Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Affirmative Religious Response Culture to HIV and AIDS: Understanding the Public Relations Role of JAKIM in Curbing the Epidemic among Young Muslim Couples in Malaysia

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Affirmative Religious Response Culture to HIV and AIDS: Understanding the Public Relations Role of JAKIM in Curbing the Epidemic among Young Muslim Couples in Malaysia

Article excerpt

Abstract

In regards to containing the spread of the deadly disease namely HIV/AIDS, it is particularly troublesome that the culture of information sharing in terms of sexuality still remains as a private subject and taboo for discussion not only among the Muslim communities but among the Asian communities as well. Despite the fact that Islam is concerned in placing a high value on chaste behaviour, prohibiting sexual intercourse outside marriage and homosexuality, the HIV/AIDS infection will not suppress just because of these strict Islamic doctrines are mostly adhered by fellow Muslims. While the HIV/AIDS scourge is disastrous in disregard of the religious, signaling a dire need to understand the role of religious response in curbing the disease so as to reach out to the target audiences effectively. This study is specifically to explore the responsibility of Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia or the Malaysia Department of Islamic Development (JAKIM) in respect to how they convey the accurate information to the Muslim communities in general and among the young Muslim couples in specific. Therefore, semi-structural elite interview with the officer was conducted in order to dwell into the plight of how the religious institution addresses the epidemic. The study found that JAKIM has conferred striking benefits to the Muslim community in curtailing the spread of HIV/AIDS through its publication on "Manual on HIV/AIDS in Islam" and the Premarital HIV Screening Programme. The fantastic contribution of JAKIM therefore can maintain links between the religious group, government, media, and stakeholders on fighting the HIV/AIDS issues.

Keywords: Islam, HIV/AIDS, JAKIM, information sharing, religious institution

1. Introduction

Speaking of the devastating disease in the world-Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)-is replete with sensitivities especially when it comes to religious perspectives. In many cases, HIV/AIDS is always attributed by the blames of immorality, dangerous lifestyle and illegal drug use (Badri, 1997; Nelkin, 1991). In order to overcome unhealthy behaviour, religion has been instrumental as means to teach and disseminate accurate information in terms of protection and rectifying discrimination and stigmatization towards HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) to the populace. While the world gives an insight into the role played by a wide variety of religions in responsibly halting the deadly disease to its community per se, new challenges are eventually posed to the religions.

Over the span of 30 years since the first case of HIV/AIDS was identified in the United States in 1981 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [MMWR], 2001), the culture of information sharing in terms of sexuality still remains as a private subject and taboo for discussion not only among the conservative countries but among the Asian communities as well and has become particularly troublesome (Hasnain, 2005; Trinitapoli, 2009). Moreover, there are a few governments in the Muslim countries that refuse to face the relentless growth of HIV/AIDS as a threat to them (Hasnain, 2005). A bundle of researches have also reviewed through Islam's perspective, that HIV/AIDS is prone to punishment from God or viewed as a divine curse for an immoral act (Oluduro 2010: 210; Paruk, Mohamed, Patel, & Ramgoon, 2006; Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, 2003; Kopelman, 2002; Badri, 1997; Kitzinger, 1998). Hence, from the cursory glance at the response of Islam dealing with HIV/AIDS in the preceding discussion, it postulates that Islam is far away from accomplishing the mission in curtailing the HIV infection on its communities. However, how true of a statement is this? Is the religion sluggish in responding to the issue? To answer these questions, a dire need for researchers to dwell into the plight of how religious institution (in this case the JAKIM) addresses the epidemic, conveys the accurate information and rolls out a policies with regard to the epidemic to the dwellers is signaled. …

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