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 targeted 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 centre, 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 Mr Aouragh, and conspicuously absent are dildos, vibrators and any type of 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,” the site said, proclaiming itself “a novelty in the Islamic world.”
Muslim clerics like Dutch Imam Abdul Jabbar see no harm in Mr Aouragh’s site.
“As long as he doesn’t sell sex toys or those sorts of things there is no problem,” he told AFP, adding: the Prophet Mohammad gave lots of advice about sex in marriage and “there need not be any shame.”
Mr Aouragh, who is of Moroccan parentage but was born and raised in Amsterdam, remains a practising Muslim while embracing typically Dutch tolerance.
He said his website was also aimed at easing tensions over Muslim migrants in Europe.
“Everybody is talking about Islam in a negative way,” said Aouragh. “I am trying to get something positive out of the dark.
“Muslims also have to deal with stereotypical prejudices by some non-Muslims on the topic of sexuality within the Islam.”
“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, “for Muslims themselves, as for others.”