Journalist Ali al-Gundi believes that Muslim men have a troubled relationship with their own sexuality. Shifting the political, economic and social conditions which underpin these realities is the work of a generation at least. Gays are tolerated, but only as long as they remain under the radar and conceal their activities from public scrutiny. But in the same breath, he admits that he would never spend a significant amount of time in the same room with a woman he doesn't know. With this intermixing of sex, politics, and religion, hypocrisy has inevitably grown in the West, as it has in the Middle East. In his imagination, the driver sits down next to the girl, carefully removes her headscarf and unbuttons her blouse. For the past two years, Shahba has worn the headscarf voluntarily -- out of conviction, as she emphasizes, insisting that no one forces her to do so. This fact is often highlighted by the Islamists, who are afforded a role in Egyptian political and social life, as a sign that the country has lost its moral way.
It leads young people into deeply unhealthy behaviours. Only after the woman notified her father the next day were the two released from jail. Religious censors are desperately trying to put a stop to what they view as declining morals in their countries, but there is little they can do to stop satellite TV, the Internet and text messaging. When seen in this light, young Muslims' approach to Islam seems as hedonistic as it is variable, almost arbitrary. That will set us on a good path to deal with many other issues in the generation to come. Ula Shahba, 27, sees the trend toward covering one's head as an expression of a new female self-confidence, not as a symbol of oppression. A hidden little dead-end street in Samalik, a posh residential neighborhood, with a view of the Nile. Confrontation -- be it political protests in Tahrir Square or Femen -style baring of breasts -- is not the way to achieve tangible, durable change in the Arab region, as recent events have clearly demonstrated. As techno music blares from the loudspeakers in the dim light, patrons shout their drink orders across the bar. Al-Hubb Thaqafa offers a chance in part by reclaiming Arabic as a language of sexuality and offering a "respectable" alternative to street slang for men and women to talk each other about sex -- asking questions, sharing personal experiences and contesting each other's opinions without the usual embarrassment or censure. In Behind the Veil of Vice: But over the centuries, and in particular in recent decades with rise of Islamic fundamentalism, societies across the Arab region have become far less comfortable in their sexual skin. That 70 percent of all marriages in Saudi Arabia these days are reportedly of the temporary variety is a wonderfully uplifting statistic. Separating the sexes Another frustrating development for young Islamic men is the growing separation of the sexes. Moralizers of various stripes argue that temporary marriages are basically a cover for prostitution, and often they are; but in some ways it does not matter what you call them. Nowadays a woman walking along a Cairo street without a veil stands a good chance of being stared at as if she were from another planet. After all, those who go too far could end up being thrown out of "Acid," Beirut's most popular gay disco. The thing she kept saying to me, which was her point of pride, was: The boys are like boys everywhere, nonchalantly placing their arms around their girlfriends' shoulders and even more nonchalantly sliding their hands into their blouses. Author Nedjma says that Muslim men today are "betraying the message of Muhammad," whom she describes as a delicate, gallant man. It is a society in which prudishness and sexual obsession, ignorance and desire, "sperm and prayer" coexist. Sex is one part of that. Fast forward to , and you find women in Egypt speaking out about their experiences. We in the West seem sometimes obsessed with the idea of sex and sexuality in the Middle East, as some of the commentary you highlight about suicide bombers and the veil illustrates. For the police, this was reason enough to handcuff Gundi and his girlfriend and take them to the police station.
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