CAIRO - Looking for Mr. and Mrs. Right, young Muslims are using the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to search for their soul mates.
Our networks are not as strong as they once were, Altaf Husain, an assistant professor of social work at Howard University and an ISNA trustee, told The Washington Post.
Young Muslims tell me, My parents can't help me because they don't know anyone where I live', said Huasin, an organizer of ISNA's annual speed dating and socializing known as the Matrimonial Banquet.
Hundreds of single men and women, ranging in age from 21 to 50, gathered at two matrimonial banquets organized during this year's convention.
Young women sat on one side of a long rectangular table, while men close to their age sat across from them.
The pairs spend three minutes chatting, at the end of which the men moved down a seat to talk to the next woman.
Some guys aren't going to want to move. They will skip some girls, Nida, the moderator, said.
Some girls will end up with no one to talk to. We don't want that to happen.
In the course of two hours, there were to be 27 of these three-minute rounds, along with a dinner followed by a social hour, where they could mingle more freely.
Everyone wears a name tag. They exchange phone numbers and e-mails if anyone draws interest.
Participants must provide biographical information, including ethnic background and citizenship status. And then there are the telltale personal encounters.
Four rows of parents and other relatives are seated in the back of the ballroom, watching anxiously.
ISNA is the largest Muslim umbrella organization in North America and its annual convention draws nearly thousands of Muslims from across North America.
This year's convention, which concluded on Monday, September 3, tackled challenges facing Muslims and ways to boost Muslim civic engagement.
Getting involved in the 21st century's busy life, more Muslims were accepting the American-style matrimonial banquets as a solution to find their soul mates.
Increased mobility was a main cause behind the problem, getting the young away from extended families that could facilitate introductions.
People are not staying in one place, Husain said.
Another problem is that women outnumber men, including at the banquet, he said.
Islam prohibits premarital relations between men and women.
That means no dating in the conventional sense to protect the dignity and modesty of each, Husain said.
If a single Muslim was lucky to find his soul mate at the banquet, the next step is to meet the parents.
Muslims value the process of getting married not so much on the individual level, but as a process between two families, Husain said.
That way you can place a person in the context of several relationships.
ISNA already has an online matchmaking service to help Muslims find their soul-mates.The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to seven million.