The collision of modern dating and traditional Islam

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


But Leyla would never allow anyone to dictate to her about whether she can wear tight jeans or high heels. And she does not want to feel ashamed for having had sex outside of marriage. Leyla dated a second man for two years and shared her past with him. But, she says, he treated her less respectfully with time, was often jealous and tried to stop her from going out with her friends. When Leyla finally broke it off with him, she wondered whether he would have treated a virgin the same way.

A year ago, Leyla met a police officer — a tall, polite Turkish man with green eyes. She liked him and they texted back and forth for weeks. This time, she did not tell him of her previous relationships. “In front of him, I was the thoughtful Leyla that I normally am,” she says. “But I wasn’t the Leyla who has tried marijuana and alcohol and who is no longer a virgin.”

Layla and the officer traveled together and went on dates to trendy restaurants. Once, he woke her up at 6 am and drove her to the seaside. With other men, she usually stayed home on the sofa and watched TV. “It was the first time that I could dream together with a man,” says Leyla. They talked about their feelings, about their faith and he said he does not want to have sex before marriage. He was still a virgin, after all.

Leyla, who was 28 at that time, had friends who had already started families. Leyla would like to have a family as well. That autumn, her boyfriend and she decided to get married. “I was so in love, everything was just perfect except for that one tiny, little thing,” she says.

The gains of sexual revolution in German society are yet to make a mark in many Muslim communities. “We have to explain to parents and young men that it’s totally nonsensical to insist on intact hymens,” says Erdoğan, the psychologist. “But we cannot do so without the help of young women.”

Do women like Leyla have to be more rebellious? Does Islam need a sexual revolution as women’s rights activist Seyran Ateş has called for?

Leyla knows that things will have to change. If she has children of her own one day, she says she does not want to pass on this hymen mania to them. “You lie to God, you lie to your family but, most of all, you lie to yourself,” she says.

Still, Leyla is indecisive. On the one hand, she would like for sex to be seen as something that is not dirty. “Men and women get to know each other better that way, it is something beautiful and you have to find out if the two of you are compatible.” On the other hand, she is still in contact with her former fiancé and hopes that he will believe her lie about her prior virginity.