Not to be confused with al-Qaeda's new women's magazine dubbed the Jihad Cosmo, this is the real deal. The publisher of British Cosmopolitan is launching a Middle Eastern edition next month in Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
Nobody's expecting a warm welcome. Muslim countries view the magazine — an instantly recognizable symbol of sexual freedom — as some kind of cultural colonialism with a mission to sell Western depravity. Meanwhile, Cosmo's publisher Hearst sees a market in the growing middle class, and as a business wants to capitalize on it.
Hearst has a point: a small, but growing number of Middle Eastern women have found a voice, demanding gender equality and fighting sexual discrimination. It's reminiscent of the United States 50 years ago, which was when Helen Gurley Brown took over Cosmo and turned it into a guide to sexual empowerment for the masses.
The magazine may not have evolved with Western women, but it was always at its best when challenging the status quo and encouraging people to talk about taboo topics. And maybe that's exactly what women in the Middle East want — and need — right now.