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Not talking about sex: At whose expense?

SOME government officials have recently come up with “creative” ways to solve the problems of teenage pregnancy and baby dumping in Malaysia. To curb teenage pregnancies, the Education Ministry said it was encouraging students to submit written pledges that they would not engage in premarital sex. To solve the problem of baby dumping, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam announced that the state planned to set up a special school for pregnant teens.

Shahrizat

Shahrizat

These suggestions may seem well-intentioned for some. But they are actually problematic. So what if students submit a written pledge? Youths who are curious about sex and want to experiment would do it before marriage anyway. And as Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil has pointed out, the girls who are placed in Malacca’s “special school” will likely be stigmatised, creating other problems for them.

Instead of offering piecemeal solutions, what we really need is to get to the root of the problem of teenage pregnancies. Plus, it’s unfair to expect the government alone to be responsible for the problem.

Empowering, instead of preventing

What really is the root of the problem? Is it really that teenagers are having sex outside of marriage and should be stopped? Or that teenagers who find themselves in such situations don’t know how to protect themselves because they haven’t been taught?

If anything, the “chastity” pledge demonstrates the Education Ministry’s attempt to impose a narrow moralistic view about sex on young people. Such attempts have failed in other countries, including in the US. And even if some of us believe that young people should not have sex before marriage, we should not withhold important information about safe sex and contraception from them. Doing so would amount to a gross disservice to our youth.

Indeed, we cannot compel anyone – youths or adults – to strictly adhere to moral codes, in their private lives, that have been set by others. And if we continue to tell youths they shouldn’t engage in premarital sex in the same way that they should say “no” to smoking or drugs, we are actually telling them that premarital sex is something that is as ruinous, and shameful to boot.

But will these prevention methods really work? From the rate of teenage pregnancies and baby dumping that has been reported of late, clearly a better strategy is needed.

(Pic by Morrhigan / sxc.hu)

(Pic by Morrhigan / sxc.hu)

Our youth need accurate information on contraception and birth control so that they can protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections – including HIV/AIDS – and unwanted pregnancies, before or during marriage. Wouldn’t providing youths with information, instead of moralistic prohibitions, be more empowering in helping young people make responsible decisions about their bodies and relationships?

For example, many continue to subscribe to myths such as girls or women can’t get pregnant during their period or if the guy pulls out before he ejaculates. Such falsehoods can only be dispelled if parents or teachers create safe spaces for discussion for young people, instead of treating sex as something that is immoral and shameful.

As it is, without responsible adults to discuss these issues with, many young people turn to pornography out of curiosity. But many do not know how to view pornography critically and lack the skills and maturity to negotiate sexual relationships.

Hence, it is actually irresponsible for parents or teachers to avoid talking about sex and sexuality simply because they are “uncomfortable” with the subject. If parents and teachers don’t provide a place where young people can go to, where do we expect our youths to find out about responsible relationships?

Conflicting messages

Young people are often confused by the conflicting messages about sex and sexuality from the media or society. For example, the teenage characters in Gossip Girl have sex. We tell them “that’s the West” and premarital sex is not compatible with “Asian values”. But stories of couples having sex before marriage are shown in Korean, Japanese and Hong Kong dramas, too.

Young people hear politicians declare that scantily dressed women arouse men’s sexual desire and cause men to sexually harass or rape women. Yet the government continues to allow the advertising industry to objectify women’s bodies in ads.

Young people in Malaysia see gay couples in healthy, loving relationships in The L Word and Brothers and Sisters, yet sodomy is a crime, and pengkid are outlawed, and the media either ignore or demonise people of different sexualities.

A 2008 fatwa ruled that tomboys, or pengkid, were forbidden in Islam

How are young people supposed to make sense of all these conflicting messages without guidance from their parents, teachers or other adults?

Parents

One of the reasons many parents and teachers feel “embarrassed” talking about such subjects is because even they themselves may not know much about sex and sexuality. But isn’t it high time our parents and teachers, especially those teaching subjects related to sex, buck up and adopt a more open attitude towards sex and sexuality so that they can be responsible adults?

“In countries like the Netherlands, where many families regard it as an important responsibility to talk openly with children about sex and sexuality, this contributes to greater cultural openness about sex and sexuality and improved sexual health among young people,” according to HIV/AIDS charity Avert.

The organisation also says there is evidence that positive parent-child communication about sexual matters can lead to greater condom use among young men and a lower rate of teenage conception among young women. Avert further suggests that parents can view sex education as an ongoing conversation about values, attitudes and issues with their children.

Embarrassment or discomfort to talk about sex and sexuality is a lame excuse, especially if that may cause your child or student to get infected, or become a teenage parent.

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69 Responses to “Not talking about sex: At whose expense?”

  1. jc says:

    I am a young Christian adult who believes that sex should be reserved for marriage. However, I do not agree with merely teaching abstinence in schools. The most recent research from the United States has found that teaching abstinence does delay first sexual intercourse, but it does not reduce the rate of premarital sex. It probably does nothing for the rate of unplanned pregnancies and abandoned children either.

    It is great that authorities have recognised that this is an issue that should be dealt with in Malaysia. What disappoints me, though, is the fact that while the proposal to conduct proper sex education in our public school was drafted more than 5 years ago – I was there at the dialogues before it was presented to Parliament – little has been done since then. As far as I know, sex is still being taught the same way it was when I was in secondary school, a 1-hr science class in Form 3 with the boys giggling and girls blushing and the teacher trying to avoid the subject.

    It is high time that Malaysians step up and teach our children, our youth about responsible sex. So what if they sign a pledge to remain pure until marriage? It won’t stop them from viewing pornography, from masturbation or giving in to sexual advances. We have to accept the fact that children are being exposed to sex at an increasingly younger age and they need to know what to do with that information.

    I implore the authorities to take this seriously. Teach your religious and moral values. Raise your children the best you know how. But do not, DO NOT, withhold information about responsible sex, about over-the-counter contraceptives, about sexually-transmitted infections. Give them a safe place to ask their questions and talk about their lives. Teachers, doctors…let them know that they can always approach you for help. Don’t be judgmental – they get enough from their peers, they don’t need it from you too.

    Please. It’s time for us to grow up as a nation.

  2. Sean says:

    Is the Gail Dines article linked as a good example of a failure to think critically?

    “From studying thousands of porn films and images Dines found that the most popular acts …”

    Popular? Popular with whom? She studied films and images and decided what was ‘popular’? Perhaps the Guardian hasn’t accurately reported her work. If her work is accurately reported, then that has to be the best example I’ve read in a long time of incompetent research.

  3. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    In Islam, any kind of sex education must come along with the VALUES espoused by Islam regarding sexuality. There is NO WAY that Muslims will accept a sex-education program that teaches the young how to obtain contraceptives etc. In Islam – pre-marital and extra-marital sex is taboo. And LGBT is taboo too. Abstinence is mandatory.

    The only way to teach sex-education to Muslims is during a religious or moral education class.

    • Siti Kasim says:

      Dr Syed Alwi

      Open your eyes … you call yourself a doctor? Hence, I suppose you are educated but sadly your education does not seem to open your mind to the realities of life. Don’t you realise that most of the teenage pregnancies and abandoned babies are from the Malays? Are you saying by teaching these kids the values as espoused in Islam they will stop from having sex outside marriage? If you believe that, you are living in cloud cuckoo land.

      I don’t believe it – we are in the middle of a crisis with more teenage pregnancy and STI amongst teens, babies being abandoned like a piece of meat and AGAIN the religious groups want to put their own version of how things are out as education.

      Is sex between religious people different from sex between atheists or secularists? No, so why should the sex education be different?

      Kids are entitled to the facts and shouldn’t be denied them because of their parents embarrassment or religious belief.

      Besides religious children will surely continue to behave in accordance with their religion, so whats the problem?

      Just more evidence of intolerance, insecurity and superiority complex from the God brigade.

      We should keep faith and religious teaching for the home. It has NO place in schools and it should actually be illegal to attempt to indoctrinate children in the clasroom.

      The kids deserve FACTS, not DOGMA.

      • Dr Syed Alwi says:

        Dear Siti Kasim,

        We cannot make what is Haram become Halal! In Islam, we cannot teach the young how to use and obtain contraceptives because that is akin to the green light for pre-marital sex. Here in Singapore, teen pregnancy is under control – BUT pre-marital sex is RAMPANT. Is that what you want for Malaysia ? Kita tak boleh menghalalkan ZINA. You just have to find a more Islamic solution.

        Islam IS the issue here….Singapore is NOT a Muslim country so maybe it can accept pre-marital sex. But Malaysia is a Muslim country and in Islam, pre-marital sex is NOT acceptable. Sorry but you have to find Islamic solutions to this problem…..

        • Yeo Kien Kiong says:

          May I know what do you mean by “RAMPANT”? Were you there during the pre-marital sex among the teenagers happened? If “Kita tak boleh menghalalkan ZINA” can we halalkan RASUAH?

          I heard a very short story from a comedian that still rings in my ears till this day. The drug lords are always making money from selling drugs and extorting as well as conducting RAMPANT human trafficking. And the drug takers and carriers are always being sentenced to death. Still the drug lords are making money. The only way to stop this forever is to sentence the BANKERS to death.

    • farha says:

      Truth: Sex and its values is incorporated into subjects like the sciences and islamic/moral knowledge.

      Reality: Some of them will step over the boundary whether, and despite, parents/teachers/authorities telling them not to.

    • azmo says:

      I acknowledge that Islam says no to premarital sex, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. To believe otherwise is to lie to yourself and to those who follow your thought of thinking. Sex education does not only involve the students, it involves adults. You can say abstinence is the way to go, but people should be taught what to do when sex occurs outside of marriage. And that can’t be taught in religious class.

      There are people who believe that by massaging one’s breasts, they can grow bigger. This is the mentality of certain people today. Teen pregnancies could have been prevented if young people were taught how to be responsible. Condoms are sold everywhere, but people don’t buy them. Why? Because they believe they won’t need it.

      Don’t be delusional in believing sex doesn’t happen. It happens, more often then not, with people who don’t understand the implications.

      • Dr Syed Alwi says:

        Dear azmo,

        Since you are so smart – you go tell that to PAS and Nik Aziz !

        • ben says:

          What does this issue has to do with PAS or Nik Aziz? i thought Islamic teachers and parents are the ones responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of Muslims?

          If azmo made a good point, why do you sarcastically remark that it should be brought up with faraway political leaders rather than calling for local Muslim teachers to acknowledge it?

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear ben,

            Because Islam does NOT accept any kind of pre-marital or extra-marital sex. azmo’s suggestion CANNOT be accepted by Islam. In any case – Nik Aziz has already rejected this type of suggestion from azmo.

        • noct says:

          ‘Dear azmo,

          Since you are so smart – you go tell that to PAS and Nik Aziz !’

          Is that retort the best you can do, Dr ?

          Sex ed can also be used to promote abstinence. I’d rather our youth learn from sex ed in school (if taught properly of course) than from other unreliable sources like internet pornography and the like… this is not about religion, Islam or otherwise. It’s not as if sex ed will teach our youths to be promiscuous or to become perverts, rather, the idea is to educate and inform them about it.

          Besides, from what i know, even the Qur’an has a few verses on conducting proper sexual intercourse (with one’s spouse) and sex ed isn’t exactly going to teach our youths about sex techniques anyway.

          • ben says:

            I second this.

            Dear Dr.,

            I for one doesn’t think that azmo was trying to promote pre-marital or extra-marital sex at all. I’m all good that Islam doesn’t accept them, but not accepting them is not a valid way of ensuring them not happening. I think the discussion here is to find reasonable ways to educate them in abstinence, right? And throwing religious weight around certainly doesn’t help.

            I guess I don’t need a PhD to understand that.

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear noct,

            You cannot teach Muslim youth – how to obtain and use contraceptives as that is akin to giving them the greenlight to pre-marital sex. That is why Muslims must teach sex education coupled with religious or moral education.

        • psychnut says:

          I believe that’s what the rakyat (at least the ones who know better) has been trying to tell them since the last GE!

        • noct says:

          Actually, Doctor, we SHOULD be teaching youths (Muslim or otherwise) about contraceptives. Muslim youths already have Pendidikan Agama Islam, which also indirectly promotes sexual abstinence, and non-Muslims have Pendidikan Moral in school. Sex ed therefore should not have a heavy religious undertone.

          Educating Muslim youths about contraceptives should not be seen as giving them a green light for promiscuity. Sex ed is also about promoting abstinence. Contraceptives can also be used to educate the youths about family planning.

          The benefits of such a subject far outweigh the negatives.

  4. julian says:

    Agree wholeheartedly with jc.

    Sean: the sentence you refer to reads – “From studying thousands of porn films and images Dines found that the most popular acts depicted in internet porn include…”. i.e. what she has most likely done is to view lots of internet porn, count the different types of acts, and conclude that the most popular are those that occur the most often.

    • Sean says:

      It would be no less shoddy research. There’s a glaring issue of confirmation bias. How did she select her ‘porn films and images’? And even if she used a technique such as you imagine, what she would have done is to establish the most common, not the most popular. Her research – if conducted as you imagine – would have revealed only her selection criteria.

      A radio film critic to whom I regularly listened gave films an ‘exploding helicopter quotient’. Many films (of a particular genre) have a lot of exploding helicopters in them. Regardless of the recruitment process that brought the films on review to the critic’s attention, are exploding helicopters common to the critic’s selection, or popular in the like-minded viewing population, or widely popular?

      That’s an unfortunate choice of link to use in a statement about ‘viewing porn critically’. There appears to be no critical view of pornography at all in the linked article. I wonder at the impartiality of the TNG contributor who selected it when the title starts “The Truth…” (Critical Thinking 101 kids, if it says “The Truth”, it’s completely made-up), and introduces the subject as “the world’s leading anti-…”. That’s an apparent failure to view a subject critically, right there.

      I understand the phenomenon of editorial bias, but if TNG is to defend particular opinions of individuals or small groups of people, could it please make its bias explicit, and resist the use of ‘critically’ in its description of those attitudes? I suggest ‘prejudicially’ would be less jarring for the reader who believes they have a critical mind.

      • julian says:

        In a marketplace (such as the online marketplace for porn), the most common items are usually also the most popular.

        I haven’t read her research, so I can’t make the assumptions that you seem to about how exactly she went about her research. I don’t know what her preconceptions were, and whether they influenced the outcome.

        • Sean says:

          What ‘marketplace for porn’? Rather than accuse me of having preconceptions, attempt a critical thought and observe that the Guardian’s description of her ‘study’ is a classic example of someone who set out to confirm a hypothesis. Her conclusion “most popular” is not available from such a piece of ‘work’. By the description available to us both and your own definition, her conclusion of ‘popular’ is based on a marketplace of one!

          We haven’t read her research, you’re right, and I have been at pains to point out that what we know about it is from a Guardian article which isn’t obliged to adhere to any academic standards for research. That being said, a ‘critical view of pornography’ to my mind would be one that held by someone who isn’t the world’s leading campaigner against it. Her status is utterly incompatible with ‘critical viewpoint’.

          I realise I’m writing this in a country with deep-rooted conservatism and possibly some confusion over the difference between ‘critical’ and ‘complain about’. I am not defending pornography (don’t your friends read glossy magazines about fast cars that they refer to as ‘car porn’? In many parts of the world ‘gun porn’ is ‘popular’, so I hear. In some parts of the world the knee-length skirt and the visible female coiffure is considered pornographic) as a wider issue, nor even the particular examples of pornography that Gail Dines is crusading against. What I am attempting to point out is the apparent failure of the author’s critical faculty when they selected that particular example to illustrate ‘critical thinking’.

      • Pei Ling says:

        Hi Sean

        I may be mistaken, but it seems you don’t agree with Gail Dines’ research method, or perhaps more precisely how the reporter from The Guardian has reported on her research (with their choice of headline “The Truth…” and words).

        Just curious though, so personally, what do you think about pornography’s representation of women and men and its impact on relationships? I’ve always found it problematic, and I found what was written in The Guardian made sense. However, you seem to hold a different opinion on how to view pornography critically, so maybe you could share some of your thoughts so everyone could learn?

        Cheers

        • Sean says:

          “I’ve always found it problematic”
          Well, porn isn’t for everyone, so they say. Have you considered a different hobby?

          One of my most common issues with TNG articles is that I agree in the main with what they say, but they often include a ‘side issue’ which dilutes the message. In some cases the ‘side issue’ could be read as a counter-issue and actually serves to undermine the article itself.

          That paragraph is a reasonable observation which I happen (for what it’s worth) agree with in its entirety. I follow the links in TNG articles in the hope (often rewarded) that I will find the background information that led the author to their reasonable and apparently well-informed point of view.

          As I’ve remarked above to Julian, ‘pornography’ is a much wider subject than just depictions of apparent or actual abuse and degradation. I think my initial exposure to unquestionable porn as a very young teenager (found in the shameful backs of cupboards) would have been the books of Anaïs Nin and Harold Robbins. I couldn’t tell you a thing about those books now, but even as an adolescent with only two examples, I realised that porn varied enormously in quality and quite possibly in intent.

          ‘Pornography’ as a critical topic is not something I’ve ever given much time to. If I was to start, I think I’d be careful not to rush a conclusion and throw out any babies in the bathwater. I don’t recognise Dines’ “popular porn”. I think it would not be unreasonable to say there’s a lot of that kind of porn about, and I dare say it has its adherents and advocates. It’s distinctly not to my taste, if I could be said to have ‘porn tastes’. What caught my eye was not the porn itself, but the apparently uncritical subject of the article linked as ‘critical’.

          Dines’ antagonism to degrading and abusive media on her stated grounds is not unreasonable. Perhaps at worst the issue is one of being over-specific, of focussing too narrowly while claiming to view porn critically. The critically-minded person – thanks to the gory of the Internet – is well-acquainted with what some of “the porn industry today is really like”. Are we better off campaigning against anything that might be labelled ‘porn’, or should we be taking a critical view of specific instances and genres and having an open discussion in the hopes that healthier, critical attitudes might prevail to an ages-old and not uniformly reviled phenomenon?

  5. Patrick says:

    If a practice is purportedly taboo, then it would have to be explained why it is taboo. Determining a certain practice as wrong, without some form of evidence to back it up will merely lead most people to ignore it.

    Let’s consider sex with multiple partners as an example. Sure, it sounds rather exciting, even though it’s frowned upon in a public point of view. A properly-coordinated sexual education class would be able to tell students that engaging in such an act would possibly open them to all manners of STDs.

    If something is claimed to be taboo, explain the reason why it’s taboo, whether from a cultural, social, moral, health or even a historical aspect.

    Otherwise, you’re going to end up with a whole group of teenagers who are going to dismiss certain parties as overbearing moral authorities, who aren’t there for the betterment of society, but are there to control your every step in life.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Patrick,

      As Muslims – we hear and we obey. Why do Muslims pray 5 times a day facing Mecca ? Who knows ? To Muslims – if God orders you to do something – then you do it. There is no need for questioning. In Islam the Quran bans pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex. The Quran also bans LGBT. There are no two ways about this. No deep reason is given in the Quran for this ban. Like I said – if you accept the Quran to be the Word of God – what is there left to say ? Just obey……

      • Patrick says:

        God has good reasons for his commandments. His people should also know why the commandments were brought to his prophets. I will say no more.

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear Patrick,

          That is your religious belief. We Muslims think otherwise. To you be your beliefs and to me, mine.

      • Ying says:

        Dr Syed Alwi. Why do you not only completely and utterly insult the intelligence of your Muslim brethren, but publicly saying that they have no right to question, rationalise, think or have intelligent discourse on subjects like “why we pray” or “why we abstain from premarital sex”?

        Are you the same Dr Syed Alwi with the doctorate in philosophy? Someone with a doctorate in philosophy would certainly have deliberated and QUESTIONED issues concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind etc – all subjects that concern God and religion, since and religion encompass everything.

        So tell me, do your scholarly ways make you LESS a Muslim and more of an dictator hypocrite? For you to say MUSLIMS SHOULD BE UNQUESTIONING when it comes to God is hypocritical because you are denying them an act that you surely must have indulged in — TO QUESTION!

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear Ying,

          You may have your own beliefs – but Islam has its own teachings. The Quran is transcendent. There is only so much rationalisation that can be done in Islam. The rest – as the Quran itself says – we have to obey UN-QUESTIONINGLY.

          What you think does not matter a jot. Especially since you are not even a Muslim. You have no right to interfere in Muslim affairs.

      • farha says:

        How many people actually obey? Can we read minds or intentions? I had a 16-year-old Malay girl as one of my pupils – pregnant out of wedlock. Sure, I could have taught her about contraceptives but no, it isn’t in the curriculum because it will promote teens to want to experiment…and I can be given a ‘tindakan tatatertib’ for not sticking to the curriculum.

        The problem is when something like teen pregnancy happens, we will all be looking for parties to blame. At worse, there will be sermons like ‘Islam says no to premarital sex’. As if these people don’t know that. So what are we doing to make things better? By keeping on telling them what they have known all along but not teaching them things that will empower them to make decisions that will prevent irreparable damages? Some life!

        • ben says:

          Exactly.

          I am curious as to why Dr. Syed Alwi, whose user name implies a great deal of education, cannot seem to understand this, but continues to repeat “Islam says no” as an end-all solution.

          But farha, really? A ‘tindakan tataterib’? I guess that warrants to be brought up at the education education discussion. This doesn’t seem to be a sex education issue only, when teachers are actually barred from teaching values and practices that are good for the students but outside of curriculum….

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear Ben,

            I have no problems with sex education – PROVIDED -

            1) You do NOT teach the young how to use and obtain contraceptives and

            2) You INCLUDE moral and religious VALUES in sex education.

            If you accept these 2 conditions – then its ok.

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear farha,

          Teaching the young how to obtain and use contraceptives – is like giving them the green light to pre-marital sex. Its NOT acceptable in Islam. Even PAS rejects this.

          You have to find other ways to reduce pre-marital sex. We just have to work harder at finding a more Islamic solution.

          • farha says:

            Dear Dr Syed Alwi, and Ben,

            Well, now that i think about it, perhaps I’m a bad teacher, or not effective enough ..a good teacher should be able to teach within the curriculum, and be confident that these children are wiser that we adults think… :)

      • Jason Mark says:

        Well said, we need more blind faith and absolute obedience. There is no need to discuss, the choice is obey or leave. If you find yourself asking questions or reasons for what has been commanded, it is better for you to just leave. God doesn’t need doubters, only true believers.

      • Yeo Kien Kiong says:

        Is the Quran written by your God?

        Does your God advocate and test the will and love of your God’s subjects in this colorful yet chaotic world?

        In which part of Quran and which edition of the book is pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex banned, as well as “LGBT”?

        thanks :)

  6. Subliminal says:

    Well, all the more views like this need to be challenged and thought through. It’s not only about the Quran but also about those interpreting the Quran; they should also be questioned to the core. Because if you don’t question, then you won’t know, and it will be just hear and obey, hear and obey … which is also nothing short of a primitive concept .

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Subliminal,

      Watch your mouth. You are now bordering on insulting Islamic teachings. If you are not Muslim – then stay out of this debate because it does not concern you. If you are Muslim – then go and study Islam deeper.

      Who knows why Muslims have to pray 5 times a day at peculiar timings ? Why not just once a day after breakfast? No one knows! Leave it to God and His Messenger. Muslims just have to obey.

      • ben says:

        Wait, if I’m not Muslim I cannot participate in this debate?

        Then does that mean that Singaporeans cannot participate in a discussion about a Malaysian issue?

        Come on, stop building these walls and shutting up people’s mouths.

        Truth be told, I’d expect a Dr. to be able to eloquently defend his view and beliefs of Islam while inspiring respect from others. Not “shut up and get out.” [...]

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear ben,

          Of course you can debate BUT you cannot insult Islam or Islamic teachings. Are you now saying that to debate – you must be allowed to insult Islam and its teachings? What kind of debate is that?

      • Subliminal says:

        I am not going to watch my mouth Dr. Syed. And what are you and those that think like you are going to do about it? Bring down the “wrath of God” or get real, do some study?

        It’s time to question, it’s time to criticize. If we could question and ask and criticize and also accept/decline the various teachings of the world, Islam should not be left out.

        And so what if non-muslims participate in debates such as these; if they are well adapt and learned about Islam and Islamic doctrines aren’t they even better than those who just profess it but have no clue what is it?

        LOL!

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear subliminal,

          Go ahead and insult Islam – and face the police report that will be made against you. You reap what you sow. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

          • Yeo Kien Kiong says:

            It is forbidden to insult Islam but I do believe that people need to question and criticize in order to find a better understanding about religion. Everybody can imagine nowadays that all religions in the world today are subjected or being manipulated as tools of corruption as well as abuse of power.

            Even though it is too complex to write as comment, I believe that not one religion is much better than the other because all religions in the world have one thing in common…that is to love and be loved.

  7. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    Dear TNG readers,

    Malaysia cannot ban American entertainment programs that displays a permissive lifestyle. As it is the Non-Muslims already find the social climate in Malaysia to be very Islamic. It would be hypocritical to expect the Malaysian authorities to ban Western programs, Hong Kong programs etc etc

    But from an Islamic point of view – these sort of programs are NOT to be encouraged.

  8. hazel says:

    This sex topic has been an issue since God knows when. We cant escape from being sexually exposed through the media, porn and many other sources.

    To start with, biologically we all have urges and curiosity to explore many things in life regardless whether it is morally wrong or not. It is one’s decision to take the steps and face the consequences. As humans we all have hormones rushing through and it starts when we are at least 13 and it goes on till we are adults.

    No doubt having pre-martial sex is morally and religiously wrong at the same time It is not something we canstop people from doing it as it is something personal. Instead of telling youths not to do it, giving them proper education about safe sex and STDs will help in a way.

    Nmany of them really go all out in getting proper education and there is no platform for it as well and the only thing that is generally known is that if we have sex we either get pregnant or get HIV/AIDS. As for STDs not many really know what it is all about.. In school they should having sexual education. Teachers should be open to it… after all it is part of science.

    I feel we must educate the teens as for them is mere exploration and they don’t think of the consequences. This is just an opinion :)

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear hazel,

      Its ok to teach sex education within a religious or moral education class. However its NOT ok to teach Muslim youths how to obtain and use contraceptives – as this is akin to saying yes to pre-marital sex.

  9. Colin Wong says:

    Alwi,

    I sympathise with you. Every discussion has to end with either (a) your are not a Muslim, stay out of this or (b) This is God’s command, obey (c) this is an Islamic country, your comments are dangerous and insulting Islam may result in bloodshed.

    Let me start… On point (a), I bet my last dollar that if you are a minority in say the US or Australia, you would not have the guts to draw the line the way you do because it does not make sense and they will throw you out. When does one stop? You are not from Kepong so you stay out of this? Your hair is not curly so you stay out of this? You do not use Brylcreem so you stay out of this. Come on man, religion cannot be used as a lame excuse to exclude others in a discussion or problem that affects society at large. People like Alwi should retreat to a forest reserve deep in the Titiwangsa range, set up a puritanical Islamic colony and apply logic (a). Period.

    Point (b). Sounds right. I agree. However, I got a problem here. Many of the things that are considered “commands” from God are not 100% from the Quran. Many are from the Hadith and we all know that they are accounts of fallible and mortal men. So please do not go around tell us that it is authentic command from God. In addition, God gave us AKAL and we are to THINK. At the end, obedience is important but do not use it as an excuse to shut others up and terminate a discussion because you have run out of ideas. Any wonder why so many Muslim youngsters have gone wayward? Not everything can be rationalised because our minds are way below that of God’s. But does that give you the license to slam it in other people’s faces? Just how does that help? I wonder.

    Point (c). To me, this is a sign of a weak person. When all the chips are down, use intimidation. Just how low can one go? I wonder yet again. It is OK to spend the money collected from Carlsberg, Guiness Anchor, Toto, Genting Casinos, nightclubs etc, all of which are ultra haram in the eyes of Muslims. I bet you that if we trace the money and make it mandatory to tag the source of funding, many mosques will have brick and prayer mats marked with haram money. We have to think as one community. One country. One people. Let’s be inclusive and do not put somebody down based on one’s dogmatic thoughts without thinking about the big picture. As much as it is haram to you, we respect your existence as a legitimate member of society and have no qualms that beer taxes is shared by all. But please, have your dignity and do not try to put down others just because you think this is an Islamic country.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear Colin Wong,

      1) Malaysia IS a Muslim country and the Muslim community will NOT tolerate outright insults to Islam and Islamic teachings. The trouble with a lot of TNG readers is that they DO insult Islam and that is NOT acceptable. Why must you people insult Islam and Islamic teachings in your debates ?

      2) Sorry but there are many AUTHENTIC Hadiths. In Islam – Hadith is second only to the Quran. On using reason – it is limited in Islam. The Quran is transcendent. There is only so much rationalisation that you can use. Beyond which – your akal must submit to God’s will. Why do Muslims have to fast for one solid month ? Why not just one week ? Why do Muslim women have to wear hijab ? Why do we pray 5 times a day ? Why not just once a day and isn’t that easier ? Look – the meaning of Islam is to submit to God’s will. So it becomes a matter of faith. In Islam – faith must overcome the rational mind. The only time when reason is used – is when there are no dalils from the Quran & Hadith.

      3) Sorry BUT its NOT intimidation. Malaysia IS a Muslim country and Non-Muslims are NOT allowed to insult Islam or Islamic teachings. Debate Islam by all means – but do NOT insult Islamic teachings. Here on TNG – many Muslims have seen how the TNG readers go around insulting Islam routinely. You do NOT have to insult Islam in order to debate Islam. At the end of the day – you MUST accept the political reality that Malaysia IS a Muslim country.

      • farha says:

        Dear Dr. Syed Alwi,

        I just found out from a posting that you’re Singaporean. Are you in any way related to that famous Singaporean entertainer Moe Alkaff?

    • To Colin Wong:

      Dr. Syed Alwi is Singaporean.

      I mention this because you are responding to his continual attempts at shutting down comments by non-Muslims on Muslim affairs. Despite that, he doesn’t see any contradiction in being a Singaporean commenting on Malaysian affairs, and how Malaysia’s religious life ought to be defined and interpreted.

  10. Please know that I am not criticizing this mother, I understand that explaining sex (or even conversations where sex may come up) can be a very scary proposition for many parents. For one thing, most of today’s parents grew up in households where no one ever talked about sex.

  11. Subliminal says:

    I think Dr. Syed is fearful because he of all people lacks depth in his knowledge of his own religion and the world around him. People like him would just keep this thread going without any good input whatsoever. I wonder if this is his full-time job?

  12. hazel says:

    Dear Dr :)

    I know for it is wrong in Islam but look at it this way… specifically at the Muslim community since you have been going on and on about them :)

    [There are members of the Muslim community committing] zina, me even you know that… but it happens behind closed doors … they know it is wrong but at the same time we can’t go on judging them as it is between them and GOD.

    What I meant to say is as much as it is a huge sin and them knowing it is obviously wrong…I am sure the Muslim community can help by educating them on why is it wrong, not merely just say it’s God command. [They don't need sex education as a green light to zina, even without sex education, they are already] doing it. How do you stop that?

    We can say NO A MILLION TIMES AND IT HAPPENS regardless of all the teachings… I know this alim person … goes and dakwah here and there..and guess what even that person committed it… all out of curiosity… it is a shame of course… but Dr we have too look out of only the Malay Muslim community…

    This whole sex and pregnant teens issue is not to be focused on Malays alone… :)

  13. alamak says:

    God came to take away my sins, not my brains.

    • Dr Syed Alwi says:

      Dear alamak,

      To you be your beliefs and to me, mine.

      • Sean says:

        I wonder if any of your fellow Muslims would be grateful to you for being so magnanimous to them.

        • Dr Syed Alwi says:

          Dear Sean,

          Islam has its own rules. And they are different for Muslims from Non-Muslims.

          • Fuzzy Logic says:

            Dear Sean,

            I am Muslim and I don’t appreciate the Dr’s comments. This “logic” is the reason why many non-Muslims, and indeed many Muslims, are frankly quite fed up with this territorial attitude of Islam in Malaysia.

            Dear Doctor,

            You may believe Malaysia is a Muslim country, but then it’s a Muslim country with over 40% non-Muslims. Should they then be regarded inferior to us Muslims? Isn’t that going against the Quran itself of loving everyone regardless of faith and belief? And in response to your comment to Colin Wong, Islam is not simply “to submit to God’s will”. What is the point of reading God’s word and not understand? It is to understand God’s word and then place faith upon it, and faith must not overcome rational mind, rather faith derives from a rational mind, thus the need to modernize and adapt the teachings of Islam to the modern world rather than simply enforce.

            Which leads to sex education. Yes, sex before marriage isn’t allowed, but that’s not a good enough reason to not teach about sex and sexuality. If anything, that is derogatory towards children and Child Rights (of which Malaysia has ratified the Child Rights Convention, which includes rights to education and information) as well as the loving and understanding nature of what Islam is meant to be. Sex education should be completely free of religious belief. Let it do what it’s meant to do: educate.

            Religious leaders should get off their high horse, stop being so embarrassed to talk about it, admit they haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re on about, and allow or even embrace change. A good religious leader is one that can teach Islam with reason and rationality, rather than a “because-I-say-so” attitude.

  14. Jamie says:

    I like Alwi’s points. Not that I agree with them, but I find insulting someone’s character based on his argument is hitting below the belt.

    Having said that, we must watch what we post as our comment- as it reflects our own character and ability to give and accept different view points.

    —————–

    Having said that, Alwi, what about a two-tier sex education system? First we can move away from the erotic component of sex, totally dismissing the pleasures. Then we rephrase the whole topic as something purely scientific- the consequences of sex comes in next.

    Then we explain the BEST way to protect oneself is to abstain from sex. Teaching about contraceptives comes next… In fact, in our KBSM syllabus, we are already teaching about contraceptives (yes, check your biology textbooks again).

    ——————–

    The thing is, perhaps, we haven’t taught them how to use them. And just maybe teachers could buy them off the shelves and show them how to use it in the name of education. Still, we can always end the lesson with “the best way to prevent STDs/pregnancy is always abstinence”.

    ——————-

    Is this Islamic enough? Or perhaps we shall just revert to moral policing for anyone holding hands in public.

  15. Colin Wong says:

    As this forum discusses issues pertaining to matters of Malaysian interests, may I request Alwi to indicate his:

    - nationality (citizenship)
    - place of residence
    - affiliation to organisations in Malaysia

    We have given him a lot of opportunity to voice his thoughts without censorship. So he owes this to us.

    Thanks.

  16. arriarhod says:

    Dear Dr Syed Alwi,

    1) Islam does not forbid the use of contraceptives.

    2) Teaching young people about contraceptives will not give Muslims the green light to have sex. We have 7-11, K-Mart, Giant, Carrefour, Tesco etc for that.

    3) Which research paper did you get this from?:

    “Singapore is NOT a Muslim country so maybe it can accept pre-marital sex.”
    Do enlighten me.

    Oh and another thing (and this might be hard to swallow as it is the truth), Malaysia IS NOT a Muslim country either. Our constitution is the highest law of the land, despite the enforcement of Syariah law.

    4) Sex education is NOT ONLY about teaching the young how to use contraceptives and where to get it from. It is also about teaching young people how to avoid landing oneself in an emotional mess of being pregnant with an illegitimate child. And also having to face the emotional trauma to throw your newborn in a dumpster. All because you are so afraid of how mommy and daddy, the community, etc will shun you if you were to walk home with a baby in your arms for ‘something that happened with a boy’ 9 months ago.

    Also, give Muslim women a break will ya? Because at the end of the day, it is not Muslim boys or men who are socially punished, it is the women.

    Another point, if Muslims are supposed to obey the Quran, then they should also abstain from pre-marital sex as it is haram, despite being taught how to use contraceptives. Then one can say he/she is truly a Muslim.

    5) Please spare us your talk about morals and religion. “To you be your beliefs and to me, mine.”

    6) Malaysia does not only constitute Muslims. Just because YOU (and I’m specifying this here because not only are you not a Malaysian citizen, you are also clearly espousing views of a select percentage of society) have a problem with young people being taught about contraceptives, that doesn’t mean the rest of us, non-Muslims, have a problem with it. Our population is made up of people from different religious backgrounds. If we do deny the implementation of sex education on religious grounds, then it would be denying our basic CIVIL RIGHTS to INFORMATION. Besides, our ministers seem to think ‘it’s about time’, because honestly, I think they know it is a dire situation that we are in. And no grade B advertisement with a grade C jingle about abstaining from throwing your baby in a dumpster is going to help us.

    Just to hit the nail on the head:
    A report from the daily Harian Metro:

    A 26-year-old ex-public university student, being so afraid of facing the social ramifications of delivering her illegitimate child in a hospital, decided to give birth, ALONE, in her room. Alas, the mother faced difficulties during childbirth and died while doing so. The baby was stuck in her and he died too. No one knew about this woman and her baby. The university staff only started investigating after the foul smell of death was detected. And she was a Muslim.

    So, you tell me, do we not need sex education?

  17. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    To all TNG readers,

    Please be more respectful of Islam as it is the official religion of Malaysia. You may not like what Islam teaches – but keep your derogatory remarks on Islam to yourself. Its not wise to criticise Islam publicly – when you are living in a Muslim country. If you really do not like Islam – then please migrate to a Non-Muslim country.

    • Yeo Kien Kiong says:

      When one says that one cannot criticize, does that mean that one’s search for knowledge has come to a dead end? If one is living in a “Muslim” country, does one have to be subjected to be judged with extreme prejudice by the “patriarch”?

    • John Bastille says:

      Dr Syed Alwi,

      You are right in pointing out that the free people should respect Islam the religion. However, if you wish to have Islam – the political ideology to be the rule of the land – then be ready for Islamism to be questioned and criticised just as with all political ideology, such as feudalism, capitalism, communism, nazism, and facism.

      You use a vehicle of free inquiry, which is the internet, only to wish suppression on free inquiry. The free people are free to compare one political ideology to another. If we see similarity between Nazism and Islamism, we shall comment. We have free inquiry and creative interpretation. That makes the free people progressive.

      Your statement “If you really do not like Islam – then please migrate to a non-Muslim country” is devoid of maturity and signals the lack of ability to debate and accept changes [...] to call oneself a Dr, sometimes higher expectations are formed.

    • Adam says:

      Dr.,

      What has happened to you and your rational and tolerant views of years gone by? Has life been so tough on you that peace escapes you? With your present comments, one could hardly experience peace of mind and conscience. When you feel or perceived that many are against you and your religion, how can you feel at peace?

      The moment you ask people to shut up and stop talking about anything, you have already lost the argument. And to ask people to get lost (e.g. migrate from their country) would confirm it without a doubt.

      My dear doctor, please sit back and reflect. You are only reacting to the symptoms and not the causes. If you are a medical doctor, you would know that treating the symptoms would not completely cure the illness. You have to get at the root causes.

      In Malaysia, Islam has been thrust into the public sphere in almost every area of public life; in politics, in our social lives and even in our private affairs. How do you expect people not to react to these influences?

      And as for Non-Muslims not qualified to comment on Islamic matters, it is also a very weak point. We now live in a globalised world practically without borders. People travel throughout the world at ease and information travels with just a few clicks. So, naturally there will be exchanges of cultures and beliefs and a mix of all. So, my children could take up the religion or I would want to learn more about the religion. So, how to learn more without asking and questioning, especially about the not so good aspects?

      You have to allow certain valid discourses. If you could not answer the indefensible, you have to re-examine your own convictions and see if there are any flaws in the way you look at them. Only God is infallible. You and I, as human beings are not.
      Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…. John 14:27

  18. noct says:

    No more derogatory than your own words, sir. We TNG readers (Muslims, Christians, etc) simply wish to engage in intelligent discourse over current affairs without you dragging us down with your own personal rhetoric.

    “God unites, religion divides”

  19. Reza Rosli says:

    Dr Syed Alwi, there are no such rules governing this conversation here, at least in my corner of Malaysia. Pray [and] move on [...]


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