November 19, 2009
by Omar Sacirbey
Religion News Service
(RNS) Did alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan lose control, at least in part, because he was sexually frustrated?
That’s one of the questions being asked in the investigation into the Nov. 5 rampage that left 13 people dead and dozens more injured.
According to reports, Hasan visited a nearby strip club in the weeks before the massacre and was frustrated by his inability to find a pious Muslim wife.
That’s sparked a recurring, but still unresolved, debate on whether strict Islamic sexual mores in Muslim communities are contributing to a sense of hopelessness some say drives many young men into religious fanaticism and violence.
“All these men are so sexually deprived so much so that the sperm has gone to their brain, and they implode,” wrote Ani Zonneveld, a female Muslim activist, on a Muslim online discussion forum which had taken up the issue.
Others are more skeptical about the claim, and say that if there’s a relationship between religious fundamentalism and sexual repression or frustration, it is not unique to Muslims.
“I’m skeptical,” said Kecia Ali, a religion professor at Boston University. People have tried to link Islamic extremism and sexual frustration for years, she said, but a causal relationship “was a bit of a stretch.”
For many, however, the most perplexing question is why men who see themselves as devout Muslims engage in such un-Islamic behavior. Hasan, 39, is reported have visited the Starz strip club at least three times in weeks leading up to the shooting, spending up to six or seven hours at a time.
“He said he was a medic and that he was being deployed soon, but mostly he wanted to ask us questions,” Jennifer Jenner, a stripper who Hasan paid $50 for a lap dance in the private room, told Foxnews.com. “He was respectful.”
Mohamed Atta and several other 9/11 hijackers had also visited strip clubs not long before the 2001 terrorist attacks. In his will, however, Atta demanded that women not come to his funeral and not visit his grave, and that whoever washed his body should wear gloves when washing his genitals. Scholars stress that among mainstream Muslims in America, women regularly participate in funerals, and probably don’t consider the minutia that consumed Atta.
In his novel “Murder In Amsterdam,” based on the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, British journalist Ian Buruma suggests that sexual frustration played a part in driving Mohammed Bouyeri, the Dutch-born son of Moroccan immigrants, to murder Van Gogh in broad daylight in 2004.
As a teenager, Bouyeri smoked dope and chased Dutch women, but in his 20s, he faced bleak economic prospects, girl troubles, and his sister got a boyfriend. Bouyeri “felt dishonored, useless, and excluded,” Buruma writes, but says Bouyeri found his source of power in radical Islam.
And one of the leading philosophical fathers of radical Islam, Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, was critical of the U.S. as an exchange student between 1948-50, especially of what he called the “animal-like mixing”
of the sexes, even at church dances.
Many suicide bombers from Palestine and Iraq are said to be motivated by Islamic interpretations — albeit highly disputed — that 72 virgins await Muslim martyrs when they arrive in paradise.
The frustration that drives Muslim men to violence has at least as much to do with economic and social factors as it does with sexual troubles, observers say. High unemployment rates in many parts of the world complicate job prospects, where a steady income is a prerequisite to getting a wife, and where pre-marital sex can result in social ostracizing, jail, and whipping.
“If you can’t get a job,” Ali said, “you can’t get a girlfriend.”
Evidence, however, does not point to a link between sexual frustration and Islamic extremism, says Marc Sageman, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
“In fact, three-fourths of al-Qaida terrorists are married, and two-thirds of them have children (and many children at that),” he wrote in his 2004 essay, “Common Myths About al-Qaida Terrorism.” “This apparent paradox is explained by the fact that they want many children to pursue jihad, while they sacrifice themselves for their cause and their comrades.”
Another perplexing paradox is why men like Hasan and Atta, who see themselves as devout Muslims, go to strip clubs and engage in other un-Islamic behavior. “It’s so inconsistent with the portrayals of these guys as pious Muslims,” said Pamela Taylor, co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“There’s a cultural double-standard,” said Ali. Many Muslim men view both Western women and Muslim women as mainly sexual objects, but hold different standards for Western culture that they view as lost to vanity and promiscuity. “They don’t expect their sisters to act like that.”
While Zonneveld said she sees a connection between sexual frustration and violence, she emphasizes it is not unique to Islamic cultures.
“I say the route to violence is through intolerance, and it doesn’t matter what religion or perspective you hold,” she said. “You see that in the anarchists against capitalism, Jewish settlers against Palestinians, and of course these so-called Muslims.”