Mention the word ‘halal’ and what comes to mind is the meat shop in an old part of the city, or the ‘We Use Halal Meat’ board hanging on the wall at an eatery. Well, not anymore if you are in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.
Thirty-eight-year-old Haluk Murat Demirel recently opened a first of its kind online sex shop (www.bayan.helalsexshop.com). What makes this shop stand out is the claim that all its services are ‘halal’ — in keeping with Islamic law. The website in addition to selling condoms and herbal aphrodisiacs also counsels about ‘halal’ sex.
Demirel’s venture should get us thinking and also points to an increasing trend where services are being tailor-made to address the requirements of individual groups.
In 2010, following the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day ‘controversy on Facebook, IT professionals in Pakistan launched MillatFacebook. Similarly, in 2012, Salamworld was launched as an alternative to Facebook. The Washington Post quoted Abdulvahed Niyazov, one of Salamworld’s owners, saying that “the content that is being used on other social networks is not very secure and full of haram”.
What both the ‘helalsexshop’ and Salamworld is trying to achieve is to cater to the ‘worldly’ needs of a young population in the community and, at the same time, trying to stay within the rules prescribed by religion. Such developments, though it might sound ‘haram’ to many, reflect a changing society and goes a long way in deconstructing the West’s image of Islam.
A positive takeaway from this is that rather than getting cowed down by the threats from radical groups, like the Taliban, the youth are innovating ways to keep themselves abreast with a fast-changing world.
Humans adapt to the changes around them and so does a religion. As anthropologist Richley H Crapo in Anthropology of Religion notes ‘religion is part of the system of culture’ and plays a role in the ‘human adaptation to the circumstances of survival’.
While orthodox views are still prevalent in all religions and more often than not supersede the moderate and liberal voices, not all hope is lost. Demirel’s venture is an example.