From the Times of London (UK)
It's not quite the Kama Sutra or The Joy of Sex but it does offer a similar kind of assistance: the first online sex shop for the Islamic world has opened in the Netherlands.
But there is nothing sleazy about "El Asira" — "Society" in Arabic. Indeed, the website looks positively demure. The home page depicts a street divided by a line; women customers click on the left of the line, men on the right. Inside the shop — navigable in Arabic, English and Dutch — customers can shop for massage oils, cocoa butter lubricants and aphrodisiacs such as Pure Power, a capsule that claims to "heighten male performance, desire and pleasure".
Whether these services will also heighten the pleasure of religious fundamentalists or Dutch Islamophobes remains to be seen. Tensions run high in the country of Geert Wilders, the far-Right politician who has denounced what he calls a "tsunami of Islamification" of the Netherlands; six years ago the film-maker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim for making a documentary about Muslim women.
The founder of the website has been careful to take religious advice and so far his business has been a hit. "We had 70,000 hits in the first four days," said Abdelaziz Aouragh, a Dutch citizen born and raised in Amsterdam of Moroccan parents. His aim, he says, is to change the idea that Islam is in some way hostile to women.
"The image of women in the kitchen, submissive, dressed in a burka isn't true," he told the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad. "There is a lot of love. Islam has a lot of respect for women. Our shop puts the woman at the centre of things."
To be on the safe side, Mr Aouragh consulted Boularia Houari, who preaches in various Dutch mosques and gives lessons in the Koran. The imam told him: "It's important in Islam that both men and women reach orgasm. If a woman is not satisfied, she will use impure methods such as masturbation or vibrators."
Another imam, Abdul Jabbar, also said that there was no fundamental objection to selling sexual aids providing that they were not toys and were sold only to married couples.
It is unclear how the online shop will determine the marital status of its clients but it does make a big point of trying to treat sex with respect. All ingredients are halal, that is to say, permissible under Islam. None of the products displays naked people and there are no vibrators or pornography in stock. Even the mildly racey pink panties are said to be halal.
"We want to share with other Muslims in a positive way our contribution to a broader view of sexuality and eroticism within the Muslim community," the website says. The shop seems set to stay online for the time being, unwilling to risk the wrath of more conservative clerics who warn of the corruption of morals of second-generation Muslim immigrants.