Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Online Islamic sex-shop opens for business

The sex products Dutch Muslims used to bring back from the Middle East soon available online.
By Hanina Ajarai and Joke Mat

Abdelaziz Aouragh is a Muslim, lives in Amsterdam, and deals in sex articles. His webshop El Asira, which is for Muslims, will soon be selling Pure Power capsules which "heighten male performance, desire and pleasure". Desire capsules for women will also be available, sensual stimulators for him and her and lubricants based on cocoa butter, water or silicon. El Asira calls itself "the first Islamic online webshop for sex articles and care products". Its webshop should be open for business starting this weekend.

At home in Morocco

There are 'Tupperware parties' in Morocco for women looking for sex toys, which are not on general sale. "But there are networks, very discrete and well organised, which fill the vacuum," writes the Moroccan journalist Vanessa Pellegrin on the website casawaves.com

There are cultural differences. Vibrators are not popular because women do not want to admit their husband's shortcomings.

A 25 centimetre surrogate penis is too obvious. But a vibrating plastic duck looks like a child's toy. Pellegrin says religion hardly plays a role. Even women wearing headscarves attend the meetings.

The combination of Islam and sex products is not an obvious one. When Aouragh's business partner, Stefan Delsink, suggested selling sex items, Aouragh was dubious. A day later he agreed. "I knew that Muslims do have a need for sex products. People bring them back from the Middle East and give them to young couples," he said.

Not knowing whether his religion would allow the trade in sex products, Aouragh visited an imam, who in turn consulted a Saudi sheik. It was allowed, he learned, as long as the products were halal and meant to improve sex within marriage. "There is even a fatwa on the subject." That just left the problem of how to tell his parents. "It's a forbidden subject for the first generation here,” he said. Whenever his parents bring the matter up, Aouragh tries to quickly change the subject. “I tell them: yes, um, could I have some more tea?”

Abdelaziz Aouragh (29) is an orthodox Muslim with a Dutch trading instinct. He was born in the east of Amsterdam to a Moroccan carpenter. He has a pointed nose, a tuft of hair on his chin and thin oval glasses. He works at Schiphol airport assisting disabled transit passengers. His wife was born in Morocco and they have a three-year-old daughter. Last year they went on their first hadj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Changing the image of Islam

As well as making money, Aouragh wants his sex shop to change the image of Islam as hostile to women. "The image of women in the kitchen, submissive, dressed in a burkah isn't true. There is a lot of love. Islam has a lot of respect for women. Our shop puts the woman at the centre of things." The webshop also offers information; people can find answers to their questions there.

The imam who advised El Asira is Boularia Houari, a 35-year-old glass fibre cable technician who gives Koran lessons and preaches on request at various mosques. He is with Aouragh for our second meeting. He has a beard, speaks poor Dutch and wears a black cap. He says he gives sexual advice to many married people. "People are afraid of Viagra; it's a medicine. In Islam there are herbs which help. Poppy seed oil, pure honey. Scholars recommend these too."

According to Islam, sex is simple: outside marriage it's forbidden, within marriage it's encouraged. With condoms?

Aouragh confers with Houari in Arabic. Then he says: "Yes, that is accepted. The contraceptive pill too, although it's better not to use this. Some women's physiology is such that the pill still has an effect after they stop taking it."

He asks Houari something, then explains that coitus interruptus is allowed but that condoms are preferred. "A condom is better for maximum sexual pleasure because the penis is not withdrawn when orgasm is reached. It's important in Islam that both men and women reach orgasm. If a woman is not satisfied, she will use impure methods like masturbation or vibrators."

Web design

Stefan Delsink (29) designed the website for El Asira, which means something like society, tribe, or village. The Surinamese-Dutch Delsink works in a care home and runs a graphic design agency with his brother. Aouragh says his partner respects Muslims. "About everything, he asks if it is permitted. For instance, you won't find pictures of men and women on the website. That's not allowed."

"I'm always deleting these. I had to build a site with an erotic and exclusive look. Try doing that without pictures," Delsink said.

Neither Delsink nor Aouragh had much knowledge of sex products. Aouragh searched the net for a supplier in halal products for sexual health without animal fats. He spoke first to a Dutchman but that fell through. "His products contained chemicals and he had some misleading photos on his packaging," Aouragh explained.

El Asira's products are halal. But what if a single person buys Pure Power capsules? Or a couple uses the lubricant in an un-Islamic way, for instance for sex during menstruation? "That was my question to the scholar," says Aouragh. "He said to forget that. It's not my responsibility. Sinful behaviour will be punished after death."

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