
I feel like people have a certain preconception of what a Muslim girl believes about herself and I think it's a shame. Out of all the major faiths, Islam is actually pretty sex-positive, just within the confines of marriage. That may not be for everyone, but each to their own.
I think that just talking to Muslims and getting to know them as people would challenge a lot of people's assumptions. As a society we need to stop pandering to the 'clash of civilisations' narrative. People can hold different values around love and sex while living side by side. Western civilisation is not the centre of the world or superior to all other ways of life -- nor were secular, liberal values born out of a vacuum free from any kind of patriarchal influence. Everybody's cultural norms have been informed by their environment in some way, and we can all benefit from learning about each other and embracing people's differences.
I think sometimes the Muslim community can be judgmental when it comes to dating and relationships, but then so can the wider non-Muslim community. The balance I have found is to just not give a shit what people think about what I'm doing, and to just make sure I have conviction and good intentions behind all that I do.
As a society we definitely are a bit too obsessed with dating and hook-ups and the idea of finding the perfect partner. Social media probably hasn't helped, because we all spend too much time watching other people's lives and building an idea of what we think the perfect relationship looks like. But I mean, people being obsessed with sex and intoxicated by love is a tale as old as time. That definitely isn't unique to the times we live in.
If I could give my 16-year-old self advice about dating I would say just relax, and don't be in such a hurry to grow up. I would also tell myself not to view myself through the eyes of men, and to protect my heart and wait for a love that empowers me rather than stifles me. Actually, I would tell myself that now too! The best thing about being young and single in 2018 is having the independence and freedom to explore new things and visit new places without having to factor anybody else in. I know that there will be a time when I'm gonna be sharing my life with somebody else and having to think about them in all of my decisions, so for right now I'm just happy doing me.
I want love to feel empowering and soothing. I want to feel like someone has my back no matter what. I want to find a love that makes my heart feel at ease, and makes me feel like I can take on anything life throws at me. I want a love that deepens my faith in God and makes me aspire to be a better person."