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Sexuality in Islamic Societies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies.

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Presentation on theme: "Sexuality in Islamic Societies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sexuality in Islamic Societies From Advancing Sexuality Studies: a short course on sexuality theory and research methodologies

2 2 Schedule Learning ActivityTime allowed Course introduction, schedule, aims20 mins Session 1. Challenging stereotypes Quiz and discussion75 mins Session 2. The social regulation of sexuality in Islamic societies Pre-reading review Lecture and discussions 35 mins 190 mins Session 3. Engaging in research and debate on sexuality within Islamic societies Optional activities. Participants will choose to either : Run panel discussions on selected topics or Develop guidelines for ethical research within Islamic communities 65 mins Conclusion 15 mins Total time: 400 mins ( just over 6.5 hours)

3 3 To: Encourage students to challenge popular myths and negative attitudes towards sexuality in Islamic societies Provide an overview of the social regulation of sexuality in Islamic societies Take into account historical, cultural and textual influences Module aims

4 4 Participants will: Engage with a range of issues that feature in contemporary debates on Islam and sexuality Undertake cross-cultural comparisons in relation to these issues and develop their critical thinking skills in relation to this topic Engage in active learning through participation in module activities

5 5 Module scope This module: – Does not focus on Islamic jurisprudence – Does not take a legalistic approach – Does not support purely textual approaches to understanding Islam that posit that religion should be interpreted in an ahistorical manner Such approaches require a significant amount of expert knowledge of the Qur an, hadith and Arabic

6 6 This module will focus on topics related to sexuality and Islam that engage with five key human rights issues: 1.Female veiling and Islam 2.Polygamy in Islamic societies 3.Sex education for Muslim youth 4.Homosexuality and Islam 5.Female circumcision and Islam

7 7 Session 1. Challenging stereotypes

8 8 Quiz Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? 1.Female circumcision is a religious requirement for Muslim women 2.A person cannot be both Muslim and homosexual 3.The veiling of Muslim women amounts to sexual oppression 4.Because Muslims are required to abstain from sex before marriage, sex education is irrelevant and dangerous for Muslim youth 5.Muslim women have no choice but to accept polygamy if their husband s wish is to have multiple wives …… cont.

9 9 Quiz (cont.) 6. Human sexual relations are viewed as innately sinful in the Quran 7. The sexual defamation of women and the making of unfounded accusations that illicit sex (zina) has occurred constitute crimes under Islamic law 8. Illicit sex (zina) is only a crime for women under Islamic law 9. The sexual oppression of Muslim women stems from the poor treatment by the Prophet Mohammed of his wives 10. The hadith ( utterances of the Prophet) are not open to interpretation in relation to matters of gender and sexuality

10 10 Responses Female circumcision –Cultural practice, not religious requirement –Fewer Islamic cultures practise this than do not practise it A person cannot be both Muslim and homosexual –No reference in the Qur an or hadith saying that homosexuality is impossible for Muslims –Numerous rich traditions of homosexuality and transgender identities in multiple Islamic societies The veiling of Muslim women amounts to sexual oppression –Important right for Muslim women to choose (many Muslim women value their head dress for reasons of religious practice and identity)

11 11 Sex education –Access to sex education both delays the age of sexual initiation and reduces the incidence of unwanted premarital sex (WHO, 1997) –Sex education for Muslim (all) youth prevents them from having sex prior to marriage without adequate knowledge Polygamy –Muslim men are not allowed to take more than one wife if the first or subsequent wives do not consent to the proposed marriage –A man may not take an additional wife if he is unable to support all wives equally in terms of both economic emotional and social requirements Human sexual relations –Innately positive and sacred; not seen as original sin

12 12 Sexual defamation and unfounded accusations –Punishment for unfounded, defamatory sexual gossip should be greater than that set out for sexual indiscretions Illicit sex ( zina ) –Of equal significance for women and men –Often only women who are punished in highly conservative regimes that do not follow the Quranic principles of gender equality and non-violence The Prophet and his wives –Deep commitment to womens rights and improving their status Interpretation of hadith (utterances of the Prophet) –Long and rich tradition of interpeting hadith related to gender and sexuality –Among the most highly contested fields of study

13 13 Session 2. The social regulation of sexuality in Islamic societies

14 14 Pre-reading review Bennett, L. R Islam as a medium for promoting reproductive rights, in Women, Islam and Modernity: Single Women, Sexuality and Reproductive Health in Contemporary Indonesia. London/New York: Routledge/Curzon, Chapter 6 pages Boellstorff, T Between Religion and Desire: being Muslim and Gay in Indonesia, American Anthropologist, 107 (4), Othman, N Sexuality and gender rights: A sociological perspective, in Z. Anwar and R. Abdullah eds. Islam, Reproductive Health and Women s Rights. Kuala Lumpur: Sisters in Islam, (read only pages ) Focus question: –How is the social regulation of sexuality apparent in the pre-readings for this module? (15 mins) Feedback and wrap-up (20 mins)

15 15 Question and answer session What do we mean by sexuality? –Biological sex and behaviour, beliefs, values and norms Incorporates sexual desire, knowledge, techniques and experience, identities and orientation –Sexuality and gender distinct, not synonymous What do we mean by the social regulation of sexuality? –Every society (Muslim or non-Muslim) regulates sexuality Age of consent, certain sexual practices illegal (e.g. sex between siblings)

16 16 How is sexuality conceptualised in Islamic societies? –No one set of sexual ideals and beliefs, but common or popular ways of understanding sexuality –Sex positive approach (enjoyment of sex not inherently sinful) –Sensual modesty (Bennett, 2005) –Double theory of female sexuality: explicit / implicit (Mernissi 1985) Explicit = passivity, female sexual subjugation to men Implicit = active and dangerous, has to be restrained Can lead to control under the guise of protection –Heterosexuality viewed as natural

17 17 Where do the varied understandings of sexuality in Islamic societies stem from? –Interpretations of the Quran, hadith (utterances of the Prophet) and sunnah ( the example and customary practice of the Prophet) Localised teachings of Islamic clerics Local practices of Islamic cultures, both historical and contemporary –Shariah courts or law, both through their legislation and operation –State laws –Mass media & publications Including prayer books, television, radio, and popular Islamic music ……cont.

18 18 –Contemporary Islamic movements and their teachings (including revivalist and reform movements) –Islamic scholars (including feminist and human rights scholars) –Islamic activists (particularly in the fields of reproductive rights and sexuality – e.g. Sisters in Islam) –Islamic peer groups and prayer groups and distinct Islamic subcultures

19 19 Homosexuality and Islam –Widely believed that homosexuality is forbidden in Islam but term homosexuality does not exist in the Quran –Most understandings based on the story of Lut –Some Islamic scholars challenge heterosexism of mainstream interpretations of the Quran –Words often taken to refer to homosexuality include: Al Fahisha (e.g. in 7:80 & 27:54) Atrocity or gruesome deeds Al Khabaidh (e.g. in 21:74) Improper or unseemly things Al Munkar (e.g. in 29:29) That which is reprehensible As Sayyi'aat (e.g. in 11:78) Bad or evil deeds

20 20 Moves to make Islam more inclusive of same-sex relationships Homosexuals also created by Allah; sinful to lie about who they are Range of sexual and gender identities and practices, existed since the time of the Prophet Vast number of same-sex attracted Muslims

21 21 How does Islam regulate human sexuality? –All actions (including sexual behaviour) defined as either halal (permissible) or haram (non-permissible) Sexual relations between men and women who are married to each other, based on mutual consent and do not cause harm: halal Sexual relations outside of marriage: haram. Referred to as zina (illicit sex) Quran definition: ZINA Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who are not married


23 23 Marriage is the most structured and obvious mechanism for regulating sexuality in Islam –Who can marry (and when women can remarry) –Minimum age –Who can consent –Conditions of marriage contract Obligations re: child support and alimony –Legality (or otherwise) of polygamy & divorce –Temporary marriage –Use of contraception –Punishments & regulation of sexual gossip and slander

24 24 Other practices, influences and structures: –Islamic dress codes (which exist for both sexes) –Restrictions on male and female use of public space –Conventions around prayer and hygiene –Various forms of female genital cutting –Censorship and control over knowledge around sexuality and reproduction – e.g. sex education for Muslim youth –Family planning & health promotion policies and programs –Laws to prevent and punish sexual violence Punishment of sexual transgressions through social exclusion, stigma and violence in extreme circumstances

25 25 Why does Islam regulate sexuality? –For the protection of the umah (the community of Muslims) –Perceived benefits of this regulation include: Clarity of paternity Ensuring male responsibility for women and their children Preventing conflict arising from sexual jealousy The protection of health Preventing sexual violence Preventing conflict arising from sexual frustration

26 26 Session 3. Engaging in research & debate on sexuality within Islamic societies

27 27 Option 1: Debate Five topics to choose from: 1.Female veiling and Islam 2.Polygamy in Islamic societies 3.Sex education 4.Homosexuality and Islam 5.Female circumcision and Islam Group preparation / reading (30 mins) Debate (20 mins) Feedback and wrap-up (15 mins)

28 28 Option 2: Research guidelines Brainstorm experiences or ideas regarding the challenges of undertaking ethical sexuality research within Muslim communities (15 mins) Responses? (20 mins + 5 mins review) Possible guidelines? (10 mins)

29 29 10 key concepts for halal (permissible) research (Bennett) : 1.Human sexuality is not sinful, and can be appropriately discussed and debated 2.Learning and intellectual inquiry is highly valued in Islam and research into human behaviour is encouraged 3.Discussions and explorations of sexuality among Muslims need to be gender appropriate 4.Discussions and explorations of sexuality among Muslims need to respect personal modesty and privacy 5.Research should have positive intent – it should be for the explicit benefit of the umah ( Muslim community )

30 30 6.Research should involve appropriate dialogue, based on the Islamic principle of consultation 7.Avoid causing harm through (possibly unintended or unconsidered) sexual stigma 8.Avoid deception, in line with the Islamic principle of truth 9.Women research participants should be able to consent for themselves, in line with Islamic principles of gender equity 10.The religious and cultural diversity of different Islamic communities should be understood and respected by researchers

31 31 Conclusion Relationships between Islamic sexuality, reproduction and control of the human body are complex and dynamic Conflicts of belief, opinions, values, especially around: –Sexuality, shame and the value of life –Islamic fundamentalism –Circumcision –Sexual violence According to Islam, only Allah knows the true intent behind human actions. Only Allah can pass moral judgement

32 32 Module created by: –Dr Linda Rae Bennett, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society Short course developed by: –The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and –The International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS) –With funding from The Ford Foundation Available under an Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike licence from Creative Commons

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