Bin Laden, Pornography, and the Temptation of Islam

Following his bloody demise on May 1, 2011, media outlets announced that “a large collection of pornography was found in Osama Bin Laden’s house by the US Navy Seals who killed him. The material was described by officials as ‘modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive.’” Upon learning about Osama’s “porn stash” Americans asked a compelling question: “How could he hate the West do much, yet take great pleasure in its erotic entertainment?” Let me offer an answer to this apparent contradiction. In large part, Bin Laden wanted to destroy Western Civilization because he (like millions of other Muslims) found its relaxed attitude toward sex irresistible and, therefore, a mortal threat to Islamic morality. To appreciate my argument fully we must begin by analyzing Islam’s stringent perspective on human sexuality.

Islam forbids all extramarital sex (Arabic, zina), whether fornication or adultery. The Qur’an is adamant upon this point, telling Muslims to “go not near zina,” because “it is an indecency and an evil way (17:32).” Likewise, in a famous saying or “hadith,” the Prophet Mohammed warned that “there is no sin after shirk [worshipping someone or something besides God] greater in the eyes of Allah than a drop of semen which a man places in the womb which is not lawful for him.” And those misguided souls who defy Islam’s call for chastity can expect a terrible fate in the world to come. The Book says about the person who “commit[s] zina, his “punishment shall be doubled to him on the day of resurrection and he shall abide therein [hell] in disgrace (25:68-69).” So damaging to public morality and salvation is illicit sex that “Islam not only prohibits zina,” in the words of a major Islamic website, “but also closes all the avenues and means leading to it. This is achieved by prohibiting every step and means leading to stimulating desires, opening ways for illicit sexual relations between men and women, and promoting indecency.”

Where does pornography fit into this worldview? That should be crystal clear: by glorifying fornication and increasing the viewer’s animal appetites, pornography mocks, defiles and denies Islam’s most cherished principles on the appropriate scope of human sexuality. According to Muslim clergy, pornography falls under the heading of “fuhsha,” a term that refers to “obscenity, vulgarity, indecency, shamelessness and something that is dirty.” Consequently, it must be suppressed to ensure society’s moral and spiritual wellbeing.

Nonetheless, Islam’s fight against porn’ is not going well. A new and indispensable marvel of Western technology, the Internet, is making this “fuhsha” material available to young Muslims with the click of a mouse. As an example, in January 2003, Pakistan Telecommunications’ officials announced a plan to provide families with free filtering software “to stop its one million Internet users from accessing adult websites.” The Pakistani government had called PTL to action because “over 60% of the online population, mainly youngsters,” were visiting pornographic sites. And according to a 2003 survey conducted in Saudi Arabia, “57% of males and 63% of female Internet users have been accessing porn websites and chatrooms.”

Keeping in mind that the overwhelming bulk of the $10 billion per annum porn industry is housed in North America and Europe, a region described by Lawrence O’ Toole as “Pornocopia,” it should come as no surprise that many Muslims detest the West for tempting them. Making Muslim outrage even stronger is their inability to resist our culture’s “fuhsha” entertainment. Even Bin Laden, a man who publicly lambasted America for “the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, [and] gambling” found himself drooling over pornographic videos in private. This humbling experience probably made him more zealous in seeking our destruction. And Osama is not alone: today a vast number of Muslims possess a nagging desire to jettison Islam’s restrictions on sexuality in favor of the almost unlimited sexual freedom now available in the West. That toxic mix of shame and lust impels such people to seek the West’s annihilation before it can lead them to fleshly sin and, eventually, hellfire.

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