In his attempts to promote sex education in his home country of Pakistan, Dr. Mobin Akhtar has created a serious controversy. His new book, “Sex Education for Muslims,” is intended to teach people about sex in a way that is in keeping with Islamic precepts and theology. He wrote it in response to concern over the way that sex is taught and discussed in Pakistan. Among other things, his book discusses masturbation, marital issues, and how men should ritually wash themselves after sex so that they are sufficiently clean to perform prayers.
A psychiatrist by trade, Dr. Akhtar says that the stigma around sex education leads to depression and even suicide in teens. He says that this is because even doctors are unwilling to talk about sex openly, much less parents and teachers. There is no sex education in government-run Pakistani schools, partially because of anxieties about sex education that might be “un-Islamic.”
“When I started to study what the Koran, Islamic law and religious scholars had to say about it, I realised there is so much discussion about sex in Islam. One would be surprised,” explained Dr. Akhtar. “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.”
The book is not proving to be particularly popular, however. Dr. Akhtar is having trouble finding bookstores that will carry it, or newspapers that will print advertisements for it. Other doctors have called him a “quack,” and he was even accused of peddling pornography by a provincial politician.
Overall, the book’s negative reception doesn’t seem particularly surprising – Pakistan is a conservative country, and mixing sex and religion is a tried and true formula for making people angry. But Dr. Akhtar is a brave man for speaking out about the lack of sex education in his country, and he’s right to point out that the stigma isn’t helping anyone.
The concept of a religiously based sex education book is interesting, although I would want to read it before I judged whether it seemed effective or accurate. But the book seems to be doing two valuable things: raising awareness about the total lack of sex education and emphasizing the need for open dialogue about sex.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.