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International News

Malaysia: American Academic Causes Uproar at Conference on AIDS and Islam

May 21, 2003

About 20 delegates, mostly Muslim scholars, stormed out of an international AIDS conference Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after an American academic suggested that some Islamic teachings worsen the spread of the disease, participants said Wednesday. The delegates accused Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at the Commonwealth University in Virginia, of blasphemy and demanded she be expelled from the conference for her comments.

In her paper to the Second International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS, Wadud said "Islam and Muslims exacerbate the spread of AIDS and ... a traditional Islamic theological response can never cure AIDS." She said Muslim women are bound by Islam to comply with their husband's desire for sex, and can be punished if they do not. This included women who know their husbands are HIV-positive, Wadud said in her paper.

Some delegates tried to interrupt Wadud during her presentation and demanded a right of reply, which organizers did not give, the national news agency, Bernama, reported. About 20 delegates then walked out in protest and later issued a statement. "Her vicious and venomous attack to Islam is unfounded and unsubstantiated," the statement said. "Amina Wadud's blasphemy against the Holy Quran and Islam are an echo of an unethical anti-Islam agenda to demonize Islam." After the walkout, about 50 delegates signed a petition supporting Wadud's right to make the comments.

Wadud told reporters at the conference she stood by her comments. "My paper just states opinions that are different from others and perhaps they take exception to that," Bernama quoted Wadud as saying.

Marina Mahathir, chair of the Malaysian AIDS Council, which is organizing the five-day conference, rejected the protestors' call to expel Wadud. "We invited her, it will not be nice to expel her, it will send the wrong signal to other speakers," said Marina, the daughter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. "AIDS is a difficult issue, when you couple it with Islam, it makes it even more contentious," she said.

Back to other CDC news for May 21, 2003

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
05.21.03; Jasbant Singh

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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