01 December 2009
AIDS and Shariah -- Hizbut Tahrir Style...
Today is World AIDS Day. Today, at least for me, is a day to remember dear friends and to continue to agitate for a brighter future; one that is free of this scourge. It is time that there was not only a vaccine, but a cure, for this virus. It is important to remember that as a community that great strides have been made, but it is more important to remember that the fight is not over. There are still those who advocate ignorance and take the bury your head in the sand approach.
This is why I find news like Hizbut Tahrir in Indonesia advocating the development of an Islamic Caliphate and the immediate implementation of Shariah Law as their main weapon in the fight against HIV / AIDS both amusing and and frighteningly dangerous at the same time. The naivety of an approach that says Shariah law will solve all ills beggars belief, particularly when the insinuation is that HIV / AIDS is a disease of prostitutes, drug users, and homosexuals. Not only is this naive, it is stupid as well. To all intents and purposes, prostitution, illicit drug use, and homosexuality are already illegal in Indonesia. So, the imposition of Shariah law is not going to change the legal framework all that much with respect to these issues. Unless, there is a belief that the punishment would be a sufficient deterrent to all of these situations.
Part of the Hizbut Tahrir push is to close down brothels and ban the use of condoms. Now, if I am not mistaken brothels are generally illegal. And, the authorities tend to periodically close them down. However, the banning of condoms as a means of preventing casual sex is silly at best and negligent at worst.
The Islamic hardliners are also advocating the cancellation of all condom and sex education programs on the belief that if people have no knowledge of sex, and safe sex in particular, then they are less likely to indulge in sex as a past time. Finally, it appears that the protesters believe that Indonesians are rather large consumers of pornography and that this is a trigger for the huge increase in casual sex. The answer, according to Hizbit Tahrir and others is to ban pornography and shut down the porn industry. Ah, if I am not mistaken pornography is already illegal in Indonesia.
Ideas such as this highlight a real lack of understanding of the human condition and the nature of the world that we live in. The reality is that sex and drugs preceded Islam and they will more than likely survive it as well.
Nevertheless, it is a daunting task facing those seeking to educate Indonesians about HIV / AIDS, particularly when a component of the community would have you believe that HIV / AIDS is nothing more than a disease that afflicts those in the sex industry or homosexuals. Indonesia is on the cusp of a pandemic where large-scale transmission from high risk communities begins to pervade the general community.
UNAIDS estimates that there are some 270,000 Indonesians infected with HIV, and that this is the tip of the iceberg in the sense that there is also a belief that there is significant under-reporting of infections. Under-reporting generally stems from the stigma attached to being HIV+ and the idea of singling HIV+ people out is abhorrent.
There is a real danger that HIV / AIDS could become a really big problem for Indonesia. However, the reality is not one that allows us to stick out collective heads in the sand and pretend that there is not really a problem. It requires vision from Indonesia's leaders to face this dilemma head on and make the hard decisions. One of those decisions is that education saves lives.
Perhaps now is a good time to take the excellent work being done by civil society and NGOs in Indonesia, such as Spiritia Foundation and others, mainstream in confronting this scourge. The fight is all about Respect and Protect. Respecting and protecting ourselves and others.
(Photo from here)