Love in the Middle East: The Contradictions of Romance in the Facebook World

This article was published in Critical Research on Religion 2016, Vol. 4(3) 229–258, December 2016
Co-authored with Roger Friedland, Paolo Gardinali, Cambria Naslund

Romantic love is a social fact in the Muslim world. It is also a gender politics impinging on religious and patriarchal understandings of female modesty and agency. This paper analyzes the rise of love as a basis of mate selection in a number of Muslim-majority countries: Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, Tunisia, and Turkey where we have conductedWeb-based anonymous surveys of Facebook users. Young people increasingly want love in their married lives, but they and the communities in which they live remain uncomfortable with the mating practices through which such love has traditionally been achieved in the Western world. The paper explores the religious contradictions and the gender politics of modern heterosexual love.