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Do Muslim Children Need ‘Islamic’ Sex Education?

As the Government pledged to make Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory in all of England's primary schools by the end of 2018, Kate Godfrey-Faussett suggests a number of ways to counteract this policy

Due to sexual relations and sexual morality comprising a significantaspect of human life, Islam has provided detailed guidance and laws to befollowed in all sexual matters. As children reach the appropriate age in theirdevelopment, it is essential that they are educated in these rulings and in theIslamic values pertaining to the importance of marriage, chastity and modestyand of course in the ongoing teachings of obedience to God. In Islam, educating children about sexual issues should be done withinthe larger context of Islamic values and principles; not separated from it, asis prevalent in western sex education initiatives. In non-Islamic schools,children are often ‘educated’ in skills such as applying contraceptive methodsto avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies or in learninghow to give sexual consent or arrange an abortion. There is scarce mentionregarding the sacredness of their own bodies or of the sexual act, nor of moralteachings such as the importance of chastity and waiting for marriage.

In Islam, children should be educated about accountability and responsibility for themselves and their bodies and as they become sexually mature they are taught about the importance of self-control and the importance of marriage for satisfying the sexual urge. Sex education in Islam, therefore, forms an inherent part of a parent’s duty to educate their child in theirIslamic duty and faith and should not be viewed separately.

The global movement of introducing ‘sexuality education’ into all schools worldwide has somewhat altered how we may ideally educate our children in sexual matters as Muslims. If our children attend school we no longer have the luxury of deciding when our children are ready to be taught certain topics, as the school system has taken that right upon themselves.

Unfortunately, if our children are in school they will be receiving information regarding sex and related un-Islamic issues at a much younger age than we would like. As parents, we will have less control over how to teach our children about sexual matters and are less free to choose the age at which we decide to educate them. We thus need to rethink and prepare for how and when we teach our children about sex education. It is imperative that we address such topics with our children and starts talking to them at a young age, in an an age-appropriate way, otherwise, they willform distorted views and assume that un-Islamic practices are acceptable.

If we do not educate our children then they will learn about sexual matters either from school or through other means (internet, media, social media, friends etc.). We need to address any counter-messages or un-Islamic sexual ideologies that they may be picking up from school or society and correct where necessary, what they are learning and provide for them an Islamic understanding and perspective.

Additionally, we need to be aware that western culture (which has spread throughout many countries worldwide) has become increasingly sexualised. Children are continuously bombarded with sexual images and messages from every angle of society. To address this, even if your child is not at school, it is essential that children are educated by their parents about sex education from an Islamic perspective, so that they can form a proper understanding, and practice their faith correctly in all aspects.

As parents, it is imperative that we engage with our children’s school and find out exactly what they are being taught in Relationship and sex education (RSE) and ask to see the resources that are being used. The ethos of individual schools will have an important impact on the way in which RSE is delivered. It is therefore essential to choose a school for your child who shares an ethos that is in line with your own values. Islamic schools, faith schools, single-sex schools should always be considered first and before secular schools. Alternatives to sending your child to school such as home education, for those families who are in a position to do so, can also be considered. However, in all cases, providing your child with Islamic sex education at the appropriate time is essential.

 What, when & how do I teach my child about Islamic RSE?

There are two things to consider regarding educating your child in sex education and related topics:

The first is your duty as a parent to educate your child in matters of religion, instilling in them the beliefs, principles and values of Islam. Education in Islamic matters of relevance to Islamic RSE such as cleanliness, awrah (protection of private parts); that God created male and female, marriage, and so on, can all start at a young age and will form the basis on which more detailed information relating to ‘sex education’ will later be built. It is essential that you start building these foundations early and before children go to school.

The second factor you need to consider is what your child is going to be taught at school regarding RE/RSE, as well as what sexualised messages they are picking up from the wider society (e.g. from media, films, posters, clothing, celebrities, music etc. that it is impossible to completely protect children from). These issues will then need to be addressed as your child is exposed to them and put into an Islamic context. This will be much easier if you have already begun teaching your child about Islamic values and practices as mentioned above.

When your child begins school, or if they are already at school, there are two main sources of knowledge you will need to acquire to educate your child in Islamic RSE and counteract any un-Islamic beliefs or practices they are being taught:

  1. Knowledge from your child’s school regarding what they will be learning in RE/RSE and when and how they will be learning it. This is essential so that you know what to teach your child and put into context from an Islamic perspective.
  2. Islamic knowledge so that you can first put what your child is learning into a proper Islamic context and secondly address anything they are taught that contradicts Islamic teachings and practice.

God Willing, further resources and help to support parents in this task will be produced. In the meantime, please visit www.stoprse.com for further information and to download a sample letter that parents can send to their school asking to be kept informed of what their child will be taught in Relationship & Sex Education. As a parent, you do have the right to influence how schools will teach RSE and it is important that you have your say.

For further support or information please feel free to contact info@stoprse.com

Dr Kate Godfrey-Faussett is a Chartered Psychologist.

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1 Comment on Do Muslim Children Need ‘Islamic’ Sex Education?

  1. i have worked in sexual health for more than 20 years in the UK. This experience has given me an insight into the problems young people face today, in our society, regarding sexuality and sexual activity. Without a doubt the more knowledge young people have regarding sexuality and sexual activity and the pleasures AND hazards that are involved, the more able they are to resist the temptations and social pressures of early sex or sex outside marriage. Teaching them that it is ‘wrong’ or telling them they must wait does nothing but encourage them to explore; without education this exploration will be without knowledge and so with risk of infection & pregnancy and, more importantly, without respect for themselves or their bodies.

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