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It promises the typical fare of any women's glossy magazine: career dilemmas, tips on a healthy sex life, and firm reminders that once again, black is the colour to wear this year. Yet the pronouncements of al Sedaqa have the kind of clout that Western fashion columnists can only dream of: it is the new, monthly, must-read for female followers of Iraq's orthodox Shia Muslim faith. With a name that translates as "The Virtuous Woman", its vision of aspirational womanhood could hardly be more at odds with the secular one promoted by Iraq's Western liberators: instead of talking about equality or the right to work, it sees the ideal woman as a dutiful wife and mother, whose only dress is the hejab, the black cloak that leaves only the eyes uncovered.
Published in Najaf, al Sedaqa is among hundreds of new periodicals, and newspapers that have sprung up since Saddam Hussein's fall ended the stranglehold of state-controlled media. However, while the growth of free media has been touted as one of the few successes of Iraq's fragile democracy, magazines such as al Sedaqa are not spreading quite the kind of progressive attitudes that coalition strategists had hoped for.
Creeping 'Talibanisation' in Iraq. Instead, its outlook is much in tune with the more orthodox elements in the country's new Shia-dominated government, whom many secular and non-Shia Iraqis accuse of trying to turn Iraq into an Iranian-style theocracy. They fear that will lead to clerical interference in areas. Such a criticism might well be levelled at al Sedaqa's sexual advice page, for example, which, it is fair to say, dispenses very different wisdom to that in Cosmopolitan or Good Housekeeping.
Instead of an agony aunt, sex therapist or doctor, questions relating to bedroom etiquette are dealt with by a theologian from Najaf's Kufa University Law School, Ghufran Dikan Abbas, who relies mainly on advice from centuries-old Shia edicts. No man should ever look directly at his wife's private parts, she counsels, or his son will be born blind.
Nor should he read the Koran during sexual congress, as this would most likely see both man and wife smitten in their beds by hellfire. It draws up a list of the attributes of the perfect Iraqi man - including a well-padded bank account, a pot belly to denote enough to eat , and an ability to talk his way out of trouble.