The two are at Halal Speed Dating, a new matchmaking event in Kuala Lumpur that is helping Malaysian Muslims find partners in a largely conservative society where courtship is frowned upon and marriages are often arranged.
The dating service is halal, meaning permissible under Islamic law, as it is practised with an Islamic twist: Women speed daters must be chaperoned by a wali, or guardian, until she gets married and who grants her the permission to do so. Many young Malaysians meet as young people do in many places, including through the dating app Tinder and on Facebook, but dating is complicated for young Muslims in Malaysia, where public displays of affection and intimacy before marriage is strictly disapproved of.
Malaysian Muslims face possible fines and jail terms for committing "khalwat", the Islamic crime of being alone with a member of the opposite sex other than a spouse or close relative. As conservative attitudes are rising, the speed dating sessions have been embraced as an alternative to online match-making sites or apps that many Malaysian Muslims view as geared more for Western-style casual flings. Promising an Islamic courtship in a "dignified manner," Halal Speed Dating requires that women be chaperoned and that all participants ultimately plan to wed.
Its founders say most of their clients hope to find a spouse. A client can shortlist up to three possible partners but can only negotiate marriage with one at a time, in accordance with Islamic rules. Suitable matches don't wed immediately. But unlike Western-style speed dating, which is geared toward matching up people for later dates and courtship on their own, couples in the Islamic version are expected to seek marriage soon after both sides agree, including the parents. In fact, we do not condone the modern dating that is commonly practiced.
Ms Norhayati say it is not just Muslims who are interested in their system and making inquires. But we hope to bring it back. But he wanted to create something more in line with Islamic principles. He warned that popular Western-based websites such as Tinder "can lead to social ills like premarital sex, abandoned babies and extramarital affairs". The founders have organised the event twice in Kuala Lumpur.
The first time in May, when about 80 people joined, and the second time last week with 60 hopefuls. About 2, people have signed up to attend a session, most of them urban professionals between the ages of 25 to But capacity constraints meant only around 50 could take part, but Mr Zuhri hopes to stage a bigger event soon, with up to couples. The weekend round followed an initial instalment in May that Mr Zuhri said resulted in 14 matches that he hopes will soon end in martrimony.
During the sessions, Muslim Malay men in Western clothing banter with the women, most of them dressed in conservative Islamic long-sleeved blouses, long flowing skirts and headscarves. Use of personal names is taboo, and participants have numbers pinned to their shirts. A few participants scribbled notes as they chatted. Cupid's work is interrupted every five minutes when Mr Zuhri jingles a hand-held bell to signal it is time for the men to switch tables.
Let's move it, move it! Afterwards, organisers notify the women of any interested suitors. Several women said the difficulty finding romance by traditional match-making agencies, websites, or just by chance, had spurred them to take part. But the selection is not varied enough," she said. Mr Mohamad Fauzan, 26, who helps to run his family business in Kuala Lumpur, halal speed dating provides another option in his quest to find true love.
It's better to first get the permission of the parents, but I'm open to all options," he said. Looking out nervously from her pink headscarf, Malaysian single Siti Aisha chats with a man she has never met, but who could become her husband following their speed-dating session. The pair talk shyly for a few minutes under the watchful eyes of Ms Siti's parents until a bell prompts the dozens of male participants to shift to a new table and a new prospective wife. Ms Siti, a year-old graphic designer, has not been in a relationship since her university days.
Ms Siti's father Jamali Kamarudin said they had tried other methods including match-making via friends but "it didn't work out very well". We should keep an open mind," he said.