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Islam and Bellydancing

Islam and bellydancing: I hope some WAISer is an expert who can inform us about this. Going back to our discussion of Latin American dictators, I once at a party met Argentine President Pedro E. Aramburu (1955-58). It was public knowledge that there was a sharp division in the Army, and I wished to discuss it with him. He simply roared "There is no division in the Army!" End of conversation. He was later assassinated. Those who deny that all religions are in crisis are in a similar state of denial. We hear little about a crisis within Islam, but it is very real. The ultra strict Wahabite sect is opposed by the more liberal groups and by many young people. The crisis may lead to something like the Reformation and Renaissance in the Christian West.

We have seen the Taliban executing or beating women deemed to have offended their Islamic code. It would seem we should assume that belly-dancing is not a Taliban practice. However, in Egypt it is a form of entertainment for groups of men. What about the other Arab states and Iran (where it is presumably banned)? Britain has long had an agreement with Oman under which a contingent of British troops are stationed there. Tony Blair visited them on his way to Qatar, where he was to address the emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic States, convened to discuss the Afghan crisis. TV showed a group of scantily dressed women dancing to entertain the troops. It was not clear whether they were local talent, or imports from swinging Britain. If the latter, it showed a singular lack of judgment. The broadcast on Western TV may have been the usual TV search for sensationalism. The Qatar conference disinvited Blair, who had been generally respected in Arab countries. It was a blow to the Western cause. Was this slap related to the dancers, or was it simply that the Islamic governments, who were walking on eggs, did not wish to give their domestic anti-Western enemies a pretext to denounce them?

Ronald Hilton - 10/12/01