Delegates Walk Out of Islamic Conference on AIDS After Speaker Criticizes Religion’s Response to Epidemic
About 20 delegates from Africa, Malaysia, Britain and other countries on Tuesday walked out of the Second International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS in Malaysia after an American speaker said that traditional Islamic practices have worsened the epidemic's spread, the Associated Press reports. Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that "Islam and Muslims exacerbate the spread of AIDS" because Muslim women are required to comply with their husbands' desires for sex even if the man is HIV-positive, according to the Associated Press. The delegates who walked out issued a statement condemning Wadud's comments as "blasphemy," adding, "[Wadud's] vicious and venomous attack to Islam is unfounded and unsubstantiated" and her comments were meant to "demonize Islam." Wadud stood by her statements, saying, "My paper just states opinions that are different from others and perhaps they take exception to that" (Singh, Associated Press, 5/21). The protesting delegates called for the conference to expel Wadud, but Malaysian AIDS Council President Marina Mahathir, chair of the International Advisory Committee of the conference, said that a panel had decided to allow Wadud to stay at the meeting, according to the Bernama News Agency reports. "The walkout by the delegates is something we regret happening," Mahathir said, adding, "It is the objective of the conference to give space to different opinions. Surely we cannot expect a consensus on an issue like AIDS and as we quarrel over differences of opinion, Muslims everywhere are dying of AIDS" (Ujang, Bernama News Agency, 5/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.