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Lebanon: Finding Sex Through the Party of God?

Just like the time Slate's Jacob Weisberg invited me to join his Mafia family, his latest tweet made me think some wiseass had hacked his Twitter account: "If you're looking for a hook-up in South Beirut, best to go through Hezbolllah." Still, I clicked the link and arrived at a Foreign Policy piece called "The Militarization of Sex (The story of Hezbollah's halal hookups)." It's interesting, unexpected, and nuanced. Seriously.

Now, I should really write that "The Militarization of Sex" seems nuanced. I have no personal knowledge of the pre-marital/extra-marital sexual habits of Hezbollah supporters. So let me stipulate that I can't vouch for any of what Hanin Ghaddar wrote for Foreign Policy. Skeptics should feel free to tuck all that follows in the "Interesting If True" folder of their brain's Trapper Keeper.

There are moments when Ghaddar's piece seems as if it's shaping up to be nothing more than a chronicle of hypocrisy — the literal "Party of God" facilitating "temporary marriages" that allow "couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures."

But hypocrisy is banal. I wouldn't have called Ghaddar's piece interesting, unexpected, and nuanced if it began and ended with hypocrisy. The striking passages are ones like this:

With his designer jeans, trendy haircut, and sharp sense of humor, Ali seems to be an unlikely Hezbollah supporter. He has always supported the resistance and what Hezbollah has achieved in this regard; however, in the last couple of years, he has developed a strong support for Hezbollah on issues he was previously critical of, such as its affiliation with Iran, involvement in domestic politics, and its religious rhetoric.
Coincidently or not, these developments took place as he was drawn to practice temporary marriage. In his southern village, it is difficult to meet girls and have normal relationships with them, and he acknowledges that getting closer to the party's social network has helped him meet more girls who were open to this kind of marriage. Gradually, Ali stopped drinking alcoholic beverages, took up praying and fasting ...

How to account for Ali's simultaneous trajectories both toward and away from what we'd conventionally think of as a devout life? According to an activist Ghaddar quotes, Hezbollah's social network "is only a matter of more control rather than being tolerant."

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