By Hazem al-Amin
31 March 2013
Islamists are like us, people of this world. The “sexual jihad” fatwa presages the era launched amid the changes witnessed by the Arab world. First there was a fatwa to breastfeed men, then there was a fatwa to engage in sexual intercourse with one’s wife after her death and later there was a fatwa to kill Mickey Mouse, and so on.
They are people of this world and of the hereafter. There is a level of greed in that which does not harmonize with the faith they allege to have. The gluttony they displayed towards pleasures is surprising. It surpassed the approach we display. Amid our confused and shy approach towards the pleasures we want, it seems that our only immunity is the excess dictated upon us by a stuttering modernism that found no trace of itself in what we inherited, learnt or lived through. They on the other hand seek these pleasures with an unhesitant determination not shaken by any shame. Fatwas after all are stronger even if they have nothing to do with values.
We have carried our desires and fantasies with us in all the wars we fought. But none of us had the strength to request pleasure during war. Many of us practiced pleasures but they have done so without religious texts protecting them. The act was like that of a person who steals something and later returns it. They requested pleasures without considering them as values of the war they are fighting. The war with all its atrocious values did not bear adding the announced request seeking pleasure. But today, someone speaks out and says it is the right of the fighter who is not close to his parents to seek such pleasures.
Truth is, our confusion and squandering of pleasures in other wars make us look more like ourselves than those Islamists requesting pleasures do. In our confusion and hesitation, we have probably achieved more pleasures than they have. To them, the act is not that of give and take. It is an implementation of a fatwa and a fulfillment of the Mujahids right. Therefore, both he and the person involved are deprived of plenty of these pleasures’ aspects.
These Fatwas’ frenzy, photos, videos and debates brought Islamists down to an equality we, the hooligans of normal “unjihadi” wars who fought in the previous Lebanese war and other similar wars, have not reached. By revealing their desires and excessively speaking of them, they have shattered the image of the sheikh they emerged from. They want pleasure and they want jihad at the same time. We however have gone to “jihad” whilst hiding our pleasures, ashamed of them and stealing them because we thought they violated the accords of the war we engaged in.
Sheikhs as they appear on videos and their satellite channels seem to have a poor imagination and a lack the knowledge of what they are speaking of. They resemble the wave of incompetent singers even if some of them made it to parliament in their countries like that Salafi sheikh who had a nose job in Egypt. Some even reserved a platform for themselves in a huge mosque like that sheikh who made the “sexual jihad” fatwa in Tunisia. Incompetent singers are not less influential in their societies than others. For example, Shaaban Abdelrahim has become very well-known in Cairo even if he represents an insult to the Egyptian musical sentiment.
Some of the “Muslim Brotherhood” intellectuals are attempting to dissociate sheikhs who make such Fatwas from the issue of the rise of Islamists. This is impossible to achieve. The sheikhs are the legitimate sons of this rise. The Brotherhood attempts to dissociate itself from them but it allies with them in difficult times. Salafi sheikhs are the ones who defend Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on religious channels. Mursi’s performance is not void of the lapses made by sheikhs of Fatwas. His language fails to aid him during many speeches because it belongs to the glossary of sheikhs’ Fatwas. Therefore his language is not helpful when he wants to address the people who are not audiences of sheikhs. The man did not speak English properly although he studied in America. His body language while standing next to foreign officials was not appropriate either sometimes because it is guarded by intuition and there is no text or fatwa that says what is legitimate and what is not.
Fatwas descend from the rise of the Islamists. They are also the most prominent indicator of the difficulty of their steadfastness in what they achieved. This is because these Fatwas are truly strange to the culture they claim to represent. I do not mean the Islamic culture but the culture of the societies they rose from. “Breastfeeding men” shocked local residents more than it shocked global public opinion. Today, “sexual jihad” is being mocked. Not only that but those who discuss this fatwa have to mock it or else they are mocked themselves. Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Noureddine al-Khadimi is subject to the arrows of black laughter because of his response to the sheikh who made the “sexual jihad” fatwa was: “the Tunisian people and the state institutions are not obliged to adhere to it.”
Image Of Aspired Authority
Requesting pleasure in “the country of jihad” reflects an image of the aspired authority. The fatwa is an indicator of its type and content. When compared with the values of equality and free speech which sparked revolutions, the extent of these Fatwas’ illegitimacy is revealed. Requesting pleasure in this way also reveals arbitrariness, monopoly and authoritarianism because the request is made for the sake of “pleasing the Mujahid.” The latter reflects masculinity and the claim of achieving what is right. Women from Tunisia go to Syria upon their forged “will.” They cross borders and arrive to the cities of Scud...only for the sake of “Mujahideen.”
This may not be the truth. It may be an image of a truth as desired by sheikhs and muftis of jihad. They are going out to the world. They are not going to meet God. But their world is not like ours. Their world is clear cut and confident. Their world is supported with texts that claim everything is a right. Our world however is hesitant and stuttering, and it is not confident of its right in anything. We are the hooligans of wars...they are their jihadis.
Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.