Sex and the Single Saudi

Pssst!  You there! Yeah, you, kid!  Wanna see 72 virgins?

It's the Jihadist answer to dirty French postcards, according to a reformist Muslim critic named Al—Sowayan, writing in the Saudi Gazette . The medium in this case isn't sexy postcards but cassette tapes:

"So ubiquitous are the religious cassette shops that they are outnumbered only by groceries ... The Jihad cassette describes the path that must be followed in order to win martyrdom and deserve the Hoor Al—Een fair females with wide, lovely eyes. It reduces the lofty objective of spiritual martyrdom to mere lust and a selfish search for sexual pleasure, regardless of what martyrdom can achieve for the public interest or for upholding Allah's word.
...

"The sweetest thing for a teenager, especially in a conservative society like ours, is sex, and the discourse of the religious cassettes is directed toward these very youngsters in their sexual peak of life.  They access these youth through the Hoor Al—Een, just as how the youth of our time were drawn to slide pictures of actresses and female singers. So should we not consider sexual suppression in conservative societies as one of the factors leading to such deviation?"

Al—Sowayan sounds like a brave and honest man, raising  questions that are absolutely essential ——— but extremely difficult to face. Wahhabi society brings up teenage boys isolated from girls their own age. It punishes sexual pleasure while at the same time glorifying it, and encouraging sexual fantasies. That puts both sexes in the most painful bind: Either reject your own feelings, or blow yourself up to achieve them.

"You never hear them (the Jihadi cassettes) speaking about worldly matters of so much concern to the people. The only reform program they offer is for the Hereafter. They speak as if they — and not the all—forgiving and merciful God — have the keys to Paradise in their hands. They have a magical prescription with which you can join their program of the Hereafter; that is, by blowing yourself up."

Looked at that way, Jihadi propaganda is a vicious trap for the young.

The war on terror has a hammer and an anvil. The hammer consists of thousands of US soldiers and their allies, risking their necks every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are presenting the Jihadis with a clear message:
Killing innocents will put you outside the pale, whether in New York City on
9/11 or in a  Baghdad Mosque just yesterday. The hammer says: "You cannot go on like this."

The invisible anvil in this war is just as important. It is a dialogue taking place in whispers among a billion people around the world, often only in the privacy of their own minds. They are thinking things that cannot be said out loud, for fear of very real punishment. What we actually hear said in the Muslim world is the least important part of what's going on every day in a billion minds.

For civilized peoples to win this war, more Muslims must stand up and be heard. This is war for values that are perfectly well—known in Islamic traditions. Normal human decency and the desire to do good are not a Western invention. They are not a foreign demand, but a part of religious traditions around the world.

In criticizing Saudi sexual norms, Al—Sowayan may be pushing the limits. But for civilized values to win, it is essential for more and more Muslim voices to speak out, until finally they know they are the majority.

Pssst!  You there! Yeah, you, kid!  Wanna see 72 virgins?

It's the Jihadist answer to dirty French postcards, according to a reformist Muslim critic named Al—Sowayan, writing in the Saudi Gazette . The medium in this case isn't sexy postcards but cassette tapes:

"So ubiquitous are the religious cassette shops that they are outnumbered only by groceries ... The Jihad cassette describes the path that must be followed in order to win martyrdom and deserve the Hoor Al—Een fair females with wide, lovely eyes. It reduces the lofty objective of spiritual martyrdom to mere lust and a selfish search for sexual pleasure, regardless of what martyrdom can achieve for the public interest or for upholding Allah's word.
...

"The sweetest thing for a teenager, especially in a conservative society like ours, is sex, and the discourse of the religious cassettes is directed toward these very youngsters in their sexual peak of life.  They access these youth through the Hoor Al—Een, just as how the youth of our time were drawn to slide pictures of actresses and female singers. So should we not consider sexual suppression in conservative societies as one of the factors leading to such deviation?"

Al—Sowayan sounds like a brave and honest man, raising  questions that are absolutely essential ——— but extremely difficult to face. Wahhabi society brings up teenage boys isolated from girls their own age. It punishes sexual pleasure while at the same time glorifying it, and encouraging sexual fantasies. That puts both sexes in the most painful bind: Either reject your own feelings, or blow yourself up to achieve them.

"You never hear them (the Jihadi cassettes) speaking about worldly matters of so much concern to the people. The only reform program they offer is for the Hereafter. They speak as if they — and not the all—forgiving and merciful God — have the keys to Paradise in their hands. They have a magical prescription with which you can join their program of the Hereafter; that is, by blowing yourself up."

Looked at that way, Jihadi propaganda is a vicious trap for the young.

The war on terror has a hammer and an anvil. The hammer consists of thousands of US soldiers and their allies, risking their necks every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are presenting the Jihadis with a clear message:
Killing innocents will put you outside the pale, whether in New York City on
9/11 or in a  Baghdad Mosque just yesterday. The hammer says: "You cannot go on like this."

The invisible anvil in this war is just as important. It is a dialogue taking place in whispers among a billion people around the world, often only in the privacy of their own minds. They are thinking things that cannot be said out loud, for fear of very real punishment. What we actually hear said in the Muslim world is the least important part of what's going on every day in a billion minds.

For civilized peoples to win this war, more Muslims must stand up and be heard. This is war for values that are perfectly well—known in Islamic traditions. Normal human decency and the desire to do good are not a Western invention. They are not a foreign demand, but a part of religious traditions around the world.

In criticizing Saudi sexual norms, Al—Sowayan may be pushing the limits. But for civilized values to win, it is essential for more and more Muslim voices to speak out, until finally they know they are the majority.