Sexual Liberality as Othering

The Case of Islam in Late Antiquity and Modernity


  • Thomas Hoffmann Aarhus University



Islam, sexuality, orientalism, othering


The article deals with the hegemonic and sometimes downright demonizing effects of sexual discourses that accentuate toleration and easygoingness over and against religious Others. The historical examples presented in this context derive from the early Islamic world and the author will show that while the early Muslims (7th-9th century) harnessed this strategy against the alleged puritanical Jews (and to some extent Christians too), a structurally similar strategy has now emerged and has been turned against Muslims in late modern Western diaspora by a variety of so-called Islam critics. Now Muslims are being criticized for being hyper-puritanical/patriarchal and sexually repressive; a topos that stands in stark contrast to the topos of sexual licentiousness promulgated in Orientalist discourses (including the visual arts). Present day Muslims, however, are caught in a double-bind since the charges against their alleged puritanism and bigotry runs parallel with charges against their alleged transgressive and patriarchal sexuality.

Author Biography

Thomas Hoffmann, Aarhus University

Thomas Hoffmann (1970) is associate professor at Aarhus University, where he teaches Islamic Studies. His principal research topic is Qur’anic studies in which he has published several articles as well as the monograph The Poetic Qur’an. Studies on Qur’anic Poeticity (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007).


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How to Cite

Hoffmann, T. (2012). Sexual Liberality as Othering: The Case of Islam in Late Antiquity and Modernity. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 41(2), 10–15.