On demonising sex: The Saudi adult shop controversy

Published: May 5, 2015

But what, dare I ask, is so sinful about sex, particularly from an Islamic perspective, that the mere thought of an adult shop opening in Makkah is so fraught with tension, and insecurity? PHOTO: YouTube Screenshot

But what, dare I ask, is so sinful about sex, particularly from an Islamic perspective, that the mere thought of an adult shop opening in Makkah is so fraught with tension, and insecurity? PHOTO: YouTube Screenshot An advertisement for sex toys is displayed at Khadija Fashion House in Manama June 9, 2010. PHOTO: REUTERS

The author requests the reader to approach the following account with an open mind.

Of all the numerous nature-ordained acts which continue to be demonised in our society, by a populace which often unknowingly adheres to virtually all sides of the political/theological spectrum, the subject of sex, particularly consensual sex (should the intimate affair be enacted in thoroughly halal settings) appears to raise more eyebrows than others.

Of course, this particular issue is not the sole focus of a heightened consternation evoked among our varied peoples – the vast majority of Muslims worldwide who like to think of themselves as being part of the universal ummah. The central human need for being allowed to think freely often appears to be a rite even more irksome to some.

Being a flawed, practicing Muslim – and one who takes great pain in maintaining an open mind when considering people’s pointed entreaties – my take on such matters usually features a narrowing-in on certain cultural/societal constraints which result in ‘perverting’ the orthodox practice of religion. In the case of a society like Pakistan, where agenda-laden myopic interpretations of scripture are used to justify oppression and validate cultural norms which ensure the subjugation of relatively ‘weaker’ demographic factions such as women, children and minorities; it incenses me considerably to reflect upon how some ‘halal’ practices continue to be made the subject of unfair speculation and vitriol by a largely pseudo-liberal fringe whose views constitute the other half of this discourse.

At this juncture, I would like to confess that I share no sympathies with individuals who believe in the dictates of violence, oppression or force – in particular those people who make use of the devices of terror, blackmail and aggression to bend others to their viewpoints. I make it a point to inform all my sceptical, non-Muslim acquaintances that such force-imbued practices have been condemned, outright, by the beloved Founder (s) of my faith. This aspect of my thinking usually puts me at odds with both ultra-conservatives and leftist radicals, who religiously abhor following the middle course in their terse affairs. And as I have often stated in some of my written works, I take no pride in making these revelations or deriving from them some sense of smug entitlement which enables me to raise my voice upon touchy cultural subjects.

Take the recent bout of unconfirmed reports regarding the launch of an adult shop in Makkah, the de-facto holiest site for reverence in Islam. As is true for all people who love to expend considerable lengths of time on unearthing and deliberating upon ‘juicy’ scandals of a usually fowl nature (and subsequently in condemning ideologies that they believe to promote such travesties), the Pakistani blogosphere has been up in arms over the opportunity to further their condemnation of the nationals of one Saudi Arabia, for their recent trespass into the domain of what the liberal pundits construe to be a terrain ‘unholy’ and an endeavour laced with double-standards.

But what, dare I ask, is so sinful about sex, particularly from an Islamic perspective, that the mere thought of an adult shop opening in Makkah is so fraught with tension, and insecurity?

Why, pray tell, does the issue invoke so much controversy among the largely Muslim masses, when the subject of sex post-marriage (its allowances and prohibitions) has so extensively been dealt with in the Prophetic traditions and scholarly exegeses, since the formative years of Islam itself?

Last I heard, physical intimacy had been actively propagated in Islamic teachings, as an obvious step towards strengthening the conjugal bond in a properly sanctioned Islamic union. Celibacy, as the practice had been endorsed by many individuals and movements throughout the course of history, and as it is still formally observed by some today, has in contrast been discouraged in Islam.

In defence of such an injunction, the usual (yet still logical) arguments defending the continuity of the species, satisfaction of innate animalistic desires, and the consequent positive impact on the society at large, come to mind. And in advocating for apologists (an activity I rarely indulge in, unsurprisingly), I have to admit that I happen to agree somewhat with such assertions.

I, for one, do not believe in criminalising sex for the act as it stands (no pun intended), in cases where all religious dictates pertaining to the said issue have been thoroughly adhered to by the practicing parties. As such, it is the private matter of individuals who would lawfully engage in it, and consequently, nobody else’s business.

Should an adult shop ever be opened in a densely populated and sensitive Muslim congregational hub like Makkah?

It should be the people’s choice (and theirs alone) to make purchases from the said retailer, without the threat of incurring any form of threats or being subjected to humiliation from others. I cannot, in all sincerity, see any reason why some people should be so overwhelmingly concerned about others’ shopping preferences, other’s sexual activities within wedlock in particular.

The adult shop should be treated as any other sales venue, albeit one which seeks to cater to demands that are natural. The inauguration of any such site, which purports to sell sex-related paraphernalia, should only be considered ‘blasphemous’ by those in possession of a perverse mentality.

It is this mentality, then, which should in all respects be considered criminal; as it is one which seeks to confine natural impulses recognised by faith, and decry them as something to be repulsed, as something sinful.

Komayal Hassan

Komayal Hassan

A writer, blogger, social critic and a cultural non-conformist with a penchant for poking in just about everything. The author is a political science and English major from Forman Christian College and a closet high-achiever.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.