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Challenging Sex Taboos in Muslim Communities Through Literature

The book has seven chapters, covering topics such as marriage in Islam, the fiqh of cohabitation, marriage and sex, nutrition and sex and solutions to sexual problems, as well as real life stories. Liberal Muslims have praised her book, arguing that there is an urgent need for such educational literature, pointing out that Arab societies are turning a blind eye to problems resulting from ignorance of sexual issues. On the other hand, Conservative Muslims, claimed that the book’s topic is taboo and should not be publicly discussed. Some Conservative Muslims have gone as far as to accuse Lootah of being an infidel and a sinner for writing such a book; and claim that she is guilty of blasphemy. Death threats were also made against her. But Lootah is no stranger to controversy. She was the focus of controversy several years ago when she advocated for the introduction of sex education in schools.

However, Lootah responded by saying that none of her advice in the book violates the teachings of the Qur’an and that the book was published after the Mufti of Dubai gave his approval, even though he warned/cautioned her that “Arab readers might not be ready for such a book.”

In a June 2009 New York Times article,Challenging Sex Taboos, With Help From the Koran, Lootah says, “ People have said I was crazy, that I was straying from Islam, that I should be killed … Even my family ask why I must talk about this. I say: ‘These problems happen every day and should not be ignored. This is the reality we are living’…”

In the Family Court of Dubai, Lootah is charged with helping married couples on a daily basis with sexual intimacy problems and to settle matrimonial disputes between spouses. The institution’s purpose is to avoid unnecessary separations in a federation that holds the record number for divorce – 46% in the Gulf Cooperation Council which includes the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. In 2004, The Media Line Agency reported that 13,000 couples ended their marriage in a population of three million. Lootah responds to this by saying that couples would not have ended their union if only they had sufficient sex education, prior and during marriage.

Then there is the recently released book, Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of Muslim American Women by Ayeshah Mattu and Nura Maznavi which  has caused some controversy.  Some disapproved of its anthology and complained of it not being an Islamic book. And others, like myself, who on first discovery of the book, were curious and surprised about the existence of such a book – such bold revelations from Muslim women themselves – almost unheard of.  ” The subtitle, The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, generated more controversy than we anticipated. Some accused us of playing into an Orientalist fantasy about Muslim women, or of writing a salacious exposé of our faith community…”

I recently read the book and will be publishing a review soon. But when I first came across it on the internet, I felt a bit uneasy about it. I wondered about the intentions of the Authors. Did they set out to send a message? And if so, what message were they intending to convey? I was also curious about the women who contributed their stories. Why did they agree to participate? What were their initial feelings and thoughts about being a part of such a book? Did they have concerns about participating? And if so, what were those concerns? And now that the book is out, do they regret participating? How did their families react to the news of their participation?

I think it’s good that many of us, myself included are trying to defy and challenge stereotypes of Muslim women, but are such books needed to accomplish this? Are we going a step too far? And if this is not the way to go about it, what is? One things for sure though, this book provides a reality check and a shocking revelation to some that Muslim women face some of the same carnal demons as non-Muslim women and that the realities of unlawful relationships, love and lust are not alien to Muslim women.

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What are your thoughts? 

Have you read any of the above books or are you planning on reading any? And if you’ve read both or either one, what were your thoughts prior to reading the book and after?

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