Following the success of “Love, InshAllah: the Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women,” editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi got a flood of responses from American Muslim men wanting to share their side of the story. In “Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy,” 22 Muslim American men share their experiences with sex, love, and intimacy. The contributors come from diverse backgrounds and the stories range from comic to tragic. The editor and contributors to “Salaam, Love” join us.

Guests:
Ayesha Mattu, writer, editor, international development consultant
Sam Pierstorff, contributor to "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy"
Stephen Leeper, contributor to "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy"
Ramy Eletreby, contributor to "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex and Intimacy"

  • Guest

    Since there is no evidence for the existence of any gods, and therefore all morality that is based on the belief in a god is arbitrary historical baggage, talking about love between people who believe in a particular make-believe god is no more interesting than talking about love between for instance Dungeon and Dragons aficionados, and we should not elevate the discussion above similar fantasy-based topic matter. Religion is inherently about excluding people based on beliefs and practices, which is the opposite of love.

    • Kenji Yamada

      If there were hundreds of millions of D&D aficionados in the world, talking about how D&D aficionados experience love, sex and intimacy would be well worth an hour on KQED. Whether gods actually exist has no bearing on whether it’s worth our time to learn about the lives and perspectives of people who believe in gods, or in some particular god. (I’m an atheist myself.) We should take an interest because they are a significant part of our society and our fellow people.

      • Guest

        If you’re an atheist then pigs can fly. First, religions are exclusionary therefore people who are not in that religion will not benefit from this show, especially since the discussion is about how one religion affects their love lives. KQED should not be dividing people by group. Second, it is reckless to encourage people to be religious just as it is reckless to encourage them to smoke or use opium. Religion is a defective product that harms its consumers and yet manipulates them into buying more of it. Your position is, let them be harmed. Third, the sick way that cults and religions keep people under control is to tie everything in their lives to that cult or religion, which is what this radio show is doing.

        • geraldfnord

          The Enlightenment is much the lesser without ‘Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.’. I might be free of the vices of religion and other opiates, but the moment I consider myself superior to those who do practise those vices or even just so completely different to them that their experience were completely irrelevant to me, I have both mentally impoverished myself and increased the odds that I will be blind to my own vices when and where they do appear. Leonard Peikoff once opined, ‘Who do you want to learn from, a professor of economics or a bum on the street?’ and I immediately thought that the bum would probably be a better guide to surviving on that street…a smart person can and will learn from _anyone_, be his condition e’er so base.

          And religion can’t have been all bad, otherwise it would have been selected-out, precisely because there are no gods around to back it up. It served as a spur to social cohesion, and as a carrier-wave for information which, because we had no systematised knowledge allowing us to reïnforce what were true, had to be passed-on by rote and backed-up with fanciful tales and numerous supernatural carrots and sticks. Along the way, it also picked up tonnes of kruft, neutral and injurious, and old wisdom is now often bad wisdom because circumstances have changed, so now the balance is obviously in the red, and everywhere people are no longer afraid of starvation, exposure, penury, and illness, religion is on the wane. (Example: the puritanical religions of the Near East survived because their members were a little less affected by the rampant V.D.s epidemic in the first cities, despite there being no Yahweh to reward or punish, anti-biotic drugs were a game-changer and that puritanism is now risible…religion’s servile glorification of dominance and submission was part-and-parcel of the functioning of the scarcity-distribution made necessary by our laughably low technical level, embodied in authoritarian institutions such as government and employment and property…get beyond scarcity, and we can all have a good laugh at those notions.)

          • Guest

            I didn’t say a person is “superior” as you say because they’re an atheist. That’s a straw man argument.

            Religion is like smoking, there are victims of smoking who are smokers, then there are advocates of smoking who are smokers, there are predators who force others to ingest secondhand smoke out of meanness, there are predators who pressure others to smoke, and there are even people who don’t smoke who advocate smoking e.g. for profit. There are also deluded people who think smoking is healthy and encourage it. Religion is the same. But it’s not a black and white situation. Religion is unhealthy and intellectually perverse. It is a disease that spreads itself by taking over minds when they are weakest i.e. childhood and old age.

            But it would be irresponsible and reckless for society to encourage either religiosity or smoking and for many of the same reasons.

            “religion can’t have been all bad, otherwise it would have been selected-out,”

            Just because 1,000,000,000 smokers like smoking, or 1,000,000 Big Mac eaters like Big Macs, that doesn’t mean these are good for them. Similarly even if people like religion, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or to be encouraged.

          • geraldfnord

            Good point about superiority; you made no such claim…I think I was responding to a defect in tone I’ve heard in many fellow-atheists, one that holds us back. I do think that my larger point that anyone can potentially have something to teach us (over and above ‘don’t do that’) is a good one: survival is hard and complicated, and (since there are no gods) I’m not going to label any set of strategies ‘evil’ or ‘useless’ in their entirety just because I think their premises risible…acupuncture’s traditional presuppositions are laughably wrong, but it seems to do some people some good, even if it’s just a particularly good precipitator of the placebo effect…Linnaeus didn’t believe in natural selection, and genetics has messed with his taxonomy, but his work was still of value.

            The Big Mac and smoking analogies aren’t quite apt, for a couple of reasons:
            0.) Smoking cigarettes and eating Big Macs haven’t been around very long on cultural evolutionary scales; we’re still watching transients.
            1.) Religions developed in much smaller information pools than we have now, in groups closer to the edge of survival, meaning that they could develop with less dilution and with greater chance of culling if absolutely toxic.

            To take an extreme example, if a prehistoric band of thirty or fifty experienced an {Heaven’s Gate}-style religious surge, they would probably be culled fairly soon, even if only one-third of them killed themselves, all people being necessary to their survival.

            I am also mindlessly parrotting some of Dennett’s work addressing the fundamental problem that religion takes energy and groups of people very often have none to spare. I’m not supposing that reality were normative, but I think it unlikely that anything that humans do so much were completely useless or bad. Beside Dennett’s insight that until recently faith-healing worked better than much of our medicine, I think it likely that for many religion made life less solitary and nasty, even though it probably made it at least a little poorer and shorter.

          • Menelvagor

            i think you are wrong about the big macs and smoking. and acupuncture. Acupuncture and herbal medicines ave more credibility in my rational mind then western medicine. Esp. when western med is about profit–and often religious.

          • Menelvagor

            Do you work mcdonalds or a tobacco co.?

          • Menelvagor

            excellent points. I am your disciple.

          • Menelvagor

            good points. But religion is more likely to be on the decline because rational people teach rational ideas and show more compassion in many cases then religious people. Religion is morel likely to be on the decline because rational people see barbarians doing murderous awful things in the name of a god. We are more educated and learned.

            But then one could argue religion is not on the decline. Perhaps it is the same as it always has been, but in quasi-democracies like we have, people are permitted to say–i dont believe! I think there have always been large populations who dont believe the hype and there have always been religious killings of those who dont believe. We rational people have outlawed religious killing so republicans tend not to do it. BUt they would if they could. Now, we kill in the name of patriotism. And wealth accumulation.

            Nobody scares me more in this world than a religious person, and/or a corporate capitalist. And both kinds worship hierarchy. and tyranny.

            Religion is brainwashing. period.

        • Menelvagor

          To some extent I agree. If this was a show about love and intimacy among Christians most of the people here, secular rational people, would find it inappropriate–or should (because it is bias and imperialist)–however, as most Americans also view Muslims or Arabs as awful people who need to be destroyed, showing them as human with loving relationships can only be a good thing.

          But yes, religion = bigotry. And is misogynist, and patriarchal by nature (in modern times, as is the last 10,000years). Faith in a divine reality might be something different. Or speculation of divine reality. Men are religious, not the divine reality (if one exists).

    • Another Mike

      Because religion doesn’t mean much to you, it doesn’t mean much to anyone else?

      • Guest

        In the same way that heroin should never mean much to me, yes religion should not mean much to others.

        • Menelvagor

          however, i pity the heroine addict. I pity the heroine addict more than religious addicts. I would sooner help the heroine addict. Why? Both suffer an addiction, a disease, both are brainwashed. But drug addict, tho might resist me, is more likely to be thankful or accepting of my help. A religious patient will be hostile towards me. Hmm, well actually both will be hostile towards me. But the drug addict is more likely to come around in the end or appreciate what I am doing–not call me a heretic and evil doer.

  • Another Mike

    I find to my surprise that I was raised Muslim. I wonder how many other faiths teach that sex is something shameful you save for your eventual spouse.

    • Guest

      Many cults do the same. It’s part of controlling every aspect of your life. You can’t be a robot in service of the “faith” if you have free will.

    • red_donn

      Christianity has, historically, had a massive neurotic obsession with sex. The Catholic book assigning standards for repentence upon confessions of sins is made up primarily of sexual ‘crimes.’ Up until very recently, if a preacher of any denomination referred to people living in “immoral” circumstances, they almost always referred to sexuality. Indeed, in much of Christianity this is still the case.

      • geraldfnord

        In the process, I think they poisoned the word ‘immoral’, much as they misconstrued the nature of the Sin of Sodom (callousness, which to the rabbis’ discredit they _did_ associate with homosexuality [all that seed ‘wasted’ not creating future people who might have lived!], but was much more significantly the deprecation of charity and empathy—Sodom was so wicked that there were people there who thought it right that the poor died even when there were enough food to feed them).

  • Matt

    I don’t think the guest did a good job of squaring her statement that Islam is a sex-positive religion with the fact that many Muslim societies, spanning various cultures, have very sexually repressive practices, such as shaming women who dare to not conform to repressive practices like wearing clothes that don’t conform to establishment ideas of how women should dress or who are in public with a man other than family members, stoning women accused of adultery, killing women who were raped because her being raped dishonored the family, not letting a couple who cannot prove they are married to stay in the same hotel room, etc. etc. etc.

    Many American Muslims will say Islam is this, Islam is that, Islam isn’t really about such and such, and they make statements that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. If Islam is such a sex positive religion, why is there so much sexual repression in ALL Muslim (Arab countries, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, etc.) countries? Why is that billions of people seem to practice an Islam that represses sexuality and women, and yet an American muslim can say that Islam is sex-positive? Do the billions of her co-religionists have it wrong and she has it right? I wish she would have addressed the question rather than dismiss is as the same old negative stereotype and go into denial mode. Maybe if she were to talk with women who live in muslim countries and have been subjected to the sexual repression and understood their experiences and had compassion, she would understand that for those women, Islam is not sex positive.

    • Mehza Debouze

      Matt the countries you have mentioned do NOT represent Islam. To know about Islam you have to study ISLAM not go according to the so called muslim countries. There is NO such country that us truly representing Islam. Islam Elevates women, thus us such a deep and long discussion , thus forum is too short for that.

      • Matt

        Mehza, maybe you are right that in theory, Islam elevates women, but what about practice? What country that has a majority Muslim population can you point to in which women have equal rights as men? Maybe these countries don’t represent Islam, as you say, but they do claim to be Islamic and some of the governments of those countries work closely with religious authorities to enforce rules and laws which they identify as Islamic. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one such country, and Saudi Arabia is another. Both countries have police that go around enforcing dress codes and other “moral” rules, and they beat women when women are deemed to be breaking the law. I do not consider that to be elevating women, and the women from Iran I have talked to do not either.

        Theory is all well and good, but practice is what really matters. It has been my experience that American Muslims will often get defensive when issues of repression of women in Muslim-majority countries come up and they will say, “That’s not Islam, that’s Arab culture…” when discussing honor killings, for example. Well, not really. Honor killings by Muslims take place in Turkey and Iran, and they’re not Arabic, but they are Muslim. So one could take the position that honor killings are not part of Islam, but then again, honor killing is practiced in lots of Muslim countries, transcending culture. Why is that? Instead of getting defensive and moving into denial mode, why not accept that that is the reality and really try to figure out why that is, if Islam elevates women. If Islam elevates women, then please explain to me why in so many Muslim-majority countries of diverse cultures, there are laws and systems in place which repress women.

      • geraldfnord

        For any social phenomenon ‘X’, at a certain point you have to consider ‘X as it is’, otherwise you can always use the ‘no true Scotsman’ non-argument as if it were worthy. (That trope consists of insisting that anyone who does something bad is ‘no true X because no true X would do that’…at its extreme, there are never any ‘true’ Xs.)

        I realise that there is a religious divide even here: you believe that there is an essential nature, a form or entity ‘Islam’ which can be divorced from what Muslims do and believe; I believe that there can be something like essences to things, attributes which in combination are unique or nearly to it, but they are contingent, not really ‘essential’.

        On the positive side:
        If Islam is conducive to the oppression of women today—and I think it is—this says nothing of what it _must_ be. All our current religions are to some extent or another so oppressive (note that the Buddha predicted that letting women into the sangha would halve its effective life) but that can change. You would probably hold that that were possible because Islam has an essential nature that were true and can be recovered, I because I don’t believe in essential natures, but for each of us the question should be ‘What is to be done?’.

    • Guest

      Ultimately, if American Muslims want to embrace a non-Medieval mindset and way of life, they will have to break away and create new sect or new religion or just give on religion. Religious people want to say it’s about what people believe, but really talk is cheap, and actions (like honor killings) speak louder.

      I assert most don’t have the courage to break away.

      I was once told by a Saudi that if he became an atheist, his family would murder him. If I were related to such people, I’d never speak with them again on principle.

      • geraldfnord

        I basically agree, but I will note that some people will always want to oppress and murder, and that they will use whatever justification were handy to do it…good to remove any such from play, but new ones will probably show up.

  • red_donn

    The speaker tips his hand when he says that he “still believes in purity, chastity, and self-respect.”

    Purity, in this context, is a cultural holdover from various systems of ethics based almost entirely around “honour and shame,” which meant by purity, the preservation of a girl’s virginity to be taken by a man who would henceforth dominate her. It has evolved, and now claims some small hold on the male sex, though with thoroughly less strength of shaming behind it, but I give it no credit.

    Similarly I cannot find myself reconciled to a position where self-respect considers virginity till marriage a serious measurement of criteria. Indeed, the manner in which clubs have formed around this notion in various Puritanical areas speaks to the degradation of the whole concept, since chastity can only be considered a virtue in those few to whom it comes entirely naturally.

    Attaching self-respect to chastity might work in a case where chastity either was inherent to humans, and something which we were tempted away from, or if it actually held any merits on its own account, in which case resisting our nature would be considered laudable for the benefits which it provides. However, neither of these is the case. To assign self-respect by bowing to standards of shaming, grown out of the historical ownership of one sex by the other, is contradictory to the value which we set on the entire principle.

    • geraldfnord

      Once people start to enjoy themselves enough, they start to act as if they had _rights_…and that’s bad for the ones previously enjoying themselves more of the time, at least those of them who enjoy other people’s _not_ being able to enjoy themselves.

  • Menelvagor

    this is really about religion. not for me. Waste of time.

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