Tucked inside a cushy high-rise in Tysons Corner with floors of co-working spaces — the kind with fruit-infused water and slick modern furniture — a group of five people sit in a conference room, facing a projector screen.
You can call it the Situation Room for BeyondChai — a D.C.-area based paid matchmaking service that caters mainly to young Muslims. It’s within these glass walls that BeyondChai’s matchmaking staff meets to discuss their clients.
“I have a client in mind, he’s 38 years old, an entrepreneurial dentist and he’s very successful,” says matchmaker Sadia Khan.
Across the table, her colleague Abeer Ayaz thinks she might have found a match for Khan’s dentist.
“She’s an entrepreneur herself, she has her own fashion line,” Ayaz says.
The two quickly trade notes, until a detail derails the potential match.
“She wears hijab,” Ayaz says.
“Oh sorry, he’s not interested in hijab. I think he’s not used to it, because no one in his family wears it,” Khan says.
The match fizzled before it even began, but luckily for the dentist and the designer there’s a healthy pool of clients in the matchmaking database. The group says membership has grown by 45 percent in the last 6 months, with roughly 10,000 active members nation-wide.
BeyondChai attributes the bump in clientele to President Trump’s comments about Muslims and terrorism. Co-founder Asad Ansari says all of that instilled fear in the Muslim community.
Members of the BeyondChai team discuss matches between their clients.Tyrone Turner / WAMU
“Muslims are looking to unite, and are looking for ways to comfort each other,” Ansari says.
Another matchmaker, Saman Quraeshi, says she had a client who used to be married to a non-Muslim. But in the wake of the election, her client’s views on faith and love changed dramatically.
“She came specifically to me and said, ‘This time I would like to marry someone who is of the same religious background,” Quraeshi says. “Because that’s what was bringing her comfort in this time when she felt personally attacked by the government.”
A Modern Search for Love
Hasan Khalid joined BeyondChai about 2 months ago. Khalid says his timing had nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with living a sheltered life when it came to looking for love.
“I grew up under a rock,” Khalid says with a chuckle, “And I felt like I had the definition figured out which is to have a nice, educated person who is from a good family and is a practicing Muslim.”
In many ways, the 29-year-old Pakistani-American is looking for someone who is a lot like himself: a practicing Muslim professional who prays daily, and fasts from dawn until sundown during the holy month of Ramadan.
But Khalid says he’s too busy to meet someone the modern way, and too modern to be set up by his mom.
“I tease my mother this way, and tell her that ‘I am not importing a person’,” Khalid says.
So, he signed up for BeyondChai.
“What BeyondChai provided me is, that value of time,” Khalid says. “Where I speak to someone who is serious, they’re invested in this process and you really have good, insightful conversations.”