Earlier this week, Fast Company reported on El Asira, an online sex shop for Muslims. Naturally, we wanted to hear more about this innovative business, and so we contacted the guys behind it to find out a little bit more. Abdelaziz Aouragh, the owner, emailed us back with the answer to most of our questions. Some, he was less keen on answering, such as what he would say to less enlightened individuals who might see the store as un-Islamic. “I think it’s more than we intended to discuss,” he wrote at the top of my follow-up email.
What has been the general reaction to El Asira opening for business. How have your Muslim friends reacted compared to non-Muslims?
“I am an orthodox Muslim and many of the Muslims are positive about our concept. Non-Muslims are stunned that sexuality in Islam has a far broader perspective than the other, larger religions.”
What brought the site down? [Note: at the time of writing, it still was.]
“The large amount of visitors. The funny thing is, we had a contract for unlimited capacity, but the host was not able to give us the capacity we needed. If everything goes alright, we will be live again today, operating on our own server, and with a new host.”
Do you think that some people will find the site offensive? And if they do, what will El Asira do?
“Well, that’s the first misconception. We don’t claim we are an Islamic sex shop, or a sex shop in any way. Unfortunately, it has been reported like that by various media–some of whom we have never even talked to. We are aiming for the sexual wellbeing, and the sexual health of, primarily, Muslim couples.”
As i said, we have never even mentioned we are an Islamic or a Halal sex shop. In fact, me and my suppliers don’t want to be compared to a sex shop–neither will we present ourselves in a way that could be translated or see as such an extravagant concept.
“We want to be a Web shop according to Sharia law, which doesn’t mean the shop is an Islamic sex shop. (It is probably a term that people like to use because people are conditioned to respond that way to sexual and erotic wellbeing, I guess it is easier for people to comprehend and explain it to themselves and to others.) We don’t use any pornographic pictures, nudity, foul language, sex toys, porn movies, magazines, etc. And anything that would contradict with Islam.”
At present you only have a dozen or so products for sale. If El Asira is successful, what else do you think you could sell on it?
“In fact, we are already taking our concept to the next level and are [making plans] to open a physical concept store for sexual health based on the same concept as our online shop. By then we will have an exclusive jewelry collection and a lingerie collection, both of which will be designed by well-known people in their field. You will soon hear where–it’s going to be a location that will surprise many.”
Ooh, I love a secret. East or West?
“Hahahaha you are good. Ok, I will tell you… definitely East.”
Could you describe the jewelry and lingerie to us?
“We could, but right now we won’t.”
How are sales going? Which product is the most successful, and which is the least?
“The best products are the gels and cremes. The pills are a bit harder to sell, because they need to be consumed, and that’s something that we still need to earn some trust in. But, in time…”
What is the male-female ratio of customers on El Asira?
“It is not easy to say, since we can basically see just names and what people buy. But it looks like women are as interested in our products as men.”
Are you prepared to see copycat sites springing up after you?
“That would only be good for business, as then quality will improve all round. But it turned out to be a brilliant marketing strategy for us, without doing or saying anything about what [everyone] believed we were all about. Life is interesting when you are listening, and silent when it is time to be silent. And, you know we are the first one in this field.”