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Sex shop chain to target Muslims

AFP-JIJI

A Dutch online shop selling sex products approved for use by Muslims announced Wednesday an alliance with Europe’s largest erotic retailer to tap into the potentially lucrative Muslim market, worth perhaps billions of dollars.

The founder of Amsterdam-based El Asira, Abdelaziz Aouragh, said the deal with Frankfurt-listed Beate Uhse came four years after his firm first launched a range of erotic products that consumers can use in line with Shariah law. El Asira, which means “Society” in Arabic, introduced those discreet products in 2010, including sensual oils based on the highly sought-after agar wood oil, one of the world’s most expensive natural raw materials, to massive acclaim from the local Muslim community.

“We will take 18 of our Islamic branded products to the market through Beate Uhse,” Aouragh said. “Considering we’re targeting a market of around 1.8 billion people (worldwide), the potential is huge.”

Beate Uhse approached El Asira in 2012 with a business proposal to throw its weight behind the Dutch company to market its products. “We think we can learn a lot from El Asira on how to tap into the Muslim market for erotic goods,” Beate Uhse spokeswoman Linda Blommaert said.

Both Aouragh and Blommaert stress the venture is far removed from the traditional sex shop image of pornography, which would not be permitted under Islamic law. “The products we’re putting on the market have nothing to do with blow-up dolls or vibrators,” said Aouragh, a second-generation Amsterdam resident of Moroccan descent. “It’s not about the sex act, it’s what’s going on around it. Our products increase the atmosphere and heighten feelings of sensuality.”

Beate Uhse is a company that “respects women and presents its products in a woman-friendly environment. That’s why we believe there’s no conflict in working with them,” Aouragh added.

Beate Uhse, which began life in 1946 distributing pamphlets about family planning, last year posted a turnover of €142 million ($193 million) and has 96 shops in 11 European countries. Its founder was Germany’s only woman stunt pilot in the 1930s, Beate Uhse-Rotermund. She opened a sex store in Flensburg in 1962, to much controversy.

Both Aouragh and Blommaert declined to say how much the joint venture was worth.

The two companies are now looking into the possibility of opening a concept store for sex products in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca, the holiest place in Islam, Aouragh said. Around 3 million pilgrims converge on the city during the annual hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam.