THE HAGUE: Candid but demure, an online sex shop for Muslims has been launched in the Netherlands to tap into a demand for erotica that does not offend Sharia law.
"We had about 70,000 hits in the first four days," founder Abdelaziz Aouragh said of his site that went online last week and claims to be the world's first erotic webshop for Muslims. The 29-year-old Dutch national said it targets married Muslim couples as an alternative to sites "that focus on pornography and the extravagant side of erotica" — things forbidden in Islam.
The home page of El Asira, which means "Society" in Arabic, is a sober black and grey street with a line down the center, inviting women to enter on the left and men on the right. Once inside, clients can browse in Dutch, Arabic or English through more than a dozen products, mainly massage oils, lubricants and tablets that claim to act as aphrodisiacs.
All ingredients are halal, or "permissible under Islam", said Aouragh, and conspicuously absent are dildos, vibrators and pornography. "Most of the other products out there have pictures of naked people or foul language — it was very difficult to find ones that I could use in my business," he said. Instead, the website shows only photos of boxes, tablets, tubes and bottles — mainly in pink or blue with the brand's logo, a black flame. "We have chosen a respectful approach," it says, proclaiming itself "a novelty in the Islamic world".
In one sense, it is also a very Dutch product — like Aouragh himself. Of Moroccan parentage, he was born and raised in Amsterdam and remains a practicing Muslim. He says he, like many, used to think Islam looked upon sexuality as taboo until his business partner Stefan Delsink prompted him to look further.
So Aouragh, who is married, set about consulting Islamic religious leaders and scholars to see what his business venture could sell and to whom. Muslim clerics like Dutch Imam Abdul Jabbar see no harm in Aouragh's site.