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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Controversial new book: Sex Education for Muslims
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Controversial new book: Sex Education for Muslims

by Mike Andrew -

SGN Staff Writer 'Ignorance about sexual matters is causing a lot of our young people unnecessary psychological distress,' says Dr. Mobin Akhtar, Pakistani psychiatrist and author of Sex Education for Muslims.

His efforts to correct that situation are meeting with resistance, however.

Dr. Akhtar, now 81, says that the subject of sex is difficult to bring up in the conservative culture of Pakistan, and that his countrymen believe that doing so will encourage young people to behave in an 'un-Islamic' way.

He says that even now in Pakistan, many doctors do not discuss sexual issues openly, and that teachers and parents are embarrassed by the subject.

There is no sex education instruction in government schools.

'There's a huge problem in our country,' he says.

'Adolescents, especially boys, when they get to puberty, and the changes that come with puberty, they think it's due to some disease.

'They start masturbating, and they are told that is very dangerous to health, and that this is sinful, very sinful.'

Dr. Akhtar says he has seen cases where teenagers have become depressed and even committed suicide because they did not understand what is happening to their bodies.

'I myself passed through that stage with all these concerns, and there's no one to tell you otherwise, and that these are wrong perceptions. It was only when I entered medical college that I found out that these were all misconceptions,' he told BBC News.

Dr. Akhtar believes that basic sex education should start as early as possible.

'They ask me when you should start sex education, and I say as soon as the child can talk. They should be told the names of the genitals just as they are told about hands and eyes and ears and nose,' he says.

'When they get a little bigger and they ask where a child comes from, you can say it. That doesn't make the child sexually active or immoral.'

Dr. Akhtar says he felt that the best way to help Pakistanis understand sex was to write a book which combined basic sex education with the Islamic perspective on the subject.

He says there is also nothing un-Islamic about discussing sex.

'When I started to study what the Koran, Islamic law, and religious scholars had to say about it, I realized there is so much discussion about sex in Islam. One would be surprised.

'There are sayings from the Prophet Muhammad about sexual matters, and historical sources tell us he answered detailed queries on the subject from both men and women.'

Very few Pakistanis agree with his views, however.

Although he tried to tone down the title - Sex Education for Muslims is the name of the English version of the book, while in Urdu the title is Special Problems for Young People - that has not been enough to appease some people.

'I have had threats. Even other doctors have accused me of acting like a maverick, a quack,' he says.

'A provincial politician even hauled me into his office and said I was encouraging pornography. I explained I was doing nothing of the sort.'

Dr. Akhtar says he has found very few bookshops willing to stock his book, and no newspapers that will accept ads for it.

'It is a very sad reaction. Ignorance about sexual matters is causing a lot of our young people unnecessary psychological distress, and we have to change that.

'I am only talking about educating people gradually and sensitively, but at the moment we are not even doing that.'

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