What Role Does Islam Have In Fighting HIV/AIDS?
It's taken the Muslim world a couple of decades, but people in leadership positions have started to tackle the reality of HIV/AIDS among Muslim populations, particularly in hard-hit areas such as Africa or Asia. Last year, an international conference of Muslim leaders convened to begin sharing strategies, such as Uganda's "Jihad on AIDS" project and a women's education program in Indonesia. This year, the second annual International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS has racheted up the debate on what role Islam has in hindering - or helping - the spread of HIV/AIDS. "Islam and Muslims exacerbate the spread of AIDS," said Professor Amina Wadud of Virginia Commonwealth University, taking to task the behavior of Muslim men who misuse Islam. "A traditional Islamic theological response can never cure AIDS." She cited Muslim men who compelled sex upon their wives even though the men were HIV-positive as a result of extramarital affairs. Through 20 delegates walked out of the conference, condemning Wadud's "vicious and venomous attack to Islam", 50 other delegates (including Marina Mahathir, chair of the conference and daughter of the Prime Minister) signed a petition supporting Wadud's right to her opinion. While Wadud does have a point in that there is much in the way Islam is practiced and wielded by men that does exacerbate the spread of HIV/AIDS, the encouraging results seen in efforts by Muslim clergy to halt the spread of the disease (Senegal is a shining example) suggests that Islam does indeed have a positive role to play.