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in the Middle
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DECEMBER 30, 2010 8:11AM

The 72 virgins and other fables

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I meet him at an Auto service shop in the western suburban, a man of great intellect and wisdom; I found him articulate and a student of history, after a brief exchange of the history of our cars, we immediately delved into history of our people, he thinks America has a split personality, one is very violent and the other is very human. Creating two Americans; one is ugly and the other is the good America, I told him that Muslims are diverse and  hard to pin down, range from those with identity crisis to no personality at all. After a great deal of debating all sorts of issues ranging from terrorism, wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, women rights and dress,  he jokingly asked me:  why did your god promises Muslims the 72 virgins when performing the divine act of martyrdom, ; and what would a women martyr get? Not sure of what he is going with this, I went along, and I asked him what made him to think that the so called promised virgins are all women, It is ironic that in the west once you mention virgin you only think of women, besides Muslims men don’t have to die to get their virgin, most of them get their own virgin here and now when they get married, at least theoretically. This made me wonder about the history professor question and I promised myself to look into this modern urban legend, why would my god promise us 72 virgin in heaven as an incentive for us to take our lives and others. Here are my two cent findings;

It all started more than three thousands years ago, when the Hebrew leader went to the Egyptian Pharaoh and demanded to let his people go.  At first, the Pharaoh got angry and refused. The Hebrew leader consulted with God, decided to send a blood flood, plagues descended down on the Egyptian population (enemy combatants), even Egyptian toddlers were not spared, and finally the Egyptian Army vanished in the deep Red Sea under the wrath of the Hebrew God. The Hebrew leader left Egypt victorious but got lost in Sinai for 40 years after abandoned their prophet, Mosses.

This year the world celebrated the 30th anniversary of a similar historical visit that took place thousands year later, but in reveres;  when the Egyptian “Pharaoh” Anwar Sadat surprised the world--and probably himself—when he went to ask the Hebrew leader to let the occupied Arab land go. However, the Egyptian Pharaoh couldn’t deliver on all the occupied Arab lands, so he got himself a sweet deal, a partial sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt can’t keep any troops or conduct any threatening activities.   Although the Egyptian Pharaoh was largely perceived in the west as a courageous man of peace, since this historical trip, peace in this troubled area is more and more in doubt and more illusive than ever.  Egypt may not have had direct military conflict with Israel in 30 years; however, the area has seen nothing but wars, a total destruction of Lebanon twice by the Israeli forces, and the recent destruction of Gaza, as was reported in the New York Times, “Israeli fire destroyed or damaged mosques, hospitals, factories, schools, a key sewage plant, institutions like the parliament, the main ministries, the central prison and police stations, and thousands of houses.” In the aftermath of the visit, Israel expanded settlers in the West Bank, and the Hebrew state has grabbed more land than what god has promised them, Egypt was expelled from the Arab kingdom, and the Egyptian Pharaoh himself was assassinated two years later by young, angry soldiers during the annual military victory parade. Later, America fought two wars in the area, and invaded Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in thousands of deaths and destruction.  Now Israel with its right wing government has no stomach to comply with international peace treaties with the Arabs; so much for a comprehensive peace. No divine intervention from the Muslim god yet!  No wonder why the Muslims are promised the 72 virgins in heaven not land!  Peace anyone!


Ahmed Tharwat/ Host

Arab American TV show BelAhdan


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