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The Views about Sex in the Countries of the Middle East

Middle Eastern nations have a lot of special norms about sex. Those norms encourage the controlling role of males in the society. A lot of traditions are practiced there like the excessive discrimination against women. Most people might think that Islam encourages violence against women in Muslim countries, but it’s the traditions. Surprisingly, Islam is open to sex (AbuKhalil, 2000). The goal of this manifesto is to show the special views that Middle Eastern people have about sexuality. These views have an influence on their behaviors and even their laws.

However, this manifesto won’t criticize Islam in anyway. And that’s because it gives Muslims decent teachings about sex. The Views about Sex in the Middle East The Idea of women sexuality in the Middle East is primarily influenced by the notion of “Honor” or “Sharaf” (in Arabic). There are two types of honor. The first type is related to both genders especially males. It “can be attained through family reputation, hospitality, generosity, chivalry, and to some degree, socioeconomic status or political power” (Zuhur, 2005, p. 14). The second type of honor is the reputation.

It’s called “Sharaf” and sometimes “Ardh” (in Arabic). Ardh is related to women’s sexual activities. A woman loses her honor by having a sexual relationship outside marriage. Committing illegitimate sex doesn’t just mean that a woman will lose her honor, but it also affects the family and maybe even the entire clan. The biggest crime that a woman can commit is getting pregnant from an illegitimate sexual relationship (Zuhur, 2005, p. 14). In order to understand the violations that people in the Middle East commit against Islam’s teachings, “Shari’ah” must be understood first.

Shari’ah is the “Islamic law” (Zuhur, 2005, p. 9). “The crime of adultery or fornication is one of the seven serious crimes in shari’ah” (Zuhur, 2005, p. 9). According to shari’ah, if the person who commits adultery is unmarried, his/her penalty must be 100 lashes (Ruggi. n. d. ). If the person who committed adultery is married, he must be stoned to death. This penalty is called “Hadd”. Hadd cannot be applied without having witnesses who saw the sexual encounter (Zuhur, 2005, p. 19-20). The number of required witnesses is 4, and they must be males only (“Homosexuality in Islam”, 2009).

Traditions affect people’s thoughts about sex, and that makes them violate the teachings of Islam. A common social phenomenon is “Honor Crimes”. Honor killing means “the execution of a female family member for perceived misuse of her sexuality” (Ruggi, n. d. ). Murders occur even if the evidence is weak like saying (falsely) that a certain female committed adultery even without a proof. Honor killings consist a large number of murder cases in the Arab world. For example, about 70% of the murder cases that occur in Palestine every year are honor killings (Dunne, n. d. ).

Honor killing is a serious violation to shari’ah because of four reasons: First reason, the only punishment for adultery is Hadd; a murder cannot be an alternative to stoning and beating cannot be an alternative to whipping. Second reason, punishing someone who commits adultery is the government’s job (as conservative Muslims themselves claim). If the government doesn’t apply Hadd, that doesn’t mean that an individual can (Zuhur, 2005, p. 25) Third reason, the evidence must be strong (4 male witnesses) (“Homosexuality in Islam”, 2009) Fourth reason, Islam encourages people to assume that a fornicator is innocent (Zuhur, 2005, p.

21). In addition to the strict traditions, the lack of legal protection for women encourages families to commit honor killings. Jordanian Journalist, Rana Husseini, studied the phenomenon of honor killings in Jordan. She believes that “Honor killings are part of a culture, not a religion” (Cuomo, n. d. ). Husseini found out that more than 30% of murder cases in Jordan are honor killings. The reason for this high ratio is that the murderer can be protected by the law in some cases. Usually the family sends a young member (under 18) to commit the crime.

In Jordan, people who are under 18 are considered minors and cannot be sent to prison. The murderer can have a normal life inside a “juvenile center” until he is released at the age of 18 (Cuomo, n. d. ). The Penal Codes in the Middle East show discrimination between genders. Abu Odeh (2000) made a study on the Penal Codes in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan to find how males who commit honor killings are protected. She discovered that some articles in these codes are borrowed from the “pre-1975 French code”. She also noticed the influence of the “Ottoman code” on these Penal Codes.

For example, the “1960 Jordanian Penal Code” didn’t put any charges on a man who murders any of his “lawfuls” on suspicion of adultery. This Penal Code was influenced by the “Ottoman Penal Code of 1858”. The Ottoman Penal Code back then was concerned about the idea of “mahram” and “maharim” in Islam rather than wives only (Zuhur, 2005, p. 25). Zuhur (2005) defines mahram and maharim as follows: A mahram is a male relative, such as a brother, father, uncle, or son, who may view a woman without her outer modesty garments, have access to the family quarters or area of

a home, and act as guardian/protector of a woman’s honor when she travels. The maharim are all of a man’s female relatives, who are so closely related to him that he is forbidden to marry them). (25-6) Another example is the “Lebanese Penal Code”. If a man kills his female relative after seeing her having sex with a strange man, his penalty will be reduced. This Penal Code is influenced by the “French Penal Code” that was passed in 1810 (Zuhur, 2005, p. 26). There are a lot of controversies about how Islam deals with rape cases, and that’s because accusing someone of rape without a proof is considered “Qadhf”.

In Islam, “Qadhf” means accusing someone of committing an illegitimate sexual activity (Sodom or adultery) without having a proof (Zuhur, 2005, p. 21). Nobody can be punished for Sodom or adultery without having 4 male witnesses (“Homosexuality and Islam”, 2009). Unfortunately, many people can take an advantage of that in rape cases. It’s not easy to find witnesses in such cases. Many humanitarians may see this as a harsh law in Islam because a man can easily rape a woman without being afraid of a penalty. But one must remember that the evidence must be strong in rape cases.

There are many Islam schools or “madhahib”. Those schools classified sexual assault as a “hiraba” crime. A Hiraba crime is any type of crime that causes “public disruption”. Hiraba crimes can include attacking people, attacking their private properties, or destroying their production assets like farms. Some Islamic experts suggest considering sexual assault as a “theft of the sexual organs, which should be reserved for a woman’s husband”. But that’s just a theory. In Islam, the legitimate way to detect the rapist is to force him to swear to tell the truth.

Another way is to push him to confess 4 times. If the rapist (or the suspect) denies the accusations the woman will be punished for committing qadhf. (Zuhur, 2005, p. 33-4). Sex education is a priority, but it’s opposed by the social norms in the Middle East. It is considered a controversial issue, but in most cases it’s forbidden to talk about it. In the late 1990’s, there were debates about providing sex education for Egyptian students in schools. Experts welcomed the idea because it would help to “ward off the growing sex-related misinformation among teenagers”.

Conservatives objected on that and claimed that sex education is not appropriate for Egyptian students. They particularly rejected the way that sex education is presented in western countries (Mahmoud & Gado, 1998). It’s easy to find TV shows and websites that talk about sexuality in western countries. But in the Middle East, promoting for sex information is considered a threat to community. A contemporary controversial personality in Egypt is the sexologist “Dr. Heba Kotb”. In 2007, she shocked the region after the debut of her show, “Serious Talk”, on an Egyptian TV channel called “Al Mehwar” (not a national TV channel). Dr.

Heba Kotb was discussing “topics usually unthinkable within conservative Arab societies: different sexual positions, the female orgasm and problems such as impotence — all with an Islamic perspective”. Hundreds of thousands of viewers were sending angry messages to her after each episode. Dr. Heba Kotb declared that talking about sex isn’t wrong as long as it is “it is within marriage”. She frequently invited experts to her show for discussions. Surprisingly, Dr. Kotb says that Qur’an provides good explanation of sex. Also, “Kotb believes that more than 80 percent of divorces in the Arab world are caused by sexual problems”.

Such program with such idea wouldn’t go by without being criticized. One of the notable critics was “Sheikh Youssef al-Badri”. He accused Dr. Kotb’s show of promoting for perverseness in the Muslim society (FOX News Network, 2007). In the west, books that talk about sex fill book stores. But in a country like the United Arab Emirates, those books are considered sinful even if they are for sex information. A controversial figure there is author “Widad Loutah”. She used to work in “Dubai’s Family Court”. Her controversial book, “The Elements of Intimacy”, was published in January 2009.

The book tries to show readers that “many of the couples would not have had to turn to the courts had they received correct sex education prior to and during marriage”. Unfortunately, many people accused her of insulting and despising religious beliefs (The Media Line News Agency, 2009). Homosexuality is unacceptable behavior in Islam and in Middle Eastern culture. Qur’an condemned Sodom and considered it a sinful behavior. Qur’an talks about the story of prophet “Lut”. Sodom was the common sexual activity in his town. Lut warned them from the wrath of God but they didn’t listen to him.

As a result, God destroyed their town: (We also sent) Lut (as an apostle): behold, He said to his people, “Do ye do what is shameful though ye see (its iniquity)? Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant! But his people gave no other answer but this: they said, “Drive out the followers of Lut from your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure! ” But We saved him and his family, except his wife; her We destined to be of those who lagged behind. And We rained down on

them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! (Qur’an 27:54-58) Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) ordered Muslims to kill any man who commits homosexuality (Al-Fawzaan, n. d. ). But Qur’an and prophet Mohammad (PBUH) never mentioned a penalty for lesbianism (Al-Munajjid, 2009). Shaykh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid (2009) says that lesbianism doesn’t have a penalty in Islam because it doesn’t involve a sexual intercourse like adultery or homosexuality. However, he says that lesbianism is rather “be punished with a ta’zeer punishment”.

Ta’zeer in Islam is a penalty that is applied to prevent people from committing a certain sin (Al-Munajjid, 2009). Sometimes people and even governments in the Middle East commit excessive actions toward homosexuals. For example, the Turkish Penal Code doesn’t criminalize homosexuality. However, Turkish police is famous for abusing “gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals”. Muslims should not punish anyone with a method that is not mentioned in Islam teachings (Zuhur, 2005, p. 33-4). Conclusion Middle Eastern societies took the teachings of Islam and blended them with their social norms.

Western people might find Islamic penalties for illegitimate sexual activities very abusive. But in real life, those penalties are very hard to apply because they require strict conditions (Ruggi, n. d. ). Also, Islam itself encourages exempting people from penalties. This manifesto showed the huge difference between Islam teachings and people’s behaviors in the Middle East. References AbuKhalil, A. (2000). Women in the Middle East. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www. fpif. org/briefs/vol5/v5n30women_body. html Al-Fawzaan, A. (n. d. ). The Evil Sin of Homosexuality.

Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://www. loadislam. com/ artical_det. php? artical_id=383&section=family_society&subsection=Social+Problems Al-Munajjid, M. S. (2009). The punishment for lesbianism. Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://islamqa. com/en/ref/21058 Cuomo, K. K. (n. d. ). Rana Husseini. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from http://www. pbs. org/speaktruthtopower/rana. html Dunne, B. (n. d. ). Power and Sexuality in the Middle East. Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://www. merip. org/mer/mer206/bruce. htm FOX News Network, LLC. (2007). Muslim Sexologist Spices Up Arab Television. Retrieved

April 22, 2009, from http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,247821,00. html Homosexuality and Islam. (2009). Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://www. religionfacts. com/homosexuality/islam. htm Mahmoud, K. , Gado, S. (1998). Meager sex education brings divorce and disease. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from http://www. metimes. com/1998/12/04/ meager_sex_education_brings_divorce_and_disease___/6409/ Ruggi, S. (n. d. ). Commodifying Honor in Female Sexuality: Honor Killings in Palestine. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://www. merip. org/mer/mer206/ruggi. htm Surah 27. An-Naml (The Ant, The Ants). (2006).

Retrieved April 23, 2009, from http://www. harunyahya. com/Quran_translation/Quran_translation27. php The Media Line News Agency. (2009). Sex Education Book Causes Furor in UAE. Retrieved April 22, 2009, from http://www. jpost. com/servlet/Satellite? pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ ShowFull&cid=1235410725949 Zuhur, Sherifa. (2005). Gender, Sexuality and the Criminal Laws in the Middle East and North Africa: A Comparative Study. Istanbul: Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR). Retrieved April 21, 2009, from Women for Women’s Human Rights (WWHR): http://www. wwhr. org/images

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