Last month in April, the Independent, the Huffington Post, the IBT, Mic, and other media outlets the world over jumped on this very sexy story from Saudi Arabia, where an entrepreneur claimed he was opening a new kind of sex shop in accordance with sharia law.
While several reports claimed that the store, El Asira, the first "online sex shop" for Muslims, was going to sell sensual oils, creams and "Islamically-approved toys" in Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims around the world, Britain's Express declared that the store had the sanction of "ultra-conservative Saudi clerics".
Needless to say, their reports sparked a lot of controversy.
Except … Abdelaziz Aouragh, the founder and owner of El Asira, doesn't even have storefronts, and he doesn't sell his products in Saudi Arabia. The media reports were all based on a hoax!
For Abdelaziz Aouragh, the founder and owner of El Asira, the sudden publicity has led to two things – a flood of interview requests from journalists around the world and a spike in inquiries from more and more interested consumers.
Speaking with ThinkProgress, Aouragh said that he doesn't plan to open a store there, and refuted the notion that his company's line of lingerie and lubricants would be out-of-place in the Islamic holy city.
“The media attention that it’s getting is unbelievable,” Abdelaziz Aouragh, the founder and CEO of El Asira said over Skype. “I’m getting requests from all corners of the world who want to know about the story in Mecca and I’m like, you don’t have your facts straight, unfortunately.”
The Netherlands-born Muslim said that the reports might stem from an announcement he made nearly a year ago to open a concept store for El Asira products like lubricants and lingerie. While he has not yet taken steps to open such a shop, Aouragh added that it wouldn’t be as shocking as many may believe.
"It's incredible how false information can go viral!"
"The entire world, from Australia to Brazil, was talking about it—but very few journalists actually tried to contact me to verify this information.
The term “halal sex shop” was all over the media but it isn’t an accurate term: a sex shop itself can’t be halal. El-Asira is not a “sex shop”; we sell a line of body care products for enhancing sensual pleasure. And when I say that El-Asira products are accepted under sharia law, I am talking about how we market and sell our line. For example, I sell lingerie, but I display it without using images of real women wearing it. I am also careful to explain how to use a product without using any inappropriate or vulgar words. I’m Muslim myself and I don’t want to offend anyone. So, yes, I would like to open my own El-Asira boutiques, but I will only do so after first opening a concept store to evaluate how people react to it.
I have been to Mecca numerous times but I have never once contacted Saudi authorities about selling my brand there… that is complete fiction. That said, I do think they are open to my concept because, a few years ago, a chain of Saudi supermarkets contacted me because they were interested in selling El-Asira products. In any case, all of the noise about this false information has been great for my business. Our products have been ordered by stores in the Maldives, in Malaysia, in Bahrain and in Tunisia…!," Abdelaziz Aouragh said.