By Hadi Yahmad IOL correspondent
PARIS — An increasing number of French Muslims, particularly of the second and third generations, are looking, and in many cases finding, their soul-mates online.
“I met Hamed one year before we got married in an internet chat room,” Karima told IslamOnline.net as the couple celebrated their first marriage anniversary.
“We talked about every thing related to our life together. We had a clear vision of our differences and common interests,” she added.
Karima believes her marriage is a certificate of success for online and chat marriages.
“It was the easiest way to find your soul-mate.”
Many of the French Muslims who tied the knot this summer met their soul-mates online and in chat rooms, according to IOL correspondent.
The number of Muslims in France is estimated at seven million, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.
The increasing popularity of the new online trend among French Muslims has encouraged the creation of more matchmaking websites.
“Online marriage is truly a phenomenon among Muslims in France,” Gabriel Doutreligne, the founder of Rencontres-Musulmanes website, told IOL.
“This has encouraged me to build my website which is visited by nearly 11,000 registered young people, both males and females.”
The site allows registered members to chat but under a set of terms and conditions.
Pictures and matrimonial profiles from Muslims searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right are also available.
Doutreligne, a non-Muslim, says applicants must pay a small amount of money to show their seriousness and allow the site to better develop its services.
Rencontres is just one of several websites offering young French Muslims matrimonial services.
Sheikh Daw Meskine, Secretary General of the French Council for Imams, said online matchmaking services must abide by Shari`ah, especially in showing photos.
“It is unacceptable to show immoral photos.”
The French council for imams, the biggest umbrella body for Muslim imams in France, was established in April 1992 with the ultimate goal of closing Muslim ranks. It groups some 475 of France’s 1200 imams.
Despite the popularity of online matrimonial services, some French Muslims still opt for the more traditional matchmakers.
Sharifa, an old Muslim woman of Algerian background, is a famous matchmaker in the heavily Muslim-populated Paris suburb of Saint Denis.
She is usually approached by young Muslims to help them find a good marriage partner.
The matchmaker is usually an old woman who knows almost everyone in the neighborhood.
Along with chat rooms and matchmakers, mosque imams also play a role in arranging marriages.