January 23, 2011
Baby, It's Cold Outside (but it's Hot in Cairo!)By Robert Babcock
Americans love romance. Do Islamists?
Baby, It's Cold Outside, the romantic duet written in 1944 by prolific Broadway composer Frank Loesser, is a wonderful easy-listening classic about a couple in love on a winter night.
The story goes that Loesser first performed this song with his wife - appropriately - for a circle of friends at a housewarming party. It was an intimate performance of an intimate song. The cadence is relaxed, the melody as sweet and smooth as honey, and the lyrical story one that is personally familiar to many of us.
A couple has enjoyed a romantic evening together; it's easy to imagine them before a fire, lazing on the couch wrapped in each others arms. But it's getting late. She must go, she says. He protests, gently, his voice like velvet: oh, but Baby, it's cold outside...
He remains undeterred, so she brings in some artillery.
She turns up the heat. So does he.
And then - a small victory!
And so the song goes with its humorous give-and-take, its soft-edged repartee in this funny little battle of the sexes, and its lilting dialogue of gentle seduction and equally gentle resistance. One can read between the lines all day, but - in spite of the coarsening modern world's efforts to eradicate such a distinction -- the lyrics remain sensual without being sexual.
It's a lovely song whose character, tenor, and open yet intimate celebration of romantic love (by a couple unchaperoned, no less) could only have come out of Western Civilization -- in this particular case, America in 1944, during the somber days of World War II.
So how does our couple end up? To find out, listen to the excellent rendition of the song found here, sung by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer.1
Baby, It's Cold Outside is a song in season anytime the thermometer plummets, although one often hears it around Christmas -- which, it appears, is now on the Endangered Holidays list in some places in England and in the European Union.
If Sayyid Qutb of Cairo, ideological beacon of Al Qaeda and a martyr of the Muslim Brotherhood, had had his way, Christmas undoubtedly would be banned in the worldwide sharia paradise he sought. He probably would have banned Baby, It's Cold Outside, too, considering his outrage at the immoral behavior he claimed to have seen accompany the actual playing of the song, chronicled in his 1951 article for Egypt's Al-Risala magazine, "The America I Have Seen: In the Scale of Human Values."2
Described as a quiet and intelligent man,3 Qutb in 1949 was a middle-aged college student living in Greeley, Colorado. It was a town as quiet as its unique visitor, one that "proudly maintained in the late 1940's the moral rigor, temperance and civic-mindedness that were the hallmarks of its founding fathers."4 Alcohol sales within the city limits were prohibited,5 and Qutb estimated that at least 20 churches served Greeley's population of just over 20,000.6 One evening he attended a church service which was followed by a dance. And what was one of the musical selections the minister tossed onto the record player? Baby, It's Cold Outside.
According to Qutb, people "danced to the tunes of the gramophone, and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire." 7
Wow. One may wonder how such sexually supercharged couples were able to resist their hormones long enough to finish their dance in a vertical posture, but, other than the aforementioned affirmation of Greeley's moral conservatism, there are only three things that we need keep in mind in order to see the situation for what it truly was: America. Church. 1949. Adding "promiscuous" to that threesome is like throwing an anvil into the cake mix; it just doesn't belong there. If you doubt that, just mention America-Church-1949 to almost any tenured denizen of the sociology wing of the ivory tower, and you're likely to get an earful about sexual repression.
Back to the dance. The question arises: how many of those couples, really, were expressing romance by holding each other in synchronous movement, and how many were merely friends and acquaintances doing their best to not step on their partner's toes?
Yet to the narrowed eyes of the Islamist, the physical expression of either friendship or romance as manifested in the formalized ritual of dance appeared tantamount to a full-blown sexfest. And to think that the pastor threw Baby onto the platter just to try to "get the few remaining wallflowers out on the dance floor." 8
The good preacher didn't know what he was up against with Qutb. One can easily imagine the lone Muslim righteously anchored in the corner, tut-tutting like a maiden aunt (whose "mind is vicious...") while staring google-eyed at what he imagined to be Raw Sex. To read Qutb's comments, the guy apparently couldn't tell the difference between a come-hither glance and a five-dollar strumpet leaning against the lamp post.
This man's moral myopia -- grim, unrelenting, and bombastic -- is a typical example of Muslim condemnation of a modern world unobservant of Mohammed's dictates, unobservant primarily because its foundation, battered though it may be, is still built of Greco-Judeo-Christian stone.
Qutb was both a harbinger and an instigator of an enormous wave of Muslim repudiation of that foundation, a wave that has since swept across the civilized world from Munich to London's Tower Hamlet, from Malmo to Dearborn. The good people of Greeley couldn't possibly have imagined that the disaffected little fellow in their midst, that poor wallflower frowning from the edge of the dance floor, would one day inspire through his writings a flood of equally zealous followers in Islam's thunderous charge against the West.
It is revealing that Sayyid Qutb was a confirmed bachelor. By 1940, several years before he observed the Greeley church ladies behaving like hussies, the 34-year-old man had resigned himself to the single life. The prospective mates just didn't pass muster: "Unwilling to choose a bride from among the 'dishonorable' women with whom he made contact in the public sphere of the work place, and unable...to meet a woman of sufficient moral purity and discretion..." 9
One can imagine the headline: Muslim Man Finds Women Lacking.
Bachelorhood must have been frustrating for that natural man bound up inside the spiritual Qutb, as we suspect when we read his observation of the fairer sex, American-style: "The American girl is well acquainted with her body's seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, and in expressive eyes, and thirsty lips. She knows seductiveness lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs and she shows all this and does not hide it." 10
Whew! Qutb's juicy description of the typical American girl of the late 1940's may have been overheated, but one can't deny that it's much more true now than it was then. It is a paradox of freedom as practiced in America, a seeming contradiction that must baffle those who share Qutb's outlook, that one can say of a flock of miniskirted and proud-nippled nymphets jamming the local college bar on a Friday night, "They lack modesty and I truly believe it ought to be otherwise," and still allow for a fellow observer to react with an expression common among American men: "Damn, this is a great country!"
And Islamistan isn't! Earth to Qutb...Earth to Qutb: what the average American woman knows about attracting men, Muslim women around the world know, too! (It's in the female wiring, for goodness' sake.) But if those women show they know it by, say, daring to wear a blouse or displaying a pretty hairdo, legions of Muslim men across the world -- husbands, fathers, brothers, and others -- are ready to kill them.
In contrast, American women know they simply have an admiring audience. It's not only the men here who think America is a great country.
Notice that for all of his purported purity, in describing "the American girl" Qutb knocks out steamy prose worthy of a brown paper wrapper: "...her body's seductive capacity...round breasts...full buttocks...sleek legs...", etc. One wonders: did Sayyid Qutb perhaps enjoy writing that description a little too much? Do they have cold showers in Cairo? After all, that's pretty racy stuff for the man who demanded "moral purity and discretion" from any potential bride.
So: despite his best efforts Sayyid Qutb just couldn't seem to find Miss Right.
If he couldn't find her in Egypt, he certainly wasn't likely to find her in the Land of the Free. Qutb had arrived in the U.S. already convinced of its moral corruption.11 What he reported of his encounters with American women only confirms it: a "drunken, semi-naked"12 tourist who appeared at his stateroom door on his voyage to New York, and whose advances he rejected; his nurse in a Washington, D.C. hospital whose comments on desirable male sexual traits he interpreted as a come-on;13 and a fellow student in Colorado who believed that sexual relations were "a purely biological matter"14 devoid of any ethical component.
Qutb doesn't tell us whether he ever met an American woman with moral scruples who he felt was attracted to him. If there were any such women, whatever their merits, they would have been required to meet his lofty criteria. And that appears to have been impossible. Perhaps that's because none of the Quran's 6000+ verses contain the word "love."15
Yet flowing deep within the heart of every man -- even the most ideologically rigid and emotionally-constricted Islamist -- isn't there an instinctive desire to at least be wanted?
One can't help but suspect that Sayyid Qutb, a man who would not enjoy what in the West is considered a healthy relationship with women -- one of mutual respect and even (if the stars are right) mutual attraction, what we infidels call a normal relationship -- would have been burdened with that attribute detrimental to "finding a woman," when the woman has any choice in the matter: desperateness.
It's not difficult to imagine this vitriolic warrior against femininity openly expressed secretly crawling over broken glass just for the chance to peek up some Egyptian bachelorette's burqa. Nor is it difficult to imagine the disaffected wallflower, in an unguarded moment lasting the length of a sigh, gazing wistfully at those unattainable women of Greeley.
The pious Qutb never found his woman of "moral purity and discretion" for she was not a real woman at all: she was the desiccated representation of a woman bound, his ideal Islamic confection, an imaginary figure in cold marble atop an impossibly high pedestal. Not very good company, really, and certainly no one to put your arms around while sitting in front of the fire on a snowy winter evening.
So, other than lying awake at night, alone, perhaps quietly pining for those joys that only a good woman can bring to a man's life, what might have been Qutb's response, if asked, to his rejection by the flesh-and-blood woman he could never find? To borrow several florid phrases from Sayyid Qutb's own writing, his response may have been something like this:
"She does not want me because I am too pure. I do not want her because she is not pure enough. Just look at those thirsty lips, those shapely thighs, and those full buttocks. Just look at those round breasts. Hmmph!"
Just look, indeed, Sayyid Qutb. As for me, I think I'll go sit down on the couch beside my wife on the next cold winter evening that comes along. We'll put our arms around each other. We'll share our warmth. And we'll smile, and we'll know that we're in love. Oh, it will be wonderful.
We may even sing a duet.
1. The video's introduction incorrectly states that Loesser's song was created in 1949, the year it was used in the movie Neptune's Daughter and for which it garnered an Oscar (Best Original Song).
2. Kamal Abdel-Malek, America in an Arab Mirror: Images of America in Arab Travel Literature: an anthology, 1895 - 1995 (St. Martins Press, New York, 2000)
3. Daniel Brogan, "Al Qaeda's Greeley Roots," 5280 Magazine, June/July 2003, 3 http://www.5280.com/magazine/2003/06/al-qaeda's-greeley-roots?page=0,2, 3
4. John Calvert, "'The World is an Undutiful Boy!': Sayyid Qutb's American Experience," Islam and Christian - Muslim Relations Vol. 11, No. 1 (March 2000): 95
5. Brogan, 6
6. Calvert, 95, 97
7. Abdel-Malek, 20
8. Brogan, 3
9. Calvert, 98
10. Abdel-Malek, 22
11. Calvert, 93, 95
12. Calvert, 93
13. Calvert, 98
14. Calvert, 98
15. Nonie Darwish, Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2009), Kindle Edition.