From unambiguous articles about masturbation and homosexuality to the regular column “My first time” – the new magazine “Jasad” has caused a real scandal in the Arab world.
The first issue appeared last December and sparked a controversy that remains silent to this day. Joumana Haddad, publisher of the quarterly magazine, openly admits his desire to break cultural taboos. – It is true that we are the first in the Arab world,” he says. – On the cover of our magazine next to the word ‘jasad’ (body) I put open handcuffs. They are meant to symbolize the fact that I want to unlock taboos. We need to stop treating our bodies, especially us women, as if they are something we need to be ashamed of,’ adds Haddad, a 38-year-old journalist and poet.
March’s theme: the penis
The December issue, which could be purchased for $10, featured articles on self-mutilation and cannibalism.
The main topic of the March issue is the penis. Other articles deal with abused men and women, transsexualism and the Kama Sutra. In the regular column “My first time” well-known persons tell about their first sexual experiences and their later erotic life.
Sexuality also dominates the visuals, which include reproductions of paintings by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Francis Bacon, among others. They illustrate articles by authors from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Syria. All authors publish under their own names – pseudonyms are not allowed.
They teach young people how to love each other!
Although this type of magazine is nothing strange in the Western world, in Lebanon the magazine has caused an outcry from religious authorities and women’s organizations, who are calling for the magazine to be shut down due to its pornographic content. – We are all in favor of modernity. But this magazine, under the guise of being cultural, appeals to sexual instincts, says Aman Kabbara Shaarani, president of the Lebanese Women’s Council.
– The content that teaches our youth how to make love does not fit with our moral values and civic education, Shaarani says. She adds that she has written to the highest religious authorities in the country – both Christian and Islamic – as well as members of the cabinet and the censorship office, calling for the banning of “Jasad.” – ‘I will not let go because there must be oversight of such publications,’ insists Shaarani, adding: – We are considering taking them to court.
Joumana Haddad, who is also the cultural pages editor at the liberal Lebanese daily An-Nahar, maintains that her magazine is not aimed at minorities and is sold in sealed plastic envelopes, clearly marked that it is for adults only.
Haddad says she regularly receives hate-filled emails and her website has been attacked repeatedly by hackers. However, she is not intimidated and is prepared to defend herself: – I am not afraid of controversy,’ she says. – I am passionate, I believe in this project, and the sales have shown that there is a demand for it.
The first issue of the magazine, published in 3,000 copies, sold out in 11 days; the second issue (4,000 copies) is selling just as briskly. Outside of Lebanon, the magazine is only available by subscription, bookstores or stores have not dared to distribute it.
– The largest number of subscribers, 282 out of 400, is in Saudi Arabia, where the magazine has received the most enthusiastic reception, according to Haddad, who funds the magazine herself.
Joumana Haddad admits that some of the articles and illustrations in “Jasad” may be shocking to some people, but she strongly disagrees with the statement that the Middle East is not ready for such publications.
– Why should we treat the Arab world as a minority? People who are against this project should go back to our own literary heritage, which includes “The Fragrant Garden” and “The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.” These works can shock even the most liberated of Western readers,” explains Joumana Haddad .