Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Awwal/Rabi-Ul Akhir 1423 H
June 2002
Volume 15-06 No:186

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Muslim Perspectives

The Terror of HIV
Islamic Camp on a Hill

The Terror of HIV

Cases of HIV have been on the rise among the middle and upper class Muslims
with women and children ending up as innocent victims

By By Md. Hanif Lakdawala

Rehana Banu (name changed), 21, died of HIV in Mumbai’s JJ hospital’s maternity ward last month. Her one-month-old infant baby girl was also infected with HIV and expired 9 days after the birth. In the last six months, three pregnant Muslim women died in different hospitals of Mumbai due to HIV. In all three cases, the newly born child also suffered from HIV, two have died and one is still surviving just waiting for her last breath. Ironically, all three women were in the age group of 19-22 and had acquired HIV from their HIV infected husbands after marriage. The husbands working in Mumbai had married these women back in their villages.

Also, AIDS is leaving a generation of orphans. Young Rauf and Abid, both infected at birth, are just two of the some 160,000 children the United Nations estimates to be infected with HIV in India. The total HIV-infected Indian population is estimated at just under 4 million. Although infection rates in India are a fraction of those in Africa, health officials worry that the disease can still have a grave effect on the nation’s future. “I think we are in for a very bleak future. Maybe quite a great destruction in the lives of people in the government, in all walks of life in the existence of the country itself,” says Dr. Chinkolal Thangsing, who cares for children with AIDS. Abid’s mother, Nashreen, got HIV from her husband and passed the virus on to her son. Doctors say, mother-to-child transmissions are increasing as infection rates rise among Indian women. “My little child has seen nothing of this world, but he has endured pain ever since birth,” says Nashreen. Since her husband’s death, she has worked at odd jobs at an AIDS clinic to survive. But she worries for Abid’s future.Islamic Voice conducted a random survey, which included three AIDS clinic, 20 General practitioners (GP’s) and two public hospitals.

The survey revealed that though the transmission of HIV from the Muslim husband to wife and children has not reached alarming proportions, it cannot be taken lightly or neglected. Out of 20 GP’s, eight revealed that they get atleast one case of Muslim female infected with HIV, which she acquired from her husband. In most of the cases, the husband was employed in Mumbai and brought the wife after she complained of prolonged fever. Dr A R Khan GP, practising in south Mumbai said that “These migrant workers visit red- light areas and acquired the HIV. After they marry the unsuspecting wife also acquired AIDS”. “Only last month, I had one patient whose husband died due to AIDS just three months after marriage. To my horror, her HIV test came positive and she is pregnant too,” he said. “I am in a dilemma as her child may acquire HIV even before he is born. Since her condition is critical due to HIV, I cannot recommend abortion which may prove fatal”. What is the future of those who have lost their husband and face the prospect of delivering an unborn child who might not survive. Who is responsible for this cruelty? What have these innocent women and children done to deserve a horrible and painful death? According to the health expert, one of the solutions to avoid such a tragedy is to make it compulsory to acquire an AIDS-free certificate before marriage.

Muslim couples in Malaysia have to take an HIV test before they can get a marriage certificate. The new regulation is enforced from 1997. The move was to ensure that the future generation would be free from HIV.

The National AIDS Policy, which was recently cleared by the Union Cabinet, provides for this. At the time of marriage negotiations, either party can legitimately ask for an AIDS-free certificate from the other. To quote the policy, details of which have been released now, “In case of marriage, if one of the partners insists on a test to check the HIV status of the other partner, such tests should be carried out by the contracting party to the satisfaction of the person concerned’’. The need for such a certification is, however, not mandatory, considering that it would neither be possible nor necessary given the very nature of marriage negotiations. The move, on the other hand, is primarily designed to give the demand for such certificates official sanctity so that neither party has any hesitation while making such a demand. According to the health expert, the policy statement should particularly be of help to women, considering that Indian society is still male-dominated to a large extent.

Even without the policy, they could have asked for an AIDS-free certificate. But, given the social milieu, it might not have been considered to be a proper thing to do. Now, with the official seal, it was hoped there would be less hesitation. While men currently accounted for the bulk of the HIV/ AIDS cases — about 75 per cent - in India, studies show that the incidence of the disease is growing among women too. According to the latest estimates, about 3.97 million adults are infected with HIV/ AIDS in the country, with 89 per cent of them in the age group of 18 to 49. A major problem with HIV/ AIDS is that despite intensive research conducted across the world, no cure has yet been found for it. Some treatments are, however, available to help the infected live longer and with a better quality of life. But, not only is the cost of the treatment prohibitory, there are also risks of serious adverse side effects if the medicines are not properly administered. In the Islamic world, such issues are also been debated. Muslim couples in Malaysia have to take an HIV test before they can get a marriage certificate. The new regulation is enforced from 1997. The move was to ensure that the future generation would be free from HIV.

Those who oppose the compulsory AIDS-free certificate for marriage fear that the plan is not scientifically sound, as the lack of trained staff could cause unnecessary distress for those with false positive results. According to them, one objection was that there seemed to be little concern about the gap of time between infection and testing positive, which would defeat the purpose of the pre-marital tests.

In the random survey by Islamic Voice it was also revealed that HIV is not just prevalent amongst the poor and deprived sections, but the cases of HIV is being reported from the middle and upper class as well. The deteriorating morality and sexual habits is one of the major causes for HIV. Nature itself has provided a solution for the dreaded disease of HIV. The best way is to lead a life as enjoined by Islam.


Islamic Camp on a Hill

In Mumbai, a fresh air is blowing with a slew of Islamic organisations conducting summer camps for children
where they pick up knowledge on not just Islam, but many contemporary issues too

By A Staff Writer

India has been a plural and multi religion-multi-cultural country, and religion plays a crucial role in the social, political and economic development of the communities in the country. Since Muslims are the largest religious minority in the country, Islam invariably is linked with their destiny. Ironically there are misconceptions and misunderstanding about Islam amongst Indians. The Muslims themselves are responsible for this, besides the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propaganda by the Hindutva forces. Muslims are responsible in the sense that they themselves have not understood Islam in the correct perspective and reduced it to the narrow concepts based on centuries old interpretations. In Mumbai, a fresh air is blowing with a slew of Islamic organisations such as Students Islamic Organisation(SIO),Jamaat-e- Islami(JIH), and Iqra Islamic center organising the ‘Basic Islamic’ course camps imparting religious education to the young generation. JIH recently had organised a three days Basic Islamic course at the hill station Mahabaleswar. More than 300 youngsters and their parents attended the camp. Indeed, more than ever before, it is a confusing time to be young and Muslim. The hurt and bewilderment is apparent in the questions that come from these children: If Islam is a religion of peace, why are Muslims fighting everywhere? What kind of Muslims would burn a train in Godhra?

Nine-year-old Fuzain Siwani frowns in concentration as he listens intently, his mind whirling with questions: Why do his Hindu friends say Muslims are killers? Does jihad mean killing people? Siwani is one of the 24 Muslim children gathered in a camp in a Mumbay suburb on a sweltering summer afternoon, anxious to learn about Islam and get answers to some disturbing questions. “After September 11, some of my Hindu friends in class kept saying that Muslims are always killing people and doing all bad things,” said Siwani, twisting his fingers agitatedly. “Sometimes I feel angry that all these terrorists are spoiling the name of Islam. But I know all Muslims are not like them,” he said, a smile lighting up his little face.

When Iqra — a Chicago-based Islamic education foundation with branches in 40 countries including India organised summer camps across Mumbai they had no clue, children would bombard them with questions, particularly about the concept of jihad. “Right from September 11 to Palestine to Gujarat, the children had so many questions, particularly about jihad. “It was amazing,” said Yasmin Darbar, who handled a camp on the outskirts of Mumbai. The five-day camps held last month for Muslim school children answered many of those questions as they sought to increase awareness about the principles and practices of Islam. “Nearly every Muslim child in India is facing harsh attitudes in school and among neighbours. They are criticised by non-Muslims, Islam is criticised,” Uzma Naheed, executive director of Iqra in Mumbai told Islamic Voice , that Mohammed Afsar Khan, 14 decided to attend an Iqra camp to know more about jihad.

“I have learnt that jihad means to fight against your own evil desires. To have self-control, to fight against injustice,” said Khan. Through activities such as solving crosswords and colourful charts, children picked up the basics of a religion that in their homes was largely confined to praying and fasting.“I had so many questions about Islam, but my parents could not answer my questions,” said Sadia Kazi, 11, peering shyly out of the shawl covering her head. Naheed said most Indian Muslims were ignorant about the fundamentals of Islam, making it difficult for them to children’s persistent queries. “I know now that the word Islam means peace. True Muslims will never kill innocent people,” said Sadia.“We teach the tenets of Islam,of course,but we also address issues related to living in a pluralistic society,” says Uzma.Iqra tries to teach Islam using modern methodologies and contexts.“I feel terribly concerned about what our children are thinking and feeling,”says Nishat Imam,a lecturer who has conducted a few sessions for Iqra. Zameerul Hassan, former Maharastra zone President of SIO who started the trend of organising the Islamic Basics teaching camps on hill stations said that unless and until a fresh approach towards teaching Islamic fundamentals is not taken, the youth are not going to be attracted towards Islam.

“The environment has its impact on the learning and a picnic on a hill station at a nominal cost, acts as a bait as well as an attraction to the youth to attend Camps,” he said.The Islamic Center this year organised a month long basic Islamic course camp at Cheetah camp in the central suburbs of Mumbai specifically for girls. In this age, when changes are taking place at a rapid pace, change in methodology in imparting the basics of Islam will go a long way in educating the community.


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