Baring My Religion

In Brooklyn, a brouhaha is brewing about bare breasts amongst burqas. I am so lame but it is friday, so forgive me. A Polish magazine, The Forum, put up a cover story called “Ile jest Kamasutry w‚ĆKoranie?” which I am guessing means “Is it the KamaSutra or the Koran?” [my polish friend isn’t answering the IM. now he did and says it means “How much Kama Sutra is there in the Koran?”]. The magazine chose to run this with that joyous celebration of the human body surrounded by burqas. No harm intended, I am sure.

While I completely support the rights of artists to express themselves, and I understand that the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane is often a powerful tool used to score points since the Decameron, I do not like or endorse cheap shots for publicity. This cover is obviously designed to provoke and the adverse reaction has to be pre-calculated by the magazine editors. Furthermore, the story isn’t even by them. It is a translated re-print from a french magazine.

The piece is written by Hafid Bouazza, a Dutch-Moroccoan, and initially published in the French Courrier International from December 2004. I had a quick peek. It is a little treatise on the history of sexuality and sexual mores in Islamic and Arabic classical texts. Hafid Bouazza, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is “very critical of the Muslim background he comes from and he frequently uses provocation in his work by dealing with sexuality.” Bouazza writes that during medieval and early modern periods, Europe saw Islam as a hedonistic faith led by a Mahomet, the husband of many wives. This “erotic” understanding of the faith changed into the “terrorist” understanding on 9/11. Bouazza seeks to highlight the eroticism and humanity of this faith. He starts with the verse from al-Baqarah [Your women are a tillage for you; so come unto your tillage as you wish], ruminates on al-Ghazzali’s prudishness, and briefly discusses the 15th c. marriage manual by al-Nafzawi called The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delights. Bouazza bemoans the fact that the open dialogue on sexuality and erotica that existed throughout Islamic history has been curtailed and shunted off since the 19th century.

All in all, it is a fairly interesting article for the general public that underscores the healthy attitude Islam had/has about sexuality. Worth a quick read. Now, I think it is reprehensible for Forum to put that cover on this story. It has no artistic or scholarly intent and nothing whatsoever to do with the content of Bouazza’s piece. They want to simply shock. As far as I know, the Courrier International website did not have those pictures. To my offended co-religionists, I say, yes, the Polish magazine is amiss in publishing the cover story but save your anger for the despotic regimes of mullahs not trifles like magazine covers. At the most, ask your polish friend to write a letter to the editor but more generally, just let it go. Same applies to this.

Have a good weekend, gentle readers.

6 Replies to “Baring My Religion”

  1. nabeel: it is linked right there in the post (french courrier international). you will have to pay them to read it.

  2. Shock value, unfortunately is the opiate of the masses. Imaginary communities form around crassness, and people wind up celebrating a distinct lack of taste. It’d be amusing if it weren’t so pathetic.

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