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October 23, 2021

Muslim and Christian sex

Transilvania International Film Festival is not only the most famous festival of its kind in Romania, but also a cultural actor full of initiatives, out of which some are almost unique. For instance, where else can you see easily accessible Lebanese movies? As in the previous years, the interest for the most various national film industries covers a cultural lack. Since we are overwhelmed by superficial news or biased analyzes, we rarely have the opportunity to watch cultures like the Muslim ones from inside – we are watching them in a suspicious manner anyway, because of the more and more uncontrollable terrorism. Films can help us to have a different perspective than the caricatured clichés.

Assad Fouladkar has chosen comedy to speak about serious issues, as Muslim sexuality seems to be, at least from the European point of view. And we, the Christians or post-Christians, are the ones being surprised to find out how “permissive” Muslim societies can actually be. “Halal Love and Sex” speaks exactly about what is allowed by the religious prescriptions – actually, this is what “halal” means. Several wives for a husband, trial marriages, easy divorcing – to us they seem some outlets of infidelity and duplicity. However, we are far of the repressive perspective on sexuality which, for thousands of years, has became a tradition, in one way or another, in the Christian world. Yet, we have to mention that Lebanon is not Saudi Arabia, thus interpretation of Islam is not so tensed; besides, it’s important that it is a multi-confessional country.

A complementary truth is the one stated by Kamel Daoud in his already well-known essay from New York Times, called “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World”. But in this case also seem to work important regional distinctions – Lebanon is not Maghreb, and sexual relationships have more opportunities which are accepted in terms of culture. In these more favorable circumstances, which is the problem, anyway? Another Lebanese film, which has been presented at this edition of TIFF, completes the perspective. “Stray Bullet” by Georges Hachem offers the perspective of a Christian family: the drama comes from the still dominant patriarchy. In terms of culture, men seem inclined to authoritarianism which, if needed, can be extremely repressive related to the women from their own family.  These are actually societies in which family has a more decisive role than in the European ones. In good sense or in bad sense.

They can be protective, but they can also be chocking and extremely intrusive related to the couple’s intimacy. At the same time, parents still have an important role in marital decisions, as it was the case of the Christian societies in the past. Marriage for love is a pretty recent invention. Fouladkar’s film has the merit of revealing a large problem (and, actually, a universal one) of the couple relationships: toxic jealousy, hypocrisy of multiple relationships (be they even “halal”), egocentrism which pretends to be passion, intimacy which is easy to be lost.

But this film has another merit, too. The initial scene presents a sex education course for girls, within a school. But the discussions seem to be much more relaxed than in… Romania. Last days, a PSD deputy even submitted a parliamentary project named “The Law for Childhood’s Innocence”, which aims to imprison those teachers that would teach sex education without the written consent of the parents.

But this is only the most recent sample of the campaign against sex education, with the support of the Orthodox Church. There is another film at TIFF which helps us understand the truth in this matter. “United States of Love” produced by the Polish Tomasz Wasilewski approaches the breach between the moral speech of the Catholic Church (in this case) and the real life of several women emerging from Communism. The adultery, the lesbian trends, the passion for a young priest, rape, casual sex with teenagers – all of these replace the often-invoked lie: “She was a good wife and mother”.

The hypocrite Puritanism of the Communism is followed by the clerical one, which is more interested by ideal formulas (also extremely questionable) than by the people.  Polish society is still divided related to the sexual matters – there is a current debate on the abortion, and the Government intends to establish harder legal measures against it. A relevant video shows a sermon which causes the injured women by the new proposal to leave the church. This campaign against sex education will also have other consequences than the ones expected by the Orthodox Church in Romania, too, because it will represent a new opportunity to reject opinions deemed to be backward and opposed to the responsible care towards our own children. Wouldn’t it be better if Church will be concerned about the family violence or about the sexual abuses on the minor relatives, since these are real flagella in our society, too?


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