Its users swipe left and swipe right, but a new app called Salaam Swipe is not about hooking up. It's about love and marriage, and it's geared specifically toward Muslims. Officially launched in August for iPhones, this Tinder-style app was developed by Khalil Jessa, a 26-year-old born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“We have all these different divisions," Jessa said of Muslim communities. "And so that makes it really hard for young people to meet each other, especially meeting each other serendipitously, in the way you meet everyone else,” he said, the news site Al-Arabiya reported. “I made this [app] because we all live it.”
Currently, the majority of its members, who Jessa said number in the thousands, live in the U.S. and Canada. Salaam Swipe is also available for download in the Middle East. An Arabic-language version was in the pipeline. On Twitter, Salaam Swipe has described itself as "a Muslim matchmaking application."
— Salaam Swipe (@Salaam_Swipe) August 26, 2015
"We have a lot of gender segregation," Jessa said, adding that Muslim communities are also separated along ethnic lines, between Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Arabs and Iranians, and sectarian ones, such as Sunni and Shia. "So what I wanted to do was make it easier for young Muslims to be able to meet, to interact and to find someone to marry," he told Al-Arabiya.
What Salaam Swipe had in common with Tinder was the swipe system -- left to reject, right to match -- Jessa said. A unique feature of his app, which distinguished it not just from Tinder's system but also from other Muslim matchmaking sites, was that it allowed users to self-identify according to denomination, such as Sunni or "just Muslim," according to Jessa.
In a world where families have traditionally set up introductions between males and females, Salaam Swipe provides a detour, if not an escape, from such societal norms.
"Traditionally, one family would give a picture and a little bio to another family, and if they like each other they would exchange the bios with the kids and ask if they want to meet each other," Jessa said. "We’re really doing the same thing – but without your auntie and uncle."