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Palestinian Authority Legalizes Online Dating

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It seems that the desire for online dating has reached even the most religiously conservative societies. According to The Jerusalem Post, the Palestinian Authority's Supreme Council has legalized online dating, but with a catch. Daters must abide by Shari'a rules, which means communication between members must be with the intent to marry.

Though Islamic scholars have dismissed online dating in the past, the council stated that the mingling of men and women online was now "a central characteristic of our time" and "unavoidable." This opens the door for many Muslims to date outside their social circles and provides more opportunity for meeting people than ever before.

Islamic dating websites have emerged in recent years, modeling themselves after other popular religious dating sites like JDate. But many Islamists, including Palestinians, already converse freely over social networks like Facebook and Twitter, according to The Times of Israel. It seems that allowing online dating was the obvious next step.

Almost immediately after online dating was authorized, people began signing up on dating sites such as LavaPlace.com. But it isn't a free-for-all. Because of the restrictions stated by the Council, members are only allowed to provide age, gender and location information. There are no pictures or headshots or introductory statements traditionally found on dating sites. Women cannot share pictures with men, and they cannot describe themselves in detail, nor can they meet a potential husband without a male family escort.

There is not much room for flirting or even mildly suggestive conversation common on most dating sites. Conversation must revolve around marriage, and must take place with the knowledge of both families.

"These permissions do not substitute for the formalized, traditional methods of encounter for the purpose of marriage," the council underscored in the Times article. "It is better for those wishing to marry to enter the house through the front door."

While the council's legalization of online dating isn't going to change the dating culture for Palestinians in a significant way any time soon, technology has certainly helped break down some barriers. Facebook and Twitter have become a way of communicating freely and easily, especially among young Palestinians, for political purposes as well as social. Hopefully online dating gains acceptance and popularity among Muslims in the area - thanks to technology, our social circles have expanded and we all are afforded more opportunities than ever before. It's only right that this extends to a person's love life.