January 19, 2019

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Islamic Fundamentalism

““Baby, It’s Cold Outside”—a song written by a Jewish composer that has become a secular Christmas anthem—played a small but crucial role in the rise of modern Islamic fundamentalism.

Back in 1950, the Egyptian author and religious theorist Sayyid Qutb spent two years as an exchange student at a teacher’s college in Greeley, Colorado.

He was infuriated by many things about American life—people spent too much time taking care of their lawns, and it was impossible to get a decent haircut—but especially by a church dance where a pastor played Frank Loesser’s Grammy-winning song on a gramophone:

“The dance hall convulsed to the tunes on the gramophone and was full of bounding feet and seductive legs,” Qutb wrote later. “Arms circled waists, lips met lips, chests met chests, and the atmosphere was full of passion.”

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” long a holiday classic in the United States, has recently come under scrutiny in the #MeToo era for its light-hearted portrayal of sexual coercion—though a close reading suggests the song could just as easily be a sly homage to female empowerment.”

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