Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hamas Matchmaking

Hamas is now operating a matchmaking service in Gaza, the Tayheer Association for Marriage and Development:
"About 40 marriages have been arranged since Tayseer opened its matchmaking department in 2007. Most women apply in secret because it's taboo for women in Gaza to seek husbands outside the traditional route. Most girls are married in matches set up by their mothers. Dating is nearly nonexistent and love marriages are a novelty.

"Tahani, who spoke on condition that only her first name be used because she is using the service without her family knowing, said she turned to Tayseer a year ago. Her mother died when Tahani was young, and none of her relatives were helping her find a groom.

"The young woman said she became more determined to find a husband after Israel's three-week war on Hamas, which ended in January. Israel's assault killed hundreds of civilians, and Gaza's residents hunkered down in homes and shelters during the shelling, not knowing where bombs would fall next...

"The applicants, who pay a fee of $10-$70, are divided into categories according to their eligibility. Women under 25 are easiest to marry off; more challenging are women over 30 and divorcees.

"But in a nod to Gaza's grinding poverty triumphing over its conservative culture, there is a special file for women with jobs. Bringing home a salary in Gaza can trump any other category, matchmakers say.

"In the women's application, they describe their ideal man. Most ask for a devout Muslim with a job and his own apartment, a top find in crowded Gaza.

"Women also must describe their appearance and answer a killer question: 'Do you consider yourself pretty according to Gaza standards?'"

I was struck by the comparison between what Hamas is encouraging women to do and the development of Khadija's relationship with the prophet Muhammad. This is an important point: Modern Islamist movements reinterpret traditional behavior all the time. The claim of the Salafis to be returning to the way of the earliest Muslims is not just a contrast with the modern world, but with the centuries of learned tradition and local custom which they see as interfering with an original pristine Islam.

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