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ISLAMAPHOBIA OR MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR EROTICA?

By Association Member Charles Sayer

Throughout this commentary I have made the assumption that the majority of the creators of erotic art or merchandise are neither Muslim or Christian. Whether this is accurate or not I stand by the argument that sexual liberty and erotica are intrinsically incompatible with the teachings of the Bible and the Koran. Hence I make no apologies for being partisan. I have nothing against Muslims or Christians personally and I reserve the right to dislike beliefs without disliking believers as long as that dislike can be rationally justified. I also defend my singling out of Christianity and Islam for special censure because their sexual morality is arguably more repressive and draconian than that of other major religions, partly because it is psychologically enforced with a punitive theology of hellfire and damnation. I would also like to make it clear that it is possible to be a severe critic of certain religions and yet not be anti-religious per se. I have no problem whatever with belief in God.

The goal posts of the historic God debate have shifted radically in the last few decades to accommodate the metaphysical implications of the Big Bang and quantum mechanics. The word "God" has almost been reclaimed by science and given a new democratic and rational flexibility. "God" is arguably more like an experience of progressive understanding concerning all of us rather than a dictatorial Supreme Being in the sky who passes endless moral laws that are only believable to the heaven-bound elite or "saved".

It is not the existence or non-existence of God that needs debating, but whether certain models of God are in any way feasible or even moral!. I argue that Christian and Islamic sexual prudery is not only at face value irrational but at a deeper level is based on a model of God that should be seriously questioned in a modern democracy - namely the hellfire God - the God who tortures unbelievers for all eternity simply for being true to their own conscience. This God, far from uniting humanity, divides us up into the saved and the damned, and this division is partly defined in sexual terms. Jesus for example, in Matthew 5:27 describes the act of merely looking and lusting after women in the mind, as a form of adultery, a sin deserving damnation. In Islam this same crime against God, this descent into the bestiality of the flesh, is called "fornication of the eyes".

This teaching is an uncompromising condemnation of all erotica and pornography which is in essence about the multi-sensory stimulation of lust in the imagination. Because of this and many other reasons that could be cited, it is clear that the fundamental theology of these two world religions is in direct antithesis to the interests of those producing and consuming erotic material. It should also be a matter of concern for us, if we want to win this debate conclusively that those of us who have not repented our lustful actions, according to the teachings of both Jesus and Muhammad, deserve to be infinitely punished. We don't fear hell, we know it to be a nonsense but the perception of us in the minds of others should be a matter of concern for us if they are false. The black person defamed by racism is offended for the very reason that he does not believe racism to be rational. It is because hell is not true that it is so offensive.

In my conclusion I will explain why it is unlikely you will witness a debate about hell and damnation. There is a deafening cultural silence about hell that appears to be casual and fluffy but after trying to force a debate on this issue for thirty years I'm convinced that far from being fluffy, it more resembles an impregnable wall of truth resistance. There is a universal and systemic reluctance to allow this vital debate to take place, even though a hundred and fifty years ago the pulpits in churches up and down the country were aflame with fiery sermons about damnation .This is the core teaching of both Christianity and Islam but it is never discussed in public.

Is this not odd? The deliberate position held by the media and the establishment to perceive the religious torture of billions of people in the afterlife as a non-issue is arguably the most substantive example of political correctness blocking free debate that can be found today. The point of my argument is simply that their greatest weakness is our greatest strength. How can any sexual morality based on the moral evil of Divine torture in the afterlife be viable today?

I have well founded fears as an erotic artists, about the alarming growth of Islam in Britain today. Although the relationship between Islam and Christianity is historically uneasy to the say the least, I believe the two religions are overcoming their considerable differences - not through honest debate of course - but through appeasement and political correctness. This growing religious solidarity and revivalism is not good news for those in the erotica business. Both these religions are body- phobic and anti-erotic in their own ways. Both condemn prostitution, public nudity, sex outside marriage (fornication), homosexuality and in the case of Islam even the free mixing of the sexes.

Christianity is sitting on the fence with gay sex at the moment but Islam has no hesitation in condemning it. I will argue that erotophobic religions pose a danger to us and we should take this threat seriously and prepare for peaceful law-abiding confrontation by politicising the sex trade. By this I mean understanding that selling erotica is not just about marketing products, it is even more about marketing ideas that decontaminate erotica and legitimise and normalise it in the public mind. We should have some kind of collective ideology that has inbuilt defense mechanisms to deal with the sophistry of the state prudes and censors. We can win the argument but only if we have the will to do so. Our task is to convince the world through cogent arguments that erotic art is not something to be merely tolerated by society but embraced by it as a social good.

We celebrate sex, freedom, sexual diversity, and the beauty of the human body, and we should be proud of this. If Christians and Muslims can evangelise passionately for their deceptions, why can't we do the same for our considerably superior truths?

Most of us make the assumption that progress is a gradual process of incremental victories over the sex censors. In fact it is more likely we are going backwards into a new Dark Ages of body phobia fuelled by religious fanaticism - a fanaticism shielded by political correctness from being seriously challenged. To put it in a nutshell both Christianity and Islam, historically and theologically stand for genital concealment and it is the genitals that are nearly always at the epicentre of the censorship debate.

The bottom line then is surely this - that while these religions continue to flourish protected by law, institutionalised in the monarchy, Parliament and the education system they pose an ever present threat to our values. There is a theme in Christian thinking, cropping up repeatedly down the centuries, that sees sexual permissiveness as the principle agent of Rome's downfall.

Islam also sees it as the hallmark of a doomed and decadent civilization - a set of signs foreshadowing the onset of Armageddon - the final battle between good and evil, and we of course, are the force of evil in this scenario . We have a right to anticipate the very real likelihood of growing pressure on us from religious groups and from sanctimonious "back to basics" politicians seeking votes from the ever expanding Muslim population. Preparedness is essential to survive.

We need to know how to present our case, how to mount a serious opposition, a counter attack against the nonsense of the censorship crackdown that may come at any moment from the vagaries of the opportunist state machine. Politicians don't care about truth, they care only about votes. The more power Muslims gain through the ballot box the more likely it will be that we will face censorship outbursts and erratic bouts of anti-porn crackdowns. I for one, as an erotic artist, am fed up with being seen in the public eye through the cultural lens of religious tradition as a subterranean - a social pariah, a moral misfit, belonging to a seedy underground movement corrupting public morals and offending upright citizens. I simply want justice - the right to function freely in society as a respectable explorer of human sexuality.

Christianity's body phobia is rooted in the fig-leaf mindset of the Old Testament - a phobia developed by the anti-sex teachings of Jesus and St Paul. Muhammad inherited this obsession with protecting us form public nudity and the perils of sex outside of marriage. The dress code of Muslim women that leaves only the eyes visible is evidence of this. The argument used by Muslims is that this outfit prevents men from seeing women in terms of their appearance. We see them it is argued, as human beings instead of sexual objects. But such a severe disguise neutralises a woman's humanity, reducing her to an anonymous, generic shape.

It is the face and the personal appearance that speaks volumes about who we are. The Muslim woman becomes a depersonalised human advert for Islam, a faceless, walking metaphor for the Koran. Bodily concealment dehumanises women by disguising their gender and individualism. The Christian Nun is not the same thing. The nun is a member of a holy order that always represents a tiny minority of women.

In Islam modesty expressed in the cover-up, although not compulsory, is a general requirement of all Muslim women and since the message of Islam is world conversion, there is a built-in assumption that all women should choose Islam and modesty, since Islam logically, is equated with Truth, Allah and salvation beyond the grave. The Muslim woman shrouded in the West is the visual symbol of a theology claiming to represent the "ideal woman" - an example to shameless westerners in their mini-skirts and other body-revealing fashion statements!

In order to understand Christo-Islamic body and sex phobia it is necessary to think theologically to some extent - in other words to get inside the religious mind and to turn its own arguments back on itself. Although at first there seems to be no obvious connection between genital concealment and hellfire and damnation, with a little probing we will see that fear of hell is the main substance fuelling sexual superstition. It is male fear of damnation fomented by the super-potency of the female body as the vamp, the temptress, that have inspired Church and State in western "civilization"to suppress and regulate human sexuality for two thousand years.

The real reason why Muslim women cover up is seldom if ever mentioned in the mass media. They cover up because women's bodies excite lust, and men who feel lust are more likely to commit adultery and fornication, therefore nominating themselves in God's eyes for eternal damnation. Islam is highly suspicious of anything that excites lust outside marriage. The non-use of images of course, characterises Islamic traditions in art and erotic images are even less likely to get a look in.

Any kind of sensual or sexy dance or music is also frowned upon by most clerics. There is a radical theology of aversion to all forms of erotic temptation and stimulation outside the confines of the marriage bed.

I'm sorry if theology is not your thing but in the post sept 11 world we should all try and read the koran and the Bible. Theology is no longer a specialised subject for believers and academics. Therefore to prove my case that the real agenda of Islam is never revealed in the media I have to cite some texts from Islamic writers which I hope will demonstrate the fear Muslims have of the power of sex to corrupt society and literally drag us down into the jaws of hell and damnation. The following extracts represent a minuscule selection of texts from standard Islamic writers.

In "Feminism and Muslim Women" in a chapter entitled "The perils of Free Mixing" the Muslim writer Sajda Nazlee writes that mixing of the sexes is discouraged because it "may lead to illicit relationships"...."Bearing in mind the implications and well known consequences of free mixing, it becomes clear that it is not a punishment for Muslims that they must behave in a modest way, rather it is a protection for them, their health- mental and physical, their chastity and their honour."

The "jihad"serves a similar purpose to dampen the male libido but the implication is that western women are viewed as sexual objects by western men because they don't cover up. Muslim women are seen on the other hand as human beings. The hijab is a judgmental moral and religious statement about other women automatically disapproving of western dress. She writes quoting a fellow Muslim"The Muslim woman is able to give a clear signal to everyone that she wants to be treated as an intellectual personality.......Islam gives women freedom from exploitation as sex objects in the dress code that it enjoins upon them." and then quotes the Koran, which advises men and women"to lower their gaze and guard their private parts..."

Women are seen as "fitnah" which means"temptation", "test" or "trial" meaning that a the female form is a temptation sent to test or try man's self-control. Muhammad Imran writes in "Ideal Women in Islam" that according to the holy prophet himself "Islam does not approve that even an husband and wife, should expose their shameful parts before each other" and that "With modest dress the Muslim woman is protected from the sexual interest and improper looks and behaviour of men" The cover-up is in order "to neutralize the sexuality of women so that their value is not related to their sexual attribute but to their human and womanly qualities" Muslim men we are assured, are also expected to dress modestly but men don't wear veils and the dress code operates in a the cultural acknowledgement that the female body has a much more exalted status and sexual allurement than the male. Men are traditionally more susceptible to female beauty and Islam recognises the male gaze as "fornication of the eyes" - a serious sin. But fornication of the eyes, the arousal of lust through the visual sense, is the very quintessence of western porn and erotica and is considered to be a fundamental good by sexual libertarians.

Imran continues: "Woman has been selling her body since time immemorial .But never before was shamelessness given the glittering label of "art". Never before was immodesty the accepted norm of life. It is in this age that woman has lost her sense of self-respect."....The Holy Prophet by way of warning and as a reminder had said: "There is nothing left after I go more dangerous to men than the temptation of women." The "unveiling" of women in our times and the consequent free mixing of sexes with all its attendant evils and immodest dress of our women have thrown the Muslim countries in a whirlpool of incurable social and moral ailments. And there is no denying the fact that there is no greater temptation than the temptation of women. The temptation of money, power, prestige, and dominance all dwarf before the temptation of women."

Zina, is fornication and adultery which he refers to as the "slippery path to Hell".

He continues:

"Fornication is morally the most heinous crime that a person can commit. The one who commits it in fact proves that his humanity has been overwhelmed by his animality and he is not fit to live as a virtuous member of the human society."

The agents of zina are free mixing of the sexes and "Immodest, tight and scanty dresses of women which are a great sex stimulant for the men. Music and dancing, which awake dormant sexual desire to new heights etc" and "The present disgraceful trend of nudity is the crown of immorality and immodesty."

The chador is arguably insulting to western women because it accuses them of being wanton, It is not just a fashion item it is a symbol of an attitude which says "God does not approve of women looking sexy"in public . Allah according to the Koran wants all women to cover up, he wants all women to become Muslims because to be Muslim is not just to be different it is to be better. So much better in fact that its literally the difference between being saved or damned in hell. Western women according to the Koran are deserving of unending physical torture in hell if they don't convert to Islam.

The Koran speaks of terrible tortures, which are meant to be taken literally - one of which is to have to drink boiling water that burns the stomach with unbearable agony. The stomach however reforms in this supernatural state so that the torture can be endlessly repeated. The Muslim veil is not just a statement about religious identity, it is arguably an unforgivable insult to non-Muslims and especially women, because it is reminding them that if they don't convert to Islam they will be resurrected from the grave for no other reason than to be physically tortured for all eternity! Behind the benign public face of British Islam is the arrogance of the believers who see themselves as the mouthpiece of God, knowing the mind of God and "knowing" that God disapproves of erotic artists and wanton women who threaten men's salvation by not disguising and hiding their beauty and femininity.

It is surely time for us to start challenging this nonsense and standing up for what we know to be the truth - truth arrived at, not through blind faith but through the unaided power of reason and common sense. To engage in such a campaign is not to attack God or belief in God per se but only models or configurations of God that put forward rigid sexual laws that are enforced with the threat of eternal punishment in the afterlife.

I have been campaigning to get an honest debate about religion in our media for over thirty years. The system can afford to ignore single protesters like myself which is why we need to adapt the associations we already have as erotic artists, to embrace a more political agenda, even if for now this only means having meetings from time to time to discuss these matters in more depth .I will now in conclusion cite a trivial but pertinent case in point. I noticed that the Sunday religious programme on BBC "The Heaven and Earth Show", like every other religious programme for the general public, never deals with the thorny and embarrassing issue of salvation and damnation. I wrote to them asking why, since this was the core teaching of both Christianity and Islam. First of all they ignored this letter. I rang up and they claimed they had lost it. So I wrote another one. I addressed this to a secretary who knew about the first one and promised to personally pass it on to the right people. After weeks of waiting and getting no reply, I was advised to write again. This I did threatening to take my complaint further if I did not get some kind of reply. This third letter was again ignored and nobody from the Heaven and Earth Show even phoned me.

Finally I complained to the BBC and I eventually got a letter from the Editorial and Investigation Team which completely avoided the issue, blaming the omission of this keynote subject matter on the lame excuse that: "There simply isn't enough time to discuss every aspect of a subject and the choices we make have to be selective".

This is one of the ways modern Christianity protects itself - not with the stake anymore of course, but. with the much more effective weapon of polite dishonesty and blocking techniques to keep serious interrogation at bay. But when these obvious deceptions are delivered from a near impregnable position of establishment power, backed up by thousands of years of historical imprinting, you begin to realise what a Herculean task it can be to get anything changed through serious debate. Debate trammelled with political correctness always puts believers' sensitivities above the public good. For as long as these great monolithic bastions of prudery enjoy immunity from real criticism they pose an ongoing threat to sexual liberty.

The polite, public face of "moderate" religion is only the tip of the iceberg - what lies beneath the surface is the submerged menace of sado-mythic fundamentalism, adhered to by those who, in their growing millions believe they speak with God's authority on matters of sex and sexual ethics and on the very nature of what a modern civilised society should be like.

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