Friday, October 20, 2006

Sex and taboos in the Islamic world

An article from Der Spiegel that walks through the forbidden byways of sexuality in the Islamic world.
Muslim novelist "Nedjma" ("Star"), the author of "The Almond," a successful erotic novel, describes Moroccan society as divided and bigoted. Despite progressive family and marriage laws, she says, the country is still controlled by patriarchal traditions in which men continue to sleep around and treat women as subordinates. It is a society in which prudishness and sexual obsession, ignorance and desire, "sperm and prayer" coexist. "The more repressive a society is, the more desperately it seeks an outlet," says Nedjma, who conceals her real name because she has already been vilified on the Internet as a "whore" and an "insult to Islam."
Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Khalid devoted his first short film, "The Fifth Pound," to the topic of taboo. The film tells the story of a young couple who use a bus ride to be together and exchange more than just a few innocent, tender words. Every Friday morning, when everyone else is at the mosque for prayers, they meet on the third-to-the-last bench on the bus, a spot where none of the other passengers can see what they are doing. As they sit there, shoulder-to-shoulder, staring straight ahead, they stroke each other's bodies. Their only fear is that the bus driver will see what they are doing through the rear view mirror. He watches the couple, fully aware of what they are doing, all the while indulging in his own fantasies.
The Internet is a refuge for hidden desires, even though it offers only virtual relief. Google Trends, a new service offered by the search engine, provides a way to demonstrate how difficult it is to banish forbidden yearnings from the heads of Muslims. By entering the term "sex" into Google Trends, one obtains a ranked list of cities, countries and languages in which the term was entered most frequently. According to Google Trends, the Pakistanis search for "sex" most often, followed by the Egyptians. Iran and Morocco are in fourth and fifth, Indonesia is in seventh and Saudi Arabia in eighth place. The top city for "sex" searches is Cairo. When the terms "boy sex" or "man boy sex" are entered (many Internet filters catch the word "gay"), Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the first four countries listed.
The article also touches on "temporary marriages" (effectively, religiously sanctioned prostitution) and domestic violence. The picture is bleak. India has its own strain of prudish prurience (Such as Murli Manohar Joshi's campaign against Bombay's night clubs, or the occasional Shiv Sena leader's attempt to harass couples necking in public.). I've sometimes heard that it was the "Christian missionaries" who somehow made the land of the Kamasutra into a killjoy central ... but, in my experience, this kind of sexual repression isn't present in Bombay's Catholic culture. There's enough home grown prudishness of all stripes (Hindu, Muslim, Christian) ... and human societies have dealt with and tried to control human sexuality in a variety of ways down the ages. I don't know that the Western, hedonistic, let's-hang-it-all-out approach is "the answer" -- but in as much as certain kinds of hypocrisy are minimized (especially with respect to women's sexuality), I think it (Western mores, not the hedonism) is a move in the right direction.

Way too many generalizations there. Oh well.

1 comment:

AMRO said...

The article says that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a womanizer and hedonist which is absolutely false. It should be noted that the special exception to the prophet concerning the maximum number of wives was made in the Quran [Qur'an, 33: 50].

Back then, when the Muslims fought their battles against the countless pagan tribes who waged many wars against Islam because they felt threatened from Islam since Islam called for the demolishing of all idols and only worshiping the One, Living and True GOD Almighty, many Muslim men found themselves with:

1- Orphan children of other Muslim warriors who died in the battle field.

2- Orphan children from the non-muslims' side.

3- Widowed and single women from the Muslims' side.

4- Widowed and single women from the non-muslims' side.

So if we have a man who only has one lovely wife with few children, and then all of the sudden, he finds himself given 20 orphan-children to take care of along with his own children that his wife is already busy with. What do we do? Allah Almighty allowed for the muslim man to:

Sponsor these orphans and to marry up to four Muslim wives to take care of them.

Noble Verse 4:3 "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice."

Notice how Allah Almighty allowed polygamy only for helping the orphans (more women are needed to take care of the Muslims' and infidels' orphans after every battle.) Notice also how Allah Almighty ordered the men to be either fair to their wives or else to never marry more than one wife.

Let us look at Noble Verse 4:129 "Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women, even if it is your ardent desire: But turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air). If ye come to a friendly understanding, and practise self-restraint, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." Here we clearly see that Allah Almighty tells men that they will never be fair to their wives.

So as you clearly see, Allah Almighty's Divine Law regarding polygamy is quite just and beautiful in the Noble Quran. It's main reason was never to allow the man to sexually enjoy more women, but rather to solve a major social problem that occurred 1,500 years ago, and that is protecting the helpless orphans by the aid of as many women as needed, whether wives or harems!