Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

East Meets West: The “Marriage” of Religion and Integrated Culture in the UK

September 7, 2009 · No Comments



     After our class discussion the other day about arranged marriage in eastern religions such as Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, especially, I wanted to look further into the subject. I focused on the “Living” sections of BBC’s Religion & Ethics website, and what I found was rather surprising.

     Arranged marriages have been a popular, if not essential, part of eastern religions for many years. Oftentimes parents will chose a partner for their children based on character and personality and for religious reasoning. However, rather less selflessly, some parents have been known to choose their children’s brides and grooms to expand businesses, earn dowries or move up the social ladder.

     However, in Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam alike, there can be seen a noticeable shift towards a new phenomenon in arranged marriages: internet matchmaking. The younger generations have taken matters into their own hands and have begun to usurp their parents’ role as matchmakers and look for their own partners on their own, via the internet. Sites like Islamic Faces and Hindu Faces have begun to spring up on the World Wide Web, uniting singles based on their religion and the simple profiles they create.

     According to the BBC site, there are varying degrees of acceptance among the parents of those who have taken to the internet to find their soul mates. Some parents, like those of Manush, a Hindu man, were apprehensive about the process, and met it with some resistance. Most, however, were happy with their children’s unions once they met the spouse-to-be. Other parents were relieved that they no longer had the responsibility of choosing a mate for their son or daughter.

     Among all these religions, one thing is glaringly apparent: marriage is sacred. Marriage is believed to be a true life-long commitment, and low divorce rates among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims reflect that. Marriage is likewise something which enables those who enter into it to pass down their religion and culture to their children, which accounts for members of these religions seeking partners with similar religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

     What is apparent is that inherent in this shift towards internet dating is also a shift away from traditional cultural and religious practices and towards more modern and western ideas about marriage. Could this trend be evidence of adoption of and integration into UK culture? Or does the fact that internet dating could still be considered, in a sense, a form of arranged marriage render the change simply a shift in the conduit through which partners find one another, and not a shift in cultural practice at all?

Categories: Anya

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