Today sex is a great paradox in many countries of the Arab world: One acts as though it doesn’t exist, and yet it determines everything that’s unspoken.
What long seemed like the foreign spectacles of faraway places now feels like a clash of cultures playing out on the West’s very soil.
Religious authorities have issued grotesque fatwas: Making love naked is prohibited; women may not touch bananas; a man can be alone with a female colleague only if she is his milk-mother, and she has nursed him. Paradise and its virgins are a pet topic of preachers, who present these otherworldly delights as rewards to those who dwell in the lands of sexual misery.
Dreaming about such prospects, suicide bombers surrender to a terrifying, surrealistic logic: The path to orgasm runs through death, not love.
The West has long found comfort in exoticism, which exonerates differences.
Orientalism has a way of normalizing cultural variations and of excusing any abuses: Scheherazade, the harem and belly dancing exempted some Westerners from considering the plight of Muslim women.