The Politics of Female Companions (houris) of Islamic Paradise in Contemporary American, European, and Muslim Discourse


ACLS Fellowship Program




One of the rewards for being a righteous Muslim male is the companionship of houris—often understood as virgins—in Islamic Paradise. While the promise of these "virgins" has become prominent in American and European media as a motivation for political jihad, Muslim writers understand the houri in more complex ways. This project uses multiple images of the houri to examine contemporary visions of Islam and describe how the idea of the houri as virgin has evolved over time. It suggests that while Muslim discourse is more divided about the meaning of the houri, American and European discourse uses the image of the houri to critique Islam as a religion that encourages violent action and discourages scriptural interpretation.