Some of the reactions sparked by the naked picture of Nadia Larguet on the November cover of Femmes Du Maroc (FDM) and the article I wrote about it are rather unsettling. Some make it sound as if Hustler or playboy is being conspicuously sold in newsstands Morocco over, as if FDM is of the same caliber as those magazines that commercialize a woman’s feminine parts as sexual toys for the mind. Our society thinks that all nakedness is immoral and all of today’s modern disposition is immodest and perversive.
Let’s consider FDM’s cover as a Rorschach test of sorts (no offense Nadia. I’m not saying you’re an inkblot.) Those who view the naked pregnant woman’s picture as pornography are, in my opinion, projecting their insecurities and frustrations. Those are the ones who seem incapable of controlling their thoughts and urges. They would rather see a woman clad in a burqa and sequestered at home. If those ideas had prevailed in the 14th century, there would never have been a renaissance; is the “Venus of Irbino” painting pornography? are Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel not art? Is Moroccan writer Abdellah Taia’s novels not literature because he is gay? Is Morocco’s Latrache Abderahmane a neopegan because of his “Nu au Hamam”?
I agree that Islam provided women with rights they were denied by pre-Islamic Arabian societies. However, many scholars agree that the status of woman, after the death of the prophet, slowly reverted back to what it was in pre-Islam era. Islamic women enjoyed more rights during the prophet’s life than they do today.
I respect the choice of some women to wear hijab. Unfortunately, for most women in Moslem countries, it is not a choice; it is a familial and/or societal imposition that is, if not physical, ideological. Western women that wear the hijab are latently aware that there is a set of nonreligious laws upholding their rights not just as women, but as wives. They are content in knowing that their pious husbands cannot possibly admonish and banish them – in accordance with the Holy Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 34 – without incurring the wrath of a divorce judge. They reckon their husbands cannot marry younger women as they grow older. It would be unconceivable for an educated woman to detach herself from the protection provided by the laws of modern societies and accept the subjugation exacted on women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. And why go far? In rural Morocco today, thousands of bereaved women are battling an archaic system that deprives them of their land inheritance because they have no surviving male relatives.
Some argued that Nadia Larguet does not represent the Moroccan women suffering in our inner cities and remote villages, that she could care less about the plight of women. It may be so. However, Women’s rights advocacy was introduced in the Arab world not by illiterate and destitute women, but by educated, middle class and bourgeois ones. Do you think it would have made sense if FDM posted the photograph of an unknown, poor, and naked woman? A fellow blogger, Jillian C. York, asked me if it was necessary to use such a shocking strategy to convey a message. My answer is: “absolutely yes!”
Do you seriously believe that our problems are caused by the permissiveness adopted from the western world? Do you honestly think that outside of official channels, our kids do not have access to pornography, drugs, Alchohol…? The exposure of Moroccan teenagers to satellite porn channels is a tropism to the repressiveness of our societies; Women are accosted daily in the street of our Moslem cities by frustrated men who demand sex. The hijab and the niqab does not make a difference to them. We’d rather not see any immorality, but we know it is writhing behind our closed doors. We assign a death or life value to a woman’s hymen as if that shred of skin sums up her character and virtue. Teen pregnancy has much to do with sex-ed. A full awareness of the repercussions of unprotected and/or antenuptial sex – Islam calls for the mindless prohibition of the act – can mitigate much of the social problems Morocco is currently mired in.
Of course the king would rather allow naked women on magazine covers and Sex and the City to film in Morocco. It allows his government to proclaim before the world that indeed we have freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
It’s not about Nadia Larguet. She was hardly a household name. The cover of FDM touches the very heart of one of our main problems today not just in Morocco, but in the Arab and Islamic world. We tend to see a naked woman as a sex object only, even a pregnant or an old woman, or a pubescent girl. It speaks volumes of our mentality. It’s not magazines like FDM that are corrupting our morals. We are already driven by a repressed concupiscence hardly witnessed in western countries.
A. T. B. Copyright © 2009