DRESSED in a headscarf and full-length robe, 24 year-old Nurnadille Edlena takes notes intently as the man before her introduces himself.
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.
“I brought my parents as they are the best people who can guide me to find someone,” said Nurnadille.
“I’m focusing on finding someone who can willingly accept me for who I am.”
Malaysia is a largely moderate Muslim country, where Islam is the official religion and ethnic Malay Muslims make up two thirds of the 30 million people.
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.
Halal Speed Dating’s 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.
“Halal Speed Dating is the anti-Tinder,” co-founders Zuhri Yuhyi, 34, and Norhayati Ismail, 41, said in a release, referring to the U.S.-based dating app that has gained a reputation for free and easy match-making.
“Instead of casual hookups, Halal Speed Dating is about dignified and chaperoned meet-ups with the intention of marriage. In fact, we do not condone the modern dating that is commonly practiced.”
They say their system can prevent what they see as the social ills of premarital sex and adultery, which they believe are fostered by apps like Tinder.
Norhayati say it is not just Muslims who are interested in their system and making inquires.
“I can tell people are looking for something new,” she said.
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 2,300 people have signed up to attend a session, most of them urban professionals between the ages of 25 to 35.
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.
“I’ve done online dating and gone on blind dates, but in our religion, going halal is the better thing to do. It’s better to first get the permission of the parents, but I’m open to all options,” he said.