Revelation vs. Tradition: Beginning Curriculum Conversations in Sexual Health for Australian Muslim Youth
Culture, the symbolic structure that gives many of our activities significance and importance, is all pervasive. Although aspects of one’s culture might draw from or reflect particular religious teachings, the two concepts are not necessarily synonymous. This is particularly true with Islam and Muslims. Although discussion, teaching and learning about sex, sexuality and sexual health, has a prominent place in Islamic teachings, some Muslim cultural perspectives have attached a ‘taboo’ stigma to the learning of important sexual health information. More powerfully, many understandings of sexual health and constructs of sexuality held by Muslims are informed by cultural underpinnings rather than teachings from the core texts in Islam, the Qur’an and Hadith. In the face of a multicultural Australia, Islamic schools have been established to offer a curriculum suited to meet their Muslim students’ needs. This paper will report on some of the findings of a current study by the author about how a group of teachers at a Victorian Islamic College developed and implemented a sexual health education curriculum for their Muslim students. In their attempts to create an interdisciplinary unit on sexual health inclusive of Islamic perspectives, the teachers found themselves challenged by their students’ strong embedded cultural understandings which contradict Islamic teachings as stated in the Qur’an and Hadith. In their attempts to implement an ‘Islamically appropriate’ sexual health education curriculum, teachers questioned their role at the school; are they cultural reproducers or cultural reconstructors? Further, this paper will detail how the teachers confronted students’ cultural perspectives to enable for a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum from an Islamic perspective at their school.
Keywords: Culture, Islamic Education, Sexual Health Education, Australian Muslims
Dr. Fida Sanjakdar
Lecturer, School of Education