Sex, Love & Fundamentalism

In Saudi Arabia the latest craze is “numbering”. Cars full of young men chase cars in which young women are being driven and get close enough to bluetooth their mobile number and email address. This is from a fascinating piece in the New York Times this morning about the hormonally challenged young people of Saudi Arabia. 

Though it is as near to hand as the offices they pass each morning on the way to college, or the majlis, a traditional home reception room, where their fathers and brothers entertain friends, the men’s world is so remote from them that some Saudi girls resort to disguise in order to venture into it.

At Prince Sultan University, where Atheer Jassem al-Othman, 18, is a first-year law student, a pair of second-year students recently spent a mid-morning break between classes showing off photographs of themselves dressed as boys.

In the pictures, the girls wore thobes, the ankle-length white garments traditionally worn by Saudi men, and had covered their hair with the male headdresses called shmaghs. One of the girls had used an eyeliner pencil to give herself a grayish, stubble-like mist along her jaw line. Displayed on the screens of the two girls’ cellphones, the photographs evoked little exclamations of congratulation as they were passed around.

Could it be that sex is the chink in the armor of the fundamentalist faith of the Saudis? Although the girls in the article make lip service to the importance of the religious police, they are clearly spending a lot of time and psychic energy trying to be like normal hormonal teenagers.

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0 Responses to Sex, Love & Fundamentalism

  1. I think sex is the chink in the armor of every Abrahmic organized religion. The years between the hormone induced puberty stage and marriage will always threaten to religious authorities, whether they are Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. Teenagers and young adolescents are universal in this respect.

  2. Nath says:

    I would think it depends on how much the cultural/religious norms are based on suppressing sex as opposed to just suppressing people in general. If sex is the main focus, then I suspect they have systems in place to handle these situations.

  3. Rick Turner says:

    Yeah, stoning the women is a great system…or honor killings of your daughter or sister. Fabulous idea… Right on up there with slicing away the clitoris of your teenage daughters down south a bit more in Africa. Gotta love those cultural norms and respect the traditions…

  4. winterbear says:

    sex is the chink in the armor of the Christian fundamentalist faith of the USA…

    Religion has always been about control… and Islam is no different from Christianity on this point. Same can be said for LDS, Hindu, New age woo woo cults… Or Ancient Egypt, druids or stone age shaman….

  5. Azmanon says:

    The imagery and messages of sex is one of the fundamental driving forces behind western capitalism to sell products, lifestyles or whatever…

    So I would argue that these forms of consumerism (materialism?) is more of a chink in the armor of fundamentalist faiths than sex itself.

  6. Jon Taplin says:

    Azmanon-But the Saudi religous authorities have no problem with people buying as many cell phones and big screen TV’s as they can afford. But girls sneaking into an all male shopping center in drag–thats another matter.

  7. Azmanon says:

    But that’s sort of what I meant Jon… maybe what’s odd for us in the west is that all these devices that allow images and messages to be transfered more easily, especially for communication hungry teens, facilitate hormonal drives beyond the control of religious regimes. In a sense, does it mean there is no marketing necessary? or is there… (I have no idea how cell phones and plasma TVs are marketed and sold in Saudi Arabia). One thing I know, if I wanted to limit the contact between the sexes, I certainly wouldn’t foster the proliferation of cell phones and internet meeting services.

  8. Jon Taplin says:

    Azmanon-Don’t you think its too late to stop the proliferation of Broadband IP in Arabia? The mobile networked society is ubiquitous. They will not be denied their You Tube!

  9. Rick Turner says:

    I’ve been singing “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm Once They’ve Seen Paree” for about 25 years now. The genie is out of the bottle. Pandora’s curiosity is being sated, those secrets are out of the box. Does anyone think that Saudi boys and girls can’t read Suzie Bright’s blog…etc.?

  10. Egg W. says:

    Honestly, although sex seems to be the most obvious rebellion in Saudi Arabia, the fact that it is considered “forbidden” to listen to music is perhaps most shocking to me. As per the article, “I know music is haram, and inshallah, with time I will be able to stop listening to music too.”

    I don’t know if that’s any kind of music, but that disturbs me a bit more than sexual restraint.

  11. AD says:

    There’s one important thing about Islam that I think non-Muslims should know: “Islam” means “submission”.

    Centuries ago, my ancestors were forcibly converted to Islam. Fortunately, I’ve disinherited that nonsense. Religion only comes up now and again when an elderly relative dies, and although I go along out of respect for my relatives, and it stuns me to hear some mullah reciting Arabic. I actually like the sound of the Arabic language, but I can’t stand the imposition of Islam on my roots. It’s completely foreign to them and always will be. Read the books of VS Naipaul, and you’ll understand that Islam has destroyed native cultures even in recent decades.

    The girls in the photos that accompany the article must submit. We infidels must submit. Ask yourself why Islam is spreading throughout the world. Ask a Muslim if it is not his or her duty to convert others, and they usually try not to answer. Ask a Muslim what “Islam” means, and they often claim “peace”, which is actually “salaam”, or they argue about the meaning of submission.

    The treatment of women in Islamic countries is sickening, and so is our support of this injustice through our gas stations. It’s naive to think that young people can have an influence in such oppressive countries. There may be idealists here and there, but they’re powerless against such strict regimes.

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