In a Ramallah
mosque, Ashraf Alkiswani sat before three sheikhs to ask for approval for his latest business project. It is unusual for Palestinian entrepreneurs to seek religious authorization for new ventures, however Alkiswani was not planning on opening yet another restaurant or café; he intends to launch a first-ever Palestinian
online sex shop, and requires a Fatwa (a legal judgment based upon Islamic law).
"It's not about just sex. It's about love and the joy of expressing that love," he told the British
Guardian. "It's about trying to build bridges across gaps that separate the husband from the wife by improving sexual harmony, which will in turn will lead to happier marriages, less divorce and less infidelity. In that sense, it is a social project."
According to the Guardian, the online store Karaz, which means cherries in Arabic, went live this week, selling items such as candy nipple tassels, "sexual enhancement products", lubricants and bedroom games, and offering sex advice for married couples. Alkiswani hopes to attract customers across the Arab world.
"Our aim is to provide a range of tasteful products to help rekindle the purity and passion between married couples," the website reads. "Karaz is proud to help foster healthy relationships and open communication by offering a wide spectrum of marital aids that help husbands and wives achieve and maintain an intimate lifestyle. Pornography and raunchy schematics are not used to sell our products."
Alkiswani, a 30-year-old Palestinian-American businessman, wants to helped those married though is unwed himself. He turned to the sheikhs in Ramallah and was a little nervous. While rationalizing the need for his business, he told the sheikhs of the ignorance regarding sexuality among the Palestinian community.
"Islam promotes sexual intimacy between husband and wife, yet in society it is taboo to talk of it. So people shy away from asking questions," Alkiswani said. The sheikhs were in unanimous agreement.
As reported by the Guardian, in the streets of Ramallah, Alkiswani's business venture got a cautious reception. Saed, a married cafe owner, said: "It's needed, but whether it will be accepted I don't know." Inas, a young, single woman, said: "Marriage is considered a lifetime commitment. Surely in that lifetime a husband and wife should be able to find new ways to enjoy each other."
Meanwhile, it seems that the Palestinian society is not quite ready for Alkiswani's store to take flight. For now, according to the Guardian report, the website will be delivering plain brown paper packages, without any logos, to married couples across the Middle East.
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