Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World

Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab WorldKirkus Best Books Of The Year If You Really Want To Know A People, Start By Looking Inside Their Bedrooms As Political Change Sweeps The Streets And Squares, The Parliaments And Presidential Palaces Of The Arab World, Shereen El Feki Has Been Looking At An Upheaval A Little Closer To Home In The Sexual Lives Of Men And Women In Egypt And Across The Region The Result Is An Informative, Insightful, And Engaging Account Of A Highly Sensitive And Still Largely Secret Aspect Of Arab Society Sex Is Entwined In Religion, Tradition, Politics, Economics, And Culture, So It Is The Perfect Lens Through Which To Examine The Complex Social Landscape Of The Arab World From Pregnant Virgins To Desperate Housewives, From Fearless Activists To Religious Firebrands, From Sex Work To Same Sex Relations, Sex And The Citadel Takes A Fresh Look At The Sexual History Of The Region And Brings New Voices To The Debate Over Its Future This Is No Peep Show Or Academic Treatise But A Highly Personal And Often Humorous Account Of One Woman S Journey To Better Understand Arab Society At Its Most Intimate And, In The Process, To Better Understand Her Own Origins Rich With Five Years Of Groundbreaking Research, Sex And The Citadel Gives Us A Unique And Timely Understanding Of Everyday Lives In A Part Of The World That Is Changing Before Our Eyes I was at first very excited to hear about this book, as little has been written on the topic Unfortunately I found this book has many flaws It should have been called Intimate Muslim Women s Life in a Changing Egypt My Personal Journey Clearly, the scope of the book is too ambitious for several reasons I feel this book is muchabout women s sexuality then men, presumably because the author is female which gives her easier access to women This would have not been possible for a male a I was at first very excited to hear about this book, as little has been written on the topic Unfortunately I found this book has many flaws It should have been called Intimate Muslim Women s Life in a Changing Egypt My Personal Journey Clearly, the scope of the book is too ambitious for several reasons I feel this book is muchabout women s sexuality then men, presumably because the author is female which gives her easier access to women This would have not been possible for a male author It might also have been difficult for a female author to discuss sexuality with heterosexual Arab males Further, the book focusses mostly on Egypt Countries that are hardly or not mentioned at all Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others Which does not have to be bad, except that I wish she would not give the impression this book encompasses the whole Arab world It does not Her argument to focus on Egypt is pretty fair, as it is the most populous and culturaly most influential Arab country However, when it comes to sexuality, Egypt could hardly be called a leading country On the contrary if one looks at the past 40 years, one sees the Gulf countries have had a huge influence on Egyptian society s stance toward sexuality Tunisia enjoys the most liberal laws on prostitution in the whole region, Morocco is miles ahead when it comes to abortion, and Beirut is the gay capital of the Arab World Where does that leave Egypt It might be problematic to focus that much on Egyptian society while leaving other countries out The book certainly leaves the reader with a lof questions on sexual experience in the other Arab countries I would have loved to readabout Saudi Arabia for instance Then there is the issue of Islam and sexuality The author defines herself as a Muslim with a strong faith Nothing wrong with that, but one should be warned that the book is written from a Muslim s point of view This means that the book does not have a grain of criticism towards Islam or religion in general Her claim is that Islam is not the problem it is the solution I cannot help to be reminded of the old Muslim Brotherhood slogan Al Islam Howa al Hal El Feki s arguments that Islam is actually very open when it comes to sex are not very convincing 1 El Feki claims that Islam was supposed to have a liberal age when it comes to sex, from the 7 12th century El Feki mentions several examples which supposedly show an Islam from 10 centuries ago, open towards sexuality, such as an 11th century book called Encyclopedia of Pleasure Baghdad as well as some women cross dressing in the courts of Baghdad in te 11th century But these are just some isolated examples, it is not convincing that these are representative of a society as a whole 2 El Feki claims the Arab World s closeness was brought about by Christian closed minded stance towards sexuality from the 19th century and onwards Partially true, but here she attributes the decline in sexual openness to colonialism It is too easy really to accuse the West of having invoked a change in Islamic societies from an open, liberal society to a closed one Also, Islamic society went downhill long before Napoleon arrived in Egypt 3 People in the Arab world became less open about sex because they live in in repressive dictatorships The sixties was a golden age for Egypt and pan Arabism and Egyptian society was muchopen back then Dictatorship in Egypt, since the death of Nasser in 1970, only spanned one or two generations, while openness in sexuality has been in decline since for several centuries 4 El Feki then claims Arab societies went from open to closed due to an incorrect interpretation of Islam In her view, Islam is actually very open when it comes to sex, and liberal, but scholars interpret the Quran incorrectly She hereby dismisses most Islamic scholars in a single step, which is brave but almost laughable This is the trouble with the book It does not find any faults with religion and Islam in particular To illustrate at the beginning of the book, El Feki applauds a work by Tunisian author Abdelwahab Bouhdiba Sexuality in Islam 1975 , in which the author claims there was a flowering of sexuality in the golden age of Islam 7 12th century Indeed the books says One cannot deny the fundamental hedonism of the Quran However, what she fails to mention at all is that the book also sheds some light on the dark sides of Islam Islam offers the widest possible view of incest , Male supremacy is fundamental in Islam , Islam remains violently hostile to all other ways of realizing sexual desirethe divine curse embraces both the boyish woman and the effeminate man, male and female homophilia, auto eroticism, zoophilia, etc Sexual deviation is a revolt against God and he Christian will be a sexual in paradise, whereas the Muslim will experience infinite orgasm El Feki is, in her own words, a muslim with a strong faith, but very selective as this example shows She has an almost naive faith in a very liberal Islam However the problem is that such an Islam has not been invented yet, except for the odd gay mosques in the US or in France Sure, religion has been misused by politicians and clerics to assert their power, and the non liberal reading of sexual matters in the Quran is a tool to curb people s sexuality, which in its turn is a way of surpressing people But to attribute it only to an incorrect reading the Quran is naive How does El Feki expect women in Egypt to experience aopen sexuality when most people in Egypt adhere to the view of Islam that male supremacy is fundamental What about the huge amount of hypocricy in Islamic societies which can be attributed to the culture of shame and honor Despite all of this, El Feki does not offer any a single criticism of Islam It s all a matter of interpretation The book went downhill from the chapter on queer life in the Arab World El Feki discusses shortly the Quran verses and hadiths which supposedly condemn homosexuality However she does not succeed in making Islam compatible with homosexuality She does not have to, but again she offers no criticism of Islam and does her very best to give the reader the idea that LGBTS can be perfectly accomodated within Islam, even though all clerics she interviewed agreed that homosexuality is haram She gives the impression that LGBTs in Egypt have no desire to kiss or hold hands in public, because it is an Islamic country and they do not wish to change the conservative mood of society Again it is very naive to believe that LGBTs in Egypt, unlike in Western countries, would never want to be accepted in public Is that the sexual openness Islam offers She stabs the Arab LGBT movement in the back, whose people are tortured and mistreated in every way most of the time in the name of religion by mentioning an annecdote of a girl who is questioned about the veil she wears while going to underground parties in Beirut El Feki fails to see that, having been mistreated for decennia, it can be hard for someone not to be suspicious of someone openly proclaiming adherence to a religion so unapproving of anyone who does not fall within the heterosexual norm But hey, it is all a matter of interpretationClosely entangled with her faith Islam, El Feki mostly ignores Christians and other religions in the Arab World, although it would be very interesting to touch upon them, as they hold a special position as the only substantial non Islamic minority in the Arab world Even though El Feki does mention some Arab Christians, she does not go into the Christian religion and its stance towards sexuality at all She fails to make a connection between Beirut as the most sexually liberal city of the Middle East and the fact that it is the capital of a albeit now formerly Christian state, with strong ties to France and the Western world Next to that, I would have been interested to readabout the interaction between Arabs and Jews in Israeli society She only touches upon this subject briefly, but I feel that Israel holds a special position in the Arab world, as this is one of the few places where Arab people get into direct contact with a liberal and open society Yet this topic is hardly discussed Further, El Feki fails to mention secular, atheist Arabs After having read this book, one would say that the whole Arab world seems sexually frustrated, but I have met a lot of people who are muchopen towards sexuality than the people in this book However, all of them are secular and most of them openly atheist These people have not been given any voice Today I was having a conversation with some of my Syrian friends who like to show Western movies to a public audience They recalled how some people in the audience would hold their hands in front of their eyes whenever a couple would kiss on screen However, my friends who were showing the movie found this behavior ridiculous to such an extent that they asked those prude people to actually leave These friends of mine are avarage low class people and have never been outside of the Arab World, yet they hold some very liberal and open views towards sexuality These kind of people are not mentioned at all in El Feki s book While reading the chapter on gay life, I was surprised to read only about devout Muslim gays, while most LGBTs I met in Arab countries actually denounced religion as it is not accepting of homosexuality She fails to mention any people who lost faith in religion, even though the figure among LGBTs in the Middle East is very high In my eyes, this makes her book biased, towards Islam I would almost accuse her of orientalism, as for her, Islam and the Arab World seem to be the same side of a coin It s not Not always.El Feki argues that the LGBT movement in Egypt can learn from the Global South She cites Latin America and India as examples However, Latin America is a rapidly secularizing Christian continent, while India is a Hindu society with no fixed scripture holy book comparible to the Quran or Bible and Hindu society has always beenopen when it comes to sex It is hard too see how Arab countries could learn from these regions, unless they would push Islam out of the public sphere Nonetheless, with all its faults, the strength of this book is the fact that it is one of the few books to touch upon the subject of sexuality in the Arab World That alone would make it worth while to read And I do think it is a very important work, much needed in the region, and El Feki makes a lot of valid points But perhaps it is better describe the book a coming of age document, a sentimental journey of the author going back to her roots in Egypt, blended with interviews on the intimate lives of Egyptians I listened to Shereen El Feki being interviewed on Fresh Air a few months ago and immediately put my name on the library waiting list that already had developed for this book Sex and gender relations within the Arab Muslim world has been sort of my pet academic interest during college, and I was INCREDIBLY excited to read a nuanced survey of the subject, especially post the Arab Spring I wasn t disappointed by the book at all El Feki s interviews are taking place during a unique time of uphea I listened to Shereen El Feki being interviewed on Fresh Air a few months ago and immediately put my name on the library waiting list that already had developed for this book Sex and gender relations within the Arab Muslim world has been sort of my pet academic interest during college, and I was INCREDIBLY excited to read a nuanced survey of the subject, especially post the Arab Spring I wasn t disappointed by the book at all El Feki s interviews are taking place during a unique time of upheaval in Egypt and the Arab world at large and capture the diverse opinions of individuals throughout the Arab world Her thesis is somewhat subtle, but revolutionary that the political uprisings of the Arab Spring are intrinsically linked to a longer andintimate kind of a revolution, sustained assault on traditional sex and gender norms However, with the rise in power of conservative Islamists, it doesn t necessary follow that this sexual revolution will be successful and even if it is, it may not adhere to Western notions of what a successful sexual revolution would look like Whatever the endpoint may be, El Feki makes a convincing case that Arab society is in for a period of sustained change Shereen Feki, the daughter of an Egyptian man and a Welsh mother, looks at the connection between the expression of sexuality and the pursuit of freedom in general She argues that Muslims were not always so sexually suppressed as they are today, but that the tyranny of dictatorship has used sexual repression within the patriarchal Middle Eastern societies as the most powerful tool of general suppression in their regimes With all the changes that Middle Eastern societies have been going throug Shereen Feki, the daughter of an Egyptian man and a Welsh mother, looks at the connection between the expression of sexuality and the pursuit of freedom in general She argues that Muslims were not always so sexually suppressed as they are today, but that the tyranny of dictatorship has used sexual repression within the patriarchal Middle Eastern societies as the most powerful tool of general suppression in their regimes With all the changes that Middle Eastern societies have been going through in the Arab Spring uprisings, Feki wanted to see what changes, if any, are taking place in regards to sexuality She looks at women s sexual rights, the importance of virginity, sex workers, homosexuality and transgender She concentrates mostly on Egypt, but looks at some issues in Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia as well.Feki was born and raised in Canada, but spent summers with her relatives in Egypt In a way, this book is an attempt to understand her roots and get to know her relatives better These parts, where she has real discussions with friends and relatives are most interesting and revealing She also talks to famous feminists, activists, authors and film makers, and while these people often provide the most shocking information, the tone is different than talking to family I found it a little jarring On the other hand, I was inspired and genuinely happy to know about these stereotype busting women My personal reading list has a fewtitles added to it.This book is meant to be read by the general public and thus does not employ academic language I would call it kicky The language is easily accessible and she occasionally uses crude words and makes jokes However, the content of the book is scholarly At times I felt there was an attempt being made to make the bookappealing to the reader by quoting extended passages from explicit texts that bordered on sensationalizing Feki s point is to show how uninhibited Arabs and Muslims used to be, but one or two references would have been enough If you are looking for ascholarly take on the same material, albeit describing Egypt in the 70s, read Nawal Sadaawi s The Faces of Eve The last chapter of the book contains suggestions of plans of action that Feki, as an employee of the World Health Organization, would like to pursue It reads like a position paper presented to such an organization It s not that there s anything wrong with that, but it was such a shift from the tones previously used.I do think the topic is a worthy one for discussion and I would like to seebooks on this subject looking at the situation in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states or the Arabs living in Israel I would recommend the book for anyone who is interested and hasn t read anything on the subject I It is a great book that covers all aspects of the sexuality of the Arab world It is pretty much comprehensive and says what is needed to be said Shereen s writing style is entertaining, she is eloquent and precise, which makes the reading experiencerewarding It is sad that there is no Arabic edition of this book that it out yet This is a much needed discourse in the Arab world Hope it picks up in the Arab world, where it is needed mostly. Wonderful It is very hard to read from a foreigner a coherent and close to reality book yes, she is a foreigner Somehow she managed to literally, almost perfectly portray the Egyptian reality, on all aspects I m saying a foreigner, not just because she doesn t speak Arabic well or because she wasn t raised in Egypt I m saying she s for two reasons 1 When she attempts to explain an egyptian myth, it was sadly obvious, she doesn t know what she s talking about But not in a laughable way li Wonderful It is very hard to read from a foreigner a coherent and close to reality book yes, she is a foreigner Somehow she managed to literally, almost perfectly portray the Egyptian reality, on all aspects I m saying a foreigner, not just because she doesn t speak Arabic well or because she wasn t raised in Egypt I m saying she s for two reasons 1 When she attempts to explain an egyptian myth, it was sadly obvious, she doesn t know what she s talking about But not in a laughable way like when white people do 2 She doesn t know the line between what Egyptians widespreadly believes and what a single person may believe When zizi says that only Christians make black magic, don t assume it s a fact or even that all Egyptians believe and know this, and thus Egyptians are Christianophobics In my grandmother s village, a man a Sheikh, actually was being chased because he s a black magic sorcerer Actually, what s true is that Muslims would prefer going to a Muslim sorcerer than a Christian So yes, Egyptians are Christianophobics, but not the way it s mentioned.If El Feki was raised in Egypt, she would have realized long ago that sometimes Egyptians believed in things with no evidence, or reason, or hidden motives, or sense They are hypocrites, confused, and ignorant, and along with what she said unbelievably Egoistical There s no logic or reason to communicate with No context or explanation whatsoever The issue I take against the author is that she doesn t present her own interpretation as an attempt to explain She s presenting it as a reality the actual reason why they think this or that When it comes to women and human rights, Egyptians have no conscious Reason or common sense and consciousness are like muscles, when you don t use muscle, it gets weaker and weaker It doesn t mean they re inherently evil No, they have been beaten down and oppressed and their education and health are degraded, for so long The Egyptian mind and heart is weakened by long years of corruption and getting used to horrors and chaos and absence of order or common sense as day to day life And it is the only life we know, except for a few I hope, and the only way we can live.The book is familiar, but it often drops bullshit that I have no idea where the author got it from Like the story of spies with belts to neuter Egyptian men That s total bullshit And it angered me because it wasn t referenced to a specific storyteller or a reference the author got the story from Egyptians are stupid and believe in stupid things Just tell the true stupidity Don t make up shit, Mrs El Feki Again, like with the christianophobia, I m not saying they don t believe in absurd stuff I m just saying that nobody believes this obviously made up shit We don t call a childless woman maskiina That s also bullshit It s not a thing The word is an adjective that people actually rarely use, and that s even funnier A man who lost his wife, or kids, or a father, could also be called maskiin he just lost hisThat s a phrase, but again, as Chandler Bing say it Nobody talks like that The dare to be different is my favorite chapter in the book, and the author should have added to it Egyptians thinks that same sex relationships will destroy family values Egyptians don t know they actually take all the credit for that A good background for anyone who wants to knowabout women s lives in Egypt Though the book takes on the overwhelming task of sex in the Arab wold, Egypt is where we spend most of our time and the side trips to other countries are basically flyovers Will go intodetail later I think though I rated this book a 3 rather than a 4 as I would have liked to hearpersonal narratives and in depth focus on any of the fascinating topics the book covers, but that is my idiosyncrasy The A good background for anyone who wants to knowabout women s lives in Egypt Though the book takes on the overwhelming task of sex in the Arab wold, Egypt is where we spend most of our time and the side trips to other countries are basically flyovers Will go intodetail later I think though I rated this book a 3 rather than a 4 as I would have liked to hearpersonal narratives and in depth focus on any of the fascinating topics the book covers, but that is my idiosyncrasy There is also the sad fact that El Feki looks so much to the Egyptian Spring as a chance for change for women and foropenness in society generally but we know how that has ended, at least for now This was an interesting read I was already familiar with a lot of the information, however I still feel I learned a lot and would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to knowon this very complex subject. A well intentioned work More appropriate if it were condensed and published as an extensive article, not really book length Frequently repetitive and tedious. Sheeren El Feki got there first That was my first thought after about a quarter into the book This was the book I wanted to write about my own experience of next to no sexual education in Malaysia to being a researcher in HPV and now HIV two sexually transmitted viruses, and the former being so close to women that I am appalled at the fact that I only knew of it when I was studying to write my PhD proposal at the ripe old age of 23 I found similarities between Sheeren and myself, she being Sheeren El Feki got there first That was my first thought after about a quarter into the book This was the book I wanted to write about my own experience of next to no sexual education in Malaysia to being a researcher in HPV and now HIV two sexually transmitted viruses, and the former being so close to women that I am appalled at the fact that I only knew of it when I was studying to write my PhD proposal at the ripe old age of 23 I found similarities between Sheeren and myself, she being an Immunologist before working as a journalist for The Economist, working closely with UNAIDS and well read in HIV The fact that she was brought up as third culture kid, however, was our difference I grew up much like many of the subjects in the book conservative, family first and my parents were born again Muslims ensuring the double stigma of culture and religion towards the already taboo subject of sex All of that aside, for as a reader one reads based on one s own experiences the book is articulate, well researched the notes and references takes about a quarter of the thickness and one that makes us all glad for researchers who have done their homework first , and presents arguments with a researcher s viewpoint of qualitative and quantitative data almost neutral, and allowing the data to speak for itself Nonetheless, like all closing paragraphs to summarise any scientific publication the last chapter presents the author s own summary of the issue and the hope for future work that can be done I guess us scientists are all molded from similar templates after all I also can t help but feel a sense of familiarity with the situations described in Egypt and the Arab world almost as if Malaysia is heading towards the same direction if we are not there already This book used sex as a topic to discuss a bigger psychosocial analysis of religion, society and culture something us HIV scientists will be familiar with for we cannot talk about the transmission or research towards a cure or vaccination without talking about behaviour and ideologies While the book focusses heavily on sexuality there are only a few chapters solely dedicated to men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgenders The primary focus of the book dissects the culture of marriage from expectations, family, reproduction, to sex of course and mainly on the effects of a patriarchal culture on women in general The chapters tend to get a bit technical and anecdotal but almost always will begin or injected with humourous stories, for I guess in most cultures, when talking about something that is taboo, making jokes of it is the first step towards our freedom to express and to start a discourse Ah satire, how some people can take such a skewed view towards you This book should be considered a thesis And for that, I thank Shereen El Feki for writing it and I am jealous that she had the idea first Oh well, I guess I just need to find my own book to write Nonetheless, a good read for both the curious reader who not only wants to delve into the topic of sexuality, but also a background almost of the Arab Spring and the revolution that follows it Not a light read and one that requires a little bit of science background, although not heavy enough to make one dependent on pubmed wiki.Social scientists will find this book a great companion, I think We were joined by Shereen El Feki to talk about the impact of religion, the nature of virginity and the convenience of pleasure marriages Originally broadcast on 21 03 2013, the podcast is available at zedbookclub.com Shereen El Feki is a writer, broadcaster and academic She began her professional life with a doctorate in molecular immunology before going on to become an award winning journalist with The Economist and a presenter with Al Jazeera English She is the former vice chair of the We were joined by Shereen El Feki to talk about the impact of religion, the nature of virginity and the convenience of pleasure marriages Originally broadcast on 21 03 2013, the podcast is available at zedbookclub.com Shereen El Feki is a writer, broadcaster and academic She began her professional life with a doctorate in molecular immunology before going on to become an award winning journalist with The Economist and a presenter with Al Jazeera English She is the former vice chair of the United Nation s Global Commission on HIV and the Law and is a TED Global Fellow.Raised in Canada, Shereen is the child of Welsh and Egyptian parents and would visit her Egyptian family yearly as a child As an adult, working with The Economist she was drawn to the surprisingly low HIV infection rate that was being reported in the Arab region But as she began to dig deeper, particularly in the country of her family, she found a gap between official figures and private reality.Shereen has spent the last 5 years traveling throughout the Arab region, with a particular focus on Egypt, looking into sex and sexuality in that world Marriage, pre marital sex, gay relationships, even basic education all come under in the microscope in her book Sex and the Citadel

Reading ➶ Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World Author Shereen El Feki – Jobs-in-kingston.co.uk
  • Hardcover
  • 368 pages
  • Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World
  • Shereen El Feki
  • English
  • 11 August 2018
  • 0307377393