Reading Arianna's post on the conflict she feels about young girls' sexuality in the modern age (and how it relates to her teenage daughter) made me think about the issue of how our culture of sex relates to the clash between West and East, or more specifically between Western values and Muslim ones. At first it may seem irrelevant to the issue since it's an American discussion, but if Americans, enlightened or not, are concerned with the culture of sex, and judging by the comments on Arianna's post it seems they are, then we should pause and think about how our culture, a culture we desperately want the rest of the world to emulate, is viewed by others.
George Bush has made 'freedom' in the developing world (well, Muslim world) a priority and a hallmark of his presidency, and if it means we have to go to war with "freedom-hating" folks, code word for Muslims who disagree with us, then so be it. When war and conflict between the West and the Muslim world occurs, some instinctively think "Clash of Civilizations": Islam vs. the Judeo-Christian West. Samuel P. Huntington coined the phrase in 1993, way before any clash arrived on our doorstep. Norman Mailer has described it 'Islam versus Moolah'. And a few years before 9/11, Benjamin R. Barber titled his book "Jihad vs. McWorld", a bestseller that appears to have benefited by the post-9/11 surge in interest in the word jihad. Norman and Benjamin have it right, in a way, in that the fight isn't between Islam and Christianity or Islam and Judaism, but between Islamic societies and our Western culture, which in Mailer's view is a post-Christian society. But it's not all about the moolah, or the materialism that that implies. Materialism may be the highest good in our society, but sex is a close second. Jihad vs. McSex might be a more appropriate catchphrase.
Many books and essays have been written about Islam and a clash with the West since 9/11, and it seems that every year new opinions spew forth from the bestseller tables and the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble and the like. We clearly want to understand this clash of civilizations. Interestingly, the only ones not weighing in on the argument are those who actually bring us the fight, i.e. the terrorists themselves, but I suppose they don't have agents. But what almost everyone ignores or minimizes is the impact of sex as it relates to the clash. Perhaps Muslim modesty, whether on the part of those out to fight us or those who would deny any ill-will doesn't allow for its mention, and as Westerners we are so accustomed to our sexual attitudes and liberties that we are simply blind to it as an issue of any real relevance. Many of us may bemoan globalization and dislike being confronted by a Starbucks or McDonalds in Marrakech, so it's easy to identify with those (and we sometimes wrongly assume that they are many) in non-Western societies who resent the same; but most of us like sex and find Islamic attitudes towards it baffling, if we even bother to understand them. Some commentators and authors do mention sex, but often as an afterthought, specifically in relation to why "they" hate us. Something along the lines of "oh yeah, and they're offended by our sexual liberties", or, "they don't want to allow their women freedom." But clearly even the enlightened amongst us have an issue with sexual freedom for their underage daughters.
Sex has become a large part of what we call our culture, and we may not be fully aware of the fact that it is a prime export, appearing to be both welcome and unwelcome at the same time in many parts of the Muslim world. We like to think of those who welcome sex as commodity, in the form of television, movies, music, literature and advertising as being the liberated, healthy and westernized Muslims and those who reject it as the backward, almost medieval religious fanatics who would deny a man's and a woman's right to enjoyment and sexuality. Of course we actually don't think about it in terms of sex, we think of it in terms of freedom. In the war in Iraq, a newly "liberated" Iraqi man said what he wanted now was "democracy, whiskey, sexy!" Right on! That we can understand and will provide happily. It's what the Shia and Sunni fundamentalists want that we don't understand.
Unlike most Muslim societies, we don't believe that sex should be regulated much, and in the past forty years or so we have progressively become more permissive in our attitudes towards sex and public displays of sexuality. Ostensibly as recognition (in our enlightened state) of the natural and healthy interest in sex, recognition that women can and should be men's equals in appetite and desire, and of course "freedom", we are promoting a culture where the definition of pornography and vulgarity is often blurred to ourselves, let alone a foreign culture. Teenage American girls, it appears, no longer even think of oral sex as sex. (Boys, however, probably still do.) But foreign cultures, and particularly those Islamic, have a real fear of our sexual mores penetrating their societies. In a fatwa issued by a senior Iraqi cleric (Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, then living in Qom, Iran) a day before Baghdad fell, what was most noted by the media was its rejection of an American presence in Iraq. Less noticed were the reasons given why: namely that if the U.S. stays in Iraq "...it will try to spread moral decay, incite lust by allowing easy access to stimulating satellite channels and spread debauchery to weaken people's faith". Wow, lust and debauchery; not Starbucks and McDonalds. Interestingly, al-Haeri's fatwa was unusual in its tone; most clerics don't often mention sex (or sexual liberties), rather they prefer to include it as an unmentioned "ill" of Western society. And by Western, they mean American. European culture, which may be as overtly sexual in nature as the American (or maybe even more), is rarely a threat because European countries are seen as woefully weak and far less able or even willing to export their culture of debauchery.
In examining this clash of civilizations, often the only aspect of sex discussed is the oppression of women by Islam, and it usually leads to discussions of the liberation of those women by us. There are those in the media who discuss a clash in terms of blame (for terrorism) on one side or the other, from the Islamophobe Ann Coulter who once suggested that we conquer and convert the Muslims, to the peace-loving Gore Vidal who prefers to blame American foreign policy. I suppose the Ann Coulters of the world think that if only everyone were Christian there would be no clash between anyone, ignoring the fact that Christians have killed more of each other (and attempted to eliminate the entire race of Jews) than this clash will ever kill. Fittingly, Howard Stern opined after 9/11 that we should just nuke a Muslim country, any Muslim country, which I guess is easier than considering the effects of the debauchery he promotes every day, and might even teach them to appreciate a good blow job. Oriana Fallaci, in her most racist ramblings after 9/11 declared that Islam simply hates women, and ignored the fact that Muslims think that we hate women because of the way that we portray them. The Gore Vidals of the world are not wrong in examining the effects of American foreign policy, policies that are often foremost on the minds of everyone in the world with the exception of, of course, Americans. But it is not the only issue on the minds of the Muslims of the world, and it is pretty much universally recognized by Muslims that U.S. foreign policy is damaging to the entire Third World and not just them. However, even amongst those who don't apportion direct blame, sex is rarely, if ever mentioned. What does often come up in the media is the notion that the clash is a Muslim reaction to endangerment by modern technology and capitalism, which is patently untrue if one knows any Muslims at all. Bernard Lewis, scholar, writer and one of the most respected (except by Arabs) Orientalists in the West, believes that modernization is at the heart of this clash; that is, the Muslims' rejection of modernity and a preference for the purity of the past. Of course Mr. Lewis spends most of his time in Princeton and not in Muslim lands so he may not really know that Muslims don't reject modernization wholesale: they simply reject aspects of it, say internet porn, that cannot fit in to their view of good society. But leaving aside that issue for now and issues of colonial exploitation and notions of Western imperialism, cultural hegemony is part of what defines this clash, and the culture we're talking about is the culture of sex.
Those who argue that there is a very real clash between Islam and the West can point to 9/11 as the ultimate proof that they're right. After all, nineteen Muslims attacked America in the name of Islam. And it was an unprovoked attack as far as they're concerned, much like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which wasn't undertaken in the name of Shinto Buddhism. The only mention of sex that appeared in our media immediately following the attacks was in the form of mocking the terrorists' erroneous (according to many Muslim scholars) belief that they were about to be met by seventy-two virgins in paradise. Each. It was never clear why this was such a relevant piece of information other than to point out how crazy the terrorists were. But defense lawyers for those arrested in connection with Islamic terrorism since have not suggested copping insanity pleas. "Your honor, my client expected 72 virgins as reward for his deeds. I rest my case." In reality, the belief in being welcomed in paradise by virgins is not much different from belief in rapture, and there are plenty of Americans who are counting the days.
For the terrorists and their supporters 9/11 certainly did herald a clash of civilizations, and boy, what a clash: the ultimate Muslim pre-emptive strike that left us shocked and perhaps even awed. But what to them defined the fight? Why is America the enemy? Is it because they want to stop McWorld, is it because they want to reverse American foreign policy or is it simply because they are fundamentalist Muslims and it is therefore by definition their obligation to kill Christians and Jews? There are those who say that there isn't really a clash with Islam and point to candlelight vigils in Tehran and Cairo days after the 11th of September '01. President Musharraf of Pakistan, who has no interest in promoting a clash (he has bigger issues with the Hindus of India) can even claim that actions speak louder than words, for after September 11th he allied his very Muslim civilization not with his Pashtun brethren the Taliban but with the infidels of the West. Clash? What Clash? And what about that Iraqi man on the street who said that all he wants are "democracy, whiskey, sexy", a statement which is, after all, an affirmation of our values?
There have been clashes between Christianity and Islam in the past, most notably the Moorish invasion of southern Europe and the Christian Crusades to the Holy Land, which seemed to be about religion, money, and power. But despite those wars and the occasional pogrom, Christians, Jews and Muslims have lived (and managed to survive) in the Middle East for millennia. Granted, in the Muslim world you could never be too Christian or too Jewish, but there has always been an understanding that there are those who follow those religions (and Muslims recognize Moses and Jesus as true prophets of Allah) and need not necessarily be killed for it, for they will surely burn in hell in the afterlife for not accepting Mohammad as the last prophet, or Messiah. Across the Middle East, from Lebanon to Iran and across North Africa there have always been large Christian and Jewish communities. Culturally the minorities, whether Jewish, Armenian, Coptic, Protestant or Catholic, have always fit in because although different in religious thought they have all been part of a greater Middle Eastern culture. The President of Lebanon is always a Christian, as was Yasser Arafat's wife (she broke down and converted to Islam) and as is former Vice President Tariq Aziz of Iraq, but they are surely Arabs and culturally little different from their Muslim countrymen. To some Muslims, if you want a real clash of religions, just examine the Judeo-Christian clash, from the murder of Rabbi Jesus to the incineration of six million Semites only sixty years ago. Islam may be clashing with the West, but it's not clashing with Christianity or even Judaism, as much as some may be tempted to define it that way.
Indeed, Christians and Jews have in the past been tolerated in the Middle East including what is now Saudi Arabia and Yemen, if for no other reason than their being purveyors of fine liquor, which as any good Moslem knows, is a sin to drink but a much bigger sin to distribute. Not unlike like the dealer/consumer equation in American drug culture. In the early days of Islam it became policy in Mecca and Medina, not agreed to by all theologians of the time, that the Jews of Arabia be relocated to other parts of the Arab world rather than have them sully the holy cities of Islam. (For Al Qaeda today, Westerners in general have replaced the once native Jews as defilers.) And in fact, that is what happened to many Arabian Jews: forced emigration to other Arab lands such as what is now Syria, Jerusalem (well it used to be Arab) and Lebanon, which, unfair and devastating as it was, did not terminate with gas chambers. The Yemeni Jews were mostly spared this mass expulsion because there were no holy spots in what is now Yemen but the creation of Israel much later did give Yemenis the excuse to be rid of their Jews. Saudis and Yemenis, though, are not pre-disposed to invasion, conquest or even the conversion of peoples of other faiths, or at least they haven't been for fourteen centuries. As far as some are concerned, there had better be Christians and Jews around or how else will they drink, have sex outside marriage, or bank their money? (Interest, which is considered usury, is forbidden in Islam although today there are Islamic banks that have complicated structures for paying "dividends" without falling afoul of Islamic law.) The Saudis and Yemenis today may prefer to partake of Western culture only when in the West and their own culture is still the most hidden of the Middle East, but it doesn't mean that they're spoiling for a fight. Even the poor and disenfranchised of Saudi Arabia don't care if there are Christians and Jews, just as long as they're not on the peninsula and able to influence or penetrate their (strict Islamic) culture too deeply. And yes, many Muslim countries have laws against proselytizing for conversion of Muslims to Christianity or any other religion (the bane of missionaries and in some cases resulting in their death sentence), but it is rarely pointed out that Israel, which we view as us in the region, has a law against proselytizing for the conversion from Judaism. Well, I guess we all hate proselytizers.
The Saudi Osama bin Laden, neither poor nor disenfranchised (although his followers are mostly one or the other or both) has never suggested that all Jews and Christians be killed. Even recently he hasn't put forth the idea that Belgians or Swedes should be put to death, or for that matter Nigerians or Ethiopians, not even Ethiopian Jews; only Americans. Over time his demands were, first, get the heathen atheist infidels out of Afghanistan (we loved that one), second, Americans must leave the Arabian peninsula, and third and most recent, Palestinians must have their homeland. Granted, his vision of a Palestinian homeland negates the existence of Israel, a position to the right of Hamas and Fatah. But in some ways, one can view Osama's original positions, prior to his declaration of war on America and her citizens, as those of avoiding a fight. He just wanted us to just go away. But why did he want us to go away? Why do his supporters want us to go away? Why do so many Muslims worry about the influence of our civilization on their culture, a civilization that we're so proud of and so eagerly want to bring to them? It's not that they don't like our Bepsis and Bizza Huts (there is no "p" sound in Arabic) and it's certainly not that they don't like our Smith & Wessons, F-18As or computers. The French have more of a loathing for all those aspects of our culture (particularly McDonalds) than any Muslim does and despite recent friction, we don't think of ourselves at war with them. At least not with guns and bombs. The Arabs know all about science and technology, having discovered their uses, and capitalism is no stranger to the Middle East. The prophet Mohammad and many of his compatriots benefited from capitalism and Arab traders and merchants (including Jewish and Christian ones) have always been known throughout the world. Neither capitalism nor even materialism has ever been under attack in the Muslim world, whereas communism, that which denies Allah, always has. Which is why the few communists around in Islamic lands have employed the oxymoronic term 'Islamic Marxism'. (Try to imagine Karl Marx praying to Allah five times a day in a London flat). Al Qaeda uses computers, cell phones, satellite phones, faxes, tapes, video and every weapon they can lay their hands on with absolutely no qualms that the technology is Western. No, it's not that those aspects of our civilization are the problem or cause of a clash; it's the problem of the sexual aspect of our culture influencing Islamic societies' culture.
The problem is relatively recent. A half-century ago sexual mores were not dissimilar across the planet. Sure, the French always had mistresses and lovers and yes, the Roaring Twenties offered the decadence of sexual liberty in Europe and America, but there was a public and private face to sexual matters, and at least publicly the West and the East were on par. Prior to the middle of the twentieth century, it didn't matter much anyway, because travel was so limited that societies could essentially remain ignorant of each other and cultural security was guaranteed. The colonial powers' presence in Muslim lands (and I mean the Middle East, not Africa or Asia), had the effect of creating a mimicry of European culture amongst the native upper classes which was notable in its lack of a sexual culture, and had hardly an effect on the masses except for when the odd manservant was called upon to service the lady of the house (or the man of the house) beyond his job description. But since the colonials had little taste for native women (perhaps because they were largely unseen), their sexual appetites and attitudes were invisible and of no threat to a nation at large. Because of the public face of sexuality in the West and because the concept of chastity was similar in both East and West, it was simply assumed that Western men and women held the same attitudes towards sex as the Muslims. The sexual tenets of the Koran are little different than those of the Bible or Old Testament (which Muslims know well); however, while Christians and Jews in the West have in the past century largely moved away from religious dogma with regards to sex, Muslims have tended to do quite the opposite, which in recent years may be as a reaction to Western cultural infiltration.
Pious Muslims may, much like Christian Evangelists or ultra-orthodox Jews, view women as good if they are chaste and bad if they are wanton. Muslims in general, though, can be overly protective of chastity and a woman's modesty which they feel protects them from being seen as mere sexual objects: the very worst thing that they can be. A woman is a mother, sister, wife or daughter and not the object of every man's fantasy. The worst swear words in Arabic and in Farsi (used equally by Christians and Jews) are ones that disparage a mother or a sister's chastity. In Farsi, the Persian language spoken by Iranians and Afghanis, "khar-kosteh", literally "your sister fucks", is an insult without peer. And to a Westerner, simply a statement of fact. In Arabic, "kus-umak", literally "your mother's vagina" and meaning "one fucks your mother" is a much stronger statement than "mother-fucker", which has no real equivalent in the language of a people who have little knowledge of the Greek tragedies.
It is difficult to imagine the effect of our sexual culture on the Middle Easterner without understanding some of the rules of Islamic societies that are followed by and strongly believed in by most men and many women (to the horror of Western feminists). An important rule is that to ensure that a woman remains chaste and free from male harassment, she is naturally limited in her behavior, including dress, in the presence of men. Chastity still holds great significance in almost all Muslim societies, not unlike Western societies of the recent past. Even today, plastic surgeons in Tehran do a good business in repairing the broken hymen of women who are about to get married, and perhaps that sounds bizarre or even laughable, but it is a practice that is not unknown in Los Angeles as well, home to a large expatriate Iranian community where the illusion of chastity is sometimes preferred to the reality of pre-marital sex. Chastity is all-important, but Islam does not, however, deny a woman's right to sexual enjoyment. It simply limits her enjoyment to the absolute privacy of one partner, also not unlike Western cultural norms of the past. (Contrary to the belief of some in the West, the practice of female circumcision is almost unknown in the Arab world; it is an ancient African custom in some societies, including the Muslem Sudan and the African southern Egypt, but has no basis in Islam. Those societies may wish to deny women the possibility of sexual enjoyment as a guarantee of chastity, but Islam itself mandates no such restriction and indeed, guarantees sexual enjoyment for women by authorizing a woman's divorce on the basis of unfulfilled sexual needs). Up until the middle of the last century, the rules of Islamic societies were not seen as a problem or even a barrier to progress in the Middle East. Yes, the Muslim world saw Western advances in technology, science and medicine but it did not drive them batty as some have suggested, out of some sense of loss of pride that they were falling behind. Arabs don't spend much time agonizing or pouting over the fact that they came up with the concepts of zero, algebra, astronomy or any other science only to watch the West run with them; rather, they only mention those facts as an answer to those who question whether their societies are naturally inferior to the West, and it is patronizing to suggest otherwise. Since the last half century, however, with modern communication, travel and now globalization, all products of the West and emblematic of progress, the Muslim world has also seen an infiltration of evolving sexual mores that is potentially destructive to their societies. Far more destructive than the hamburger or the soft drink or even liquor, for it has the potential to change everything they believe in as good. To the Muslim man and many women, western magazines, advertising, music, movies, satellite television and increasingly the Internet reinforce the notion that their young women are in danger of being corrupted and turned into sexual objects. Although it may sound perverse to some, the idea is that portrayal of women as sexual objects leads to other women becoming exactly that. In all Middle Eastern societies, even the least permissive, the pervasiveness of Western imagery of women and liberal Western sexual attitudes is clearly apparent and a subject of despair amongst the masses. Travel to the West by some of the local population only reinforces the idea that the West is obsessed with sex, an obsession that is also clearly shared by some Muslims such as the Iraqi who insistently wanted "sexy" as part of his liberation from the regime of Saddam Hussein. But to Muslim societies, if this is progress and freedom, then many are happier left behind. The overwhelming support in Iraq for fundamentalist Shia political parties and even for Sharia, despite the opportunity for western-style secular democracy, is evidence of this.
Both culturally and from a religious standpoint, there is a major difference between Middle Eastern and current Western beliefs about sex and behavior. The pious Muslim believes that temptation is a sin, but if tempted, he might be unable to control himself. That is the nature of man, the imperfection of man, and even the will of Allah. That is why there are prohibitions and rules of behavior passed down by Him through his messenger Mohammed and set forth in the Koran. Remove temptation from society and that will allow man to be good. Consuming alcohol used to lead to very bad behavior of the rape and pillaging kind, so it was proscribed. Reveal women's bodies and men will leer, harass or worse, rape them. Reveal men's bodies and women will start thinking about sex. The more revealing a woman's body the more the temptation hence the more concealed the better. And bathing suits, t-shirts or shorts for men in the presence of women is a big no-no. Some Muslim societies are comfortable with a headscarf and modest clothes for women, trousers and long-sleeved shirts for men, others such as the Saudi or Afghan prefer to completely conceal any vestige of a woman's femininity lest a man be tempted by the flicker of an eyelash. Western notions have evolved to a point where temptation is not an issue. In the West, men and women are expected to be able to control themselves, are expected to not give in to temptation no matter how openly they are tempted. And those who do, do, but what's the big deal? We're a liberated lot, after all, and who cares if we watch prime-time reality television shows where young women compete for the chance to have sex with a handsome and eligible young man? That doesn't mean that our daughters will do the same. Who cares if music videos portray teenage girls as sex objects, or worse, ho's? They're not our daughters.
There are also some Western misconceptions as to Islamic attitudes towards sex. The primary one being our notion that allowing a man four wives is indicative of some Moslem men's depravity and misogyny. In fact, Islam is quite clear on this issue despite our fantasies of a harem (not that they didn't or don't exist). Islam dictates that a married man may take more than one wife under the following conditions: first, he should attempt to marry a war widow, and if there are none, a widow. This was probably thought up because in the sixth century there were many war widows due to man's proclivity for battle, and they (and widows in general) in Mohammad's time might have been unable to support themselves financially. Without re-marrying into the security of a family, some may even have had to resort to prostitution, Allah forbid. Second, he must receive the permission of his first wife, and if he has more, each successive wife's permission. This was to ensure harmony in the house, although that may have been rather too optimistic. Third, he must be able to fully financially support all his wives and their offspring equally. This may have been to prevent the shiftless from marrying until they found a woman who could support them. And finally, he must be able to fulfill his conjugal duties with each and every wife. It is on the basis of this last requirement that Mohammad probably decided four was enough. A Muslim woman has the right to sexual enjoyment with her husband and the Muslim man has the obligation to participate, so let's not put too much of a strain on the poor fellow. The harem of old (meaning "forbidden, that is, to other men), was simply the part of the house that women occupied and probably not the scene of orgies. Western painters and their mimics in the East were probably indulging their own fantasies in depicting sensual scenes of harems, although undoubtedly things did occasionally happen when a bunch of often bored women gathered to bathe in the presence of handsome eunuchs. (It is not generally accepted though that lesbians really exist in the Middle East; perhaps that's why in Persian the word for female homosexuality translates as "same-sex playing".) But the Muslim man would summon a wife to his own rooms to fulfill his conjugal duty, and think about it, with four wives acquired over the years, would there be a need for prostitutes or couples' therapy? Well, maybe yes, times four, but psychoanalysis hadn't been invented in Mohammad's time. Variety is the sumac of life, as they might say. And as for misogynistic attitudes having a basis in Islam, one mustn't forget that Khadijah, the prophet's wife, was a widow whose successful business financially supported her husband and the spread of Islam. Today, after the fall of the Taliban, there are virtually no Muslim societies that prohibit women from business ventures or from making a living (such as becoming a doctor). Of course as long as the businesses and occupations are in keeping with Islamic decency. It's always been about maintaining a sexual decorum, or decency, in traditional Muslim societies. Anything or any behavior that may lead to licentiousness is either banned or frowned upon. Music, for example, is not itself banned, but the reason hard-core Islamic societies such as Iran and Afghanistan had such a problem with music was that it could encourage dancing which is in its nature sensual. And dancing between men and women, well, we've all been to discos. Of course certain lyrics could also encourage bad behavior, so instrumentals are preferred if there's to be any music at all. Tipper Gore might agree with that one.
But let's return to the terrorists of 9/11. Upon discovery that some of them had visited a strip club only days before the hijackings, some in the Western media suggested hypocrisy on their part: here they were, supposedly pious Muslims, drinking alcohol and ogling naked women and about to attack America in the name of Islam. But the act of visiting a strip club, even of having a lap-dance or two, was in all probability a way of 'psyching up' for their mission. What better way to affirm that the beast must be slain than to visit him in his den? How else to prove that a society is so low, so debased? Lust and debauchery, indeed. No doubt they were tempted, but by Allah, they left the club quickly, lest their temptation be overwhelming, and not because of any guilt. They marched out into the Florida night true soldiers of Islam, jihadis all, confident in their survival of the struggle (jihad) against temptation and with the knowledge that they would be rewarded with the presence of lap-dancers not in this life, but in the next. And, the targets they picked, the phallic Twin Towers, the Pentagon with the hole in the middle and the breast-shaped Capitol were certainly strategic choices but nonetheless offered, subliminally or not, an irresistible image to these particular Muslims. Did they hate women, sex, themselves, or all three? Or was it that they hated Western representation of sex?
So how will the clash of civilizations be resolved? Will Britney Spears have to cover her midriff lest a satellite image of it is picked up in Jeddah? Will J-Lo have to wear a chador to cover her shapely bottom lest men in Tehran think the shape of their wives' behinds are in danger of exposure and for the neighbors to see? Will Snoop Dog, 50 Cent and legions of rap artists have to stop talking about fucking lest young Muslims decide to give it a try? Will movies and television shows have to be censored? No, of course not. But we simply cannot export our culture, and all of the above are the culture we export, without realizing that there will be unintended consequences. Norman Mailer has said that because of the influence of contemporary culture our young people, our children, can't read a book but they can sure as hell fuck. The Muslim world does not want its kids to know how to fuck, yet. It will, much like the West, change it's attitudes towards sex. Right now, freedom and sex are mutually exclusive in their societies. America thought of herself as free fifty years ago, but Larry Flynt wouldn't have been able to find a printing press for his magazines then and Hugh Hefner would have been shocked in the fifties if he could have seen this month's copy of Playboy. But the West changed attitudes gradually, and the changes came from within. The same will happen in the East, but it won't happen by urging Afghan women to give up the Burkha, Arabs to give up the Abbaya and Persians to give up their chadors. And it won't happen by force, as is evidenced by the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, by the election of the Islamist Party in Turkey and by the recent parliamentary gains by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; the first a country where the government encouraged the adoption of Western culture including its sexual mores, the second a country where Kemal Ataturk made the covering of a woman's hair illegal in the 1920's and the third a country where Islamist parties are banned. When George Bush demands democracy in the Arab and Islamic world, the image in the Muslim mind is one of the American model that includes everything that exists in America: "democracy, whiskey, sexy". That is impossible for the Arab and Muslim. Democracy: maybe; whiskey: always; sexy: not yet. Something to think about, particularly if you have teenage daughters.