Crash Course in Islam — Harem
>>STEVE ST. GEORGE: Hello I'm Steve St. George. And this is your crash course in Islam. Today we go inside the Harem. It's been a staple of novels and films about the exotic East. The Harem - it's typically shown as a large room full of beautiful women lying about on silken pillows awaiting the arrival of the prince or the Sultan or Caliph to whom they belong. And while there is a kernel of truth to that depiction, the Ottomans as well as Persians famously kept large harems of women. The original harems were something different. Western artists turned the haram into a kind of sexual playground. But originally the Harem was simply the area of the house where the female relatives and often the children lived. The word haram comes from the Arabic haram which means something forbidden or kept to safe. It was part of the home in which Muslim women lived their lives, where they could take off the headscarf and relax. The only man allowed in this section of the house were family members. The idea of the Harem or women's only section of the home actually predates Islam. Chinese rulers and nobility also kept the women of their households away from outsiders. And in some European cultures wives and daughters lived secluded lives and rarely saw anyone outside their own families.