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Young people, sex and Islam

Young people,
sex and Islam

An investigation into Dutch young people of Moroccan and Turkish descent

Young people, sex and Islam An investigation into Dutch young people of Moroccan and Turkish descent
Is French kissing haräm? Are women allowed Rachida Azough, Jos Poelman, Suzanne Meijer
to see each other naked? Does Islam allow
porn? Lots of young Islamic people ask
questions about sexuality on the Internet.
Furthermore, culture and religion often get
mixed up. This booklet is a useful source for
teachers, youth workers, GPs and other
people who provide information on sexuality.
The booklet examines the sexual experiences
and morals and values of second and third
generation young Dutch people of Turkish and
Moroccan descent. Part of the information is
based on an Internet survey carried out by
Maastricht University. An imam also provides
answers to young Muslims’ most frequently
asked questions about sexuality.
Young people,
sex and Islam
An investigation into Dutch young people of Moroccan and Turkish descent
Tipping the veil
Sex is taboo within many Islamic families. Many people believe that sexuality and Islam go
together as well as chalk and cheese. I feel this stems from a lack of information. That’s why
I find it important to provide information about relationships, sexuality and the culture of
young Muslims in this booklet. It would be an extremely suitable preparation for a talk in a
multicultural school. In fact, it is an indispensable tool for non-Muslim experts who provide
education to young Muslims; especially to those whose parents are from Turkey or Morocco.

W e are all brought up with the idea that we are not allowed
to have sex. Even mentioning the subject could suggest
that you are sexually active. This state of affairs prevents many
young people from bringing up the subject of sexuality with their
parents and vice versa. The feelings of shame and boundaries
of respect are very different to those in a Dutch family. Whereas a
Dutch father would consider making a comment like “Wow, you’re
bum is starting to get quite big!” run of the mill; a Moroccan or
Turkish father would not even consider using the word “bum”,
let alone making such a remark.

V ocabulary and views on sex are important within Islamic

families. For example, a parent would prefer to use the term
“intercourse” rather then having to use the word “sex”. Islamic
parents are more likely to approve of an explanation on the
biological side of sex rather then a discussion on the feelings and
enjoyment experienced during the act. Pleasure is nevertheless
important within Islam. We are allowed to if not HAVE TO enjoy sex.
T he greatest restriction in providing information is not religion
but culture. Islam states: Religion knows no shame and
do not hesitate to discuss sexuality openly with your children.
Nevertheless, the subject is either not talked about or avoided
in Moroccan and Turkish families. This isn’t to say that young
Muslims of Turkish and Moroccan descent do not have sex. The
opposite is true! This is precisely why it is so very important to
provide information to this group.

I have written a number of columns on sexuality on the community site and have received very different
responses. A number of respondents did not feel I was Islamic
enough and I made others laugh. I want young Muslims to think
beyond what is haräm (not allowed). Premarital sex is a sin, but
what are the consequences of such a sin? Allah is forgiving and
why would the people around you be any different?

J ust to be perfectly clear: There are young Muslims who talk

about sex at home, and not all young Muslims practise their
faith the same way. My advice is to read the information in
light of what is customary in most families. Use this booklet in
the way it was intended: as an insight into young people, sex and
Islam. What I intend to do here is tip the veil.

Jihad Alariachi
(ex-)columnist of the Islam and Sexuality subsite on,
De Meiden van Halal [The Haläl Girls], a Dutch TV programme
Table of
The Islam and Sexuality Internet Survey 8
1. Sex according to Islam 10
2. Sex according to young Muslims 16
3. Sexual experiences 22
4. Is safe sex important? 28
5. Choice of partner 38
6. Girls and boys 54
7. Homosexuality 62
8. Sex education for young Muslims 72
Thirteen Q&A’s on Sexuality 86
Further Reading/Surfing 106
Glossary 111
Bibliography 112
The Islam and sexuality
internet survey
How do young Turkish and Moroccan Muslims deal with sex and what roles do religion and
culture play? These questions were answered during the Islam and Sexuality survey which
was carried out by Maastricht University in 2005 on behalf of STI Aids Netherlands.
The results of the survey can be found in this booklet.

Who are these young people?

T he research consists of an analysis of hundreds of questions posed

to young Muslims between June 2004 and September 2005 via the
subwebsites, Islam and Sexuality and Seni Seviyorum (“I love you” in
Turkish), which form part of and Furthermore,
463 youngsters completed an online questionnaire on sexuality and safe
sex which was posted on and 246 young people filled in the same
questionnaire when it was posted on Most of the forms were
completed by women and girls. One quarter of the young people who took
part via were male. Only thirteen percent of the participants via were male. The average visitor was twenty years old. The vast
majority were Dutch Muslims of Turkish and Moroccan descent. Most young
people follow the Islamic rules of faith. Young Turks were less religiously
inclined than their Moroccan peers.

Why provide information via the Internet?

Q uestions that young people dare not ask at home – out of respect
for their parents or on account of the “taboo” on sex - can be asked
on the Internet. They can remain anonymous and thus do not need to be
afraid of social control or loss of reputation. In addition, the Internet forms
an enormously popular means of communication between young people:
97 percent of all young Turks between the ages of 15 and 24 use the
Internet and 85 percent of their Moroccan peers do the same.
About the websites

M had 200,000 hits and (which was online for a much
shorter period of time) attracted 3,000 visitors. STI AIDS Netherlands
wanted to provide information on sexuality and relationships through these
subsites. They wanted to make these issues a subject of discussion so that
young people would be able to make well-considered choices when it
comes to relationships and healthy sexuality. Some of the subjects discussed
were; virginity, safe sex, homosexuality and loverboys (pimps). By means of
“Frequently Asked Questions”, an ABC of sex and a quiz, the visitors were able
to gain knowledge and submit questions by e-mail to Imam van Bommel (over
six hundred questions) or to one of the two Public Health Service employees
(over one hundred questions each). They were also able to submit questions
to the AIDS STI Helpline and hold a discussion on the forum. A liaison group
consisting of representatives from organisations such as Forum, Yoesuf, the sites
themselves and the Rutgers Nisso Groep gave advice during the project.
Young people from the target group submitted texts for the subsite.


T he question is whether or not the data from an online survey is

representative of young Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands. Not
only were the participants anonymous but they may at times have provided
socially desirable answers. The investigation was further hindered by the fact
that a large number of respondents quite resolutely stated that they would
“definitely not” engage in premarital sex. This meant that the study of safe sex
could only be measured amongst the young people who had already had sex or
were planning to do so sometime before getting married. The group concerned
numbered 373 respondents: 204 from (118 women and 86 men) and
169 from (145 women and 24 men).

Sex under the age of 25

O ther sources for this booklet are Sex under the age of 25, a large-scale
and representative nationwide investigation, and other research.

Young Muslims in the Netherlands

Approximately one million, of the more than 16 million people living in the Netherlands,
are “Islamic”. The largest groups are Turkish Muslims (328,000) and Moroccan Muslims
(over 295,000). 100,000 and 91,000 of these, respectively, are aged between 12 and 26.
(Statistics Netherlands, 2006)
1.Sex according
to Islam
Is sex only intended for reproductive purposes? Not according to Islam. Sex is
something that should be enjoyed. Provided it is between a man and a woman
and within marriage.

I slam acknowledges the fact that people have a sexual drive.

Sex between two individuals who are married is a form of
worship. According to tradition you will be rewarded for it after
you die. That is; as long as you have obeyed the strict rules. Islam
distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate sexuality: nikãh
and zinãh. Sex is only permitted between a man and a woman
within marriage.

What is and what is not allowed?

T here is much uncertainty among young Muslims about

what the Qur’an does and does not allow when it comes
to sex. Various interpretations and translations of passages from
the Qur’an (which have sometimes been completely taken
out of context) can be found on the Islam and Sexuality forum.
Furthermore, young Muslims remain uncertain about what the
Qur’an’s position is with regards to masturbation, homosexuality
and abortion. This uncertainty has two aspects: firstly, there is
uncertainty about the precise meaning of certain verses in the
Qur’an and secondly, the problem of interpretation arises when
the (literal) meaning has become clear. As a result, diametrically
opposing conclusions can be drawn from the same passage.

> Sex according to Islam <

The role of the imam

I mams can shed light on the matter since a number of them

are well acquainted with the most current interpretations.
The provision of information through the Internet by Imam Van
Bommel seems to help young people. Nevertheless, discussions
on the forum reveal that a progressive religious leader is not
always able to convince orthodox visitors. For instance, in an
online discussion the imam used a text from the Qur’an to argue
that masturbation is not explicitly forbidden. A number of visitors
strongly rejected this. An Islamic visitor of Moroccan descent:
“I don’t known where you went to school, but this is incorrect.
What’s more, you do not provide any proof.” An Islamic man who
was born in France: “This is what I think of you: You’re ignorant
and have been led astray.”

Are you allowed to ask questions about sex?

S ome Internet visitors strongly disapprove of questions

about sexuality. A ”real” Muslim knows the answers which
can be found in the Qur’an. Apparently, some Muslims do not
feel the need to discuss subjects for which they already believe
they have a clear answer. This attitude can be a serious problem
when providing information. However, the forum on the subsite
is intended for people who do wish to enter into discussions
and obtain answers to their questions from the perspective of
their religion. It is because of this that the Internet forms a great

> 11
“Sex and Islam do go
together. Within Islam
sexuality is not only intended
for reproductive purposes.

It is also regarded as
something spiritual, even sacred.
Sexuality is a healing
and healthy pleasure,
a human need.”
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality].

> Sex according to Islam <

Muslim families

“P eople just don’t say what they do, or do what they say,”
the scholar, lecturer and writer Piet Vroon once aptly
said. This also applies to Muslims. In spite of the fact that many
Muslims claim to find clear answers regarding sexuality in their
religion, theory and practice appear to be miles apart. Rules are
not always obeyed (by everyone) and Muslims do not always
hold the same views.

“T urn away!” Mohammed Chaara’s mother cried out when

she saw her son acting out a love scene in the television
series Hartslag [Heartbeat]. Liberal Western sexual morality still
is not common within Muslim families. Many Muslim families
scramble for the remote whenever something remotely connected
to sex appears on TV. This could be a programme about aids (since
the words “sexuality” or ”homosexuality” could be used), it could
be a kiss in romantic films or it could be a sex scene which would
of course be even worse. However, the fact that sexuality is not
or is hardly talked about in most Muslim families does not imply
that young Muslims have no sexual experience.

> 13
Is it a matter of religion or culture?

W hen it comes down to discussions about sexuality and Islam many things are often attributed
to religion. Nevertheless, they are actually a matter of culture. Islam has often adapted to
the culture of its followers. For example, Turkish Islam differs from Moroccan Islam, also in the
Netherlands. In addition, differences in liberal temperament and, possibly, educational level are of
significance. What is labelled religious do’s and don’ts by one person is regarded as no more than
cultural prohibition by another.

A n increasing number of young people in the Netherlands study the Qur’an. Some young
people have trouble keeping religion and culture separate. In some cases, the tradition of
the country of origin, as opposed to Islam, is decisive for their views. Not everything that is argued
from the point of view of religion actually has Islamic roots. Some parents present rules of conduct
as Islamic when they actually concern cultural traditions. For instance, fathers who arrange forced
marriages for their daughters often claim that Islam bids them to do so. In reality, Islam strongly
disapproves of forced marriages; both parties have to consent to a wedding.

R eligion and culture are often intricately interwoven for

Muslims. These two concepts are sometimes confused.
Critics of Islam do this as well when they identify cultural
practices as Islamic practices. This behaviour exacerbates the
confusion. For instance, the culturally determined tradition of
genitally mutilating women is wrongly associated with Islamic
rules and precepts.

R eligion revolves around a belief in a higher, supernatural

power, the divine or God. This faith and the acceptance
of corresponding ideas and precepts have a great deal of
influence on the values and standards, views and behaviour of
the followers of that religion. Above all, religion is a system for
assigning meaning. Believers give a significant meaning to life.

> Sex according to Islam <

R eligion is invariably embedded within a culture. Culture forms the heart of a community. Cultures
keep changing; they are not static. They constitute a process whereby old customs keep making
way for new ones. In contrast, religion is static: all the rules and guidelines remain the same because
they have been laid down. Culture regularly clashes with religion when believers develop new
customs, thoughts or behaviours which stem from cultural change. You cannot always draw a clear
line between religion and culture since they sometimes overlap, and are often interrelated. Both
influence the views and behaviour of people.

> 15
2. Sex according to
young Muslims
Virginity is the norm for young Muslims. Many Islamic people agree with this. However, are
you allowed to make love to your future husband/wife?

A large proportion of the young Islamic people who took

part in the Islam and Sexuality survey, especially young
Moroccans, find virginity very important. The majority of young
Moroccans feel that virginity is something good, sensible and even
very important. For instance, 85 percent were of the opinion that
girls should adhere to this standard and 78 percent were of the
opinion that the standard also applies to boys. Young Turks felt that
virginity was less important: 47 percent were of the opinion that
girls should retain their virginity and 43 percent thought that boys
should do the same.

“Muslim parents today strongly resemble

Dutch parents in the 1950s.
They believe that sexual intercourse should not
be allowed until after marriage. In the eventuality
that something does happen many parents feel that
the couple should get married straight away.”
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality].
> Sex according to young Muslims <
Sex when you’re going to get married

I slamic visitors to emphasized that on a number of

occasions premarital sex is not invariably a sin. Premarital sex
becomes acceptable to some when a couple decides to get married
after having had sexual intercourse. For instance, a Moroccan
Muslim woman responded as follows to the question of whether
premarital sex is acceptable: “Speaking as a Muslim, I think that’s
rather clear: haräm. And I believe that in the event that two people
who love each other have premarital sex, the boy should not
abandon the girl. As you make your bed, so you must lie upon it.
So, hurry up and head off to the Registry Office!”

T he various opinions expressed on the Internet were also

reflected in the Sex under the age of 25 survey. 29 percent
of the Islamic boys and 45 percent of the Islamic girls felt that it is
wrong to have sex when you are planning on getting married.
The results were similar for young Christians: 44 percent of the
Christian boys and 32 percent of the Christian girls were of the
opinion that it is wrong to have sex when you have wedding plans.

Different standards for girls and boys

T he majority of the young people felt that the virginity norm

should apply to both men and women. Nevertheless, these
thoughts do not seem to be common practice. Some Muslim
women are concerned about this. One Muslim woman said: “As far
as men are concerned. I don’t think it’s very fair that I am a virgin
and he isn’t. But I have reconciled myself to the fact that men are
different creatures to women. Even those who come from a place
where there is a lot of messing about want a virgin for a wife.”
The question whether a boy is still a virgin when he goes to get
married is rarely posed. Most young people assume that boys gain
sexual experience before they get married.

> 17
Solo sex

M asturbation and religion are like chalk and cheese. Solo sex is undesirable, if not forbidden,
in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This is a subject that is rarely discussed but the subject of
‘masturbation’ caused feelings on the forum on to run high for quite a long time.
Non-religious, predominantly native Dutch, visitors were of the opinion that it is obvious that solo sex
results in sexual gratification. However, several Islamic visitors denied that they were able to derive
pleasure from masturbation. While some visitors regarded solo sex as a way of preventing illegal sexual
acts, such as having an affair or premarital sex, many Islamic visitors felt that masturbation encourages
sinful behaviour. “As far as faith is concerned, it can weaken your imaan (...). Masturbation can result
in even greater haräm (sin). It can, for example, result in zinã. You could become more interested in
pornography and look at photographs containing obscene images which could lead to zinã. You could
also miss out on prayer time because you had to perform ghusl (the major ablution) and get lazier each
time.” (woman, Muslim)

‘Y ou should be able to want, and even demand, that

from a boy. Why shouldn’t a girl be allowed or
able to do so? Verse 4 of Süra ”Nur” states that
wanton men are only allowed to marry wanton women or
polytheists (Mushrika). Wanton women are only allowed to
marry wanton men or polytheists (Mushrik). This makes
sense as a pure woman belongs to a pure man and vice
versa. It doesn’t make sense when someone who has led a
fast and loose life also lays claim to a pure person.
So, given this fact, a girl is allowed – no, Islam obliges her –
to make this demand of a boy who likes her enough to
marry her.”
(woman, Morocco, Muslim)

> Sex according to young Muslims <

S ome Moroccan visitors who do derive pleasure from solo sex do
not believe this is a good enough reason to allow masturbation.
“... I always cry when I have committed a sin for a few minutes of
pleasure.” (woman, Morocco)
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel tells his visitors that many Muslim
scholars have racked their brains over the subject of masturbation.
“Neither contemporary nor past Muslim scholars forbid masturbation
completely. In order not to stoop to adultery or fornication (zinã),
al-istimna bil-yad, i.e. masturbation is allowed. Nevertheless, it does
remain objectionable. However, masturbation is not regarded as zinã
(fornication or adultery), not even when a man is satisfied manually by
a woman who is not his wife.”

> 19
> Sex according to young Muslims <
Talking about sex

M any young people find it hard to talk about sex. On Maroc.

nl 27 percent of the young people seldom or never talked
about sex. On this was 18 percent. In both cases this
concerned a larger number of girls than boys. Boys find it relatively
difficult to talk about the risks of sexual behaviour. Girls reported
“What’s so great that they particularly have difficulty talking about sexual feelings
about masturbation and wishes. How about in actual practice? If sexuality is talked

anyway? What about within families at all, it is often to condemn ‘illegitimate

sex’. It is improper to talk about sex with your parents. People feel
I mean is: How ashamed to do so. The fact that the subject of ‘sexuality’ is given
can you get excited scant attention in the home sometimes creates problems for young
by having sex people. Furthermore, it appears that young Moroccan and Turks

with yourself? estimate their so-called ‘interaction competencies’ to be lower

than those of young people with a Dutch, Surinamese or Antillean
This is something background*. ‘Interaction competencies’ include such skills as
I’ve been asking being able to talk about sex, knowing what you want and what the

myself ever since other person wants, being confident about your appearance and
performance and being able to draw the line and respect the other
I learned what person. These skills are required to render sexual contact pleasant
masturbation was. and safe for both partners.
But alright, I’ll
have to answer
your question if
I want you to
answer mine: No,
I don’t engage in
*In the Netherlands, Turks, Moroccans, Surinamese and Antilleans form the largest
(woman, Morocco) groups of migrants.

> 21
3. Sexual experiences
Most young Muslims claim that they abide by the religious rules. However, do they apply
those rules in practice? Here is a summary of the statistics.

T he Sex under the age of 25 investigation revealed that, in terms of sexual

behaviour, young Dutch-Turks do not differ very much from young Dutch-
Moroccans. In comparison with native Dutch, Surinamese and Antillean girls, young girls
(twelve-seventeen years of age) of Turkish and Moroccan descent have significantly
less experience with nearly all forms of sexuality. Whether this concerns titillation,
French kissing, feeling and caressing, petting in the nude, sexual intercourse or manual,
oral and anal sex. This may be a matter of religious choice, but may also have to do
with feelings of shame and guilt and with social control. The consequences of this are
that there are few opportunities for girls to discover their sexuality without risking
considerable sanctions. For that matter, in terms of sexual experience, Muslim girls
have surprisingly much in common with young Christians for whom religion is of great

The sexual career

O n average, young people start their sexual career with French kissing. They
then move on to caressing under each other’s clothes and petting in the nude.
Sometime later this is followed by sexual intercourse. The step-by-step version can be
seen relatively often among native young Dutch people and highly educated people.
Not all young people develop their sexuality in this order. For example, some have
sexual intercourse before kissing or caressing. Young Moroccans, Turks, Surinamese and
Antilleans are more likely to have what is referred to as a ”non-linear” sexual career.

> Sexual experiences <

Experience with sexual intercourse by ethnicity 12-17 18-24
years of age years of age

Dutch/Western 20% 28% 80% 88%

Moroccan 38% 6% 63% 27%

Turkish 45% 11% 79% 51%

Surinamese 51% 23% 71% 73%

Antillean 39% 39% 79% 80%

boys girls

Experience with sexual intercourse

by religion 12-17 years of age 18-24 years of age

21% 82%

Raised non-religiously 29% 91%

raised a Christian, 25% 84%

religion not important 32% 92%

18% 81%
raised a Christian,
religion slightly important 21% 83%

raised a Christian, 30% 51%

religion very important 13% 65%

36% 73%
raised a Muslim,
religion slightly or very important 10% 40%

boys girls Source: Sex under the age of 25

> 23
> Sexual experiences <
T urkish and Moroccan Islamic boys under the age of eighteen are significantly more sexually
experienced than their Christian peers. In comparison with ‘Christian boys for whom religion is
slightly important’, Islamic boys have a relatively large amount of experience with sexual intercourse,
oral and anal sex. In comparison with peers, Moroccan boys aged eighteen and above have the least
experience with masturbation. For that matter, Muslim boys aged 18-24 have relatively little experience
with sexual behaviour such as masturbation, feeling, caressing and fingering. This could have to do
with the fact that machismo has a strong hold on many Islamic boys.

O f the Internet visitors of Moroccan descent, 95 percent

regard themselves as Muslim. Of these, fourteen percent
do not abide by the general religious rules. The potential condom
users among those interviewed* take the precepts less seriously:
36 percent of them do not abide by the Islamic rules of conduct.*

A third of’s 463 interviewees have slept with

someone at one time or another. Slightly over half of both
the girls and boys used a condom the first time round. Over half
of the respondents with sexual experience have had one sexual
partner during the past six months. Ten percent had two sexual
partners and 36 percent had three sexual partners (16 percent of
the women and 55 percent of the men).

* Y oung people who are no longer a virgin or are a virgin and do not entirely rule out the possibility
of having premarital sex.

> 25

L draws a less religiously orientated audience. Of

the 246 interviewees, 63 percent regarded themselves as
Muslim. Approximately fifty percent abide by the rules. Of the
169 potential condom users, 35 percent abide by the Islamic rules.
Half of the total Turkish research group reported having had a sexual
experience. Of these, 85 percent had one sexual partner during the
past six months and fifteen percent had two sexual partners.

Safe sex

A lmost eighty-five percent of the sexually experienced

Moroccan respondents had never been tested for HIV or
STIs. Thirteen percent reported that they had had an STI at one time
or another. Slightly over eighty percent of the Turkish participants
with sexual experience had never been tested. Nine percent
reported that they had contracted an STI at one time or another.
At the same time, over half the visitors to were of the
opinion that they were highly knowledgeable about safe sex, as
opposed to 64 percent of the visitors to Noteworthy:
girls were better informed than boys.

D uring the investigation, respondents were asked to

estimate the likelihood of ever being infected with an STI.
Almost seventy percent of the visitors to considered this
likelihood to be small. Nine percent considered this likelihood to be
high. Of the visitors, 72 percent were of the opinion that
they ran a low risk. Six percent considered this likelihood to
be high.

> Sexual experiences <

Forced to have sex?

S ex under the age of 25 revealed that Moroccan and Turkish

boys are more likely than native Dutch and non-religious
boys to reply affirmatively to the question whether they have ever
forced someone to have sex. Moroccan girls and boys are also
more likely to report that their last partner persuaded them to have
sex. Their responses may have been biased by feelings of shame
and guilt. These feelings may lead girls to hold their partners
responsible, on a subconscious level, for the initiative to have sex.
At the same time, it is rather difficult for many young Muslims to
talk openly about sexual abuse. On account of the macho culture,
it may be more difficult for boys than girls.
> 27
4. Is safe sex
The and forums were set up to encourage the debate on safe sex. In
practice, this debate did not get off the ground. It seems as if safe sex is not debatable for
young Muslims.

The use of condoms

S ince many young people claim that they wish to remain

virgins till marriage, condoms remain taboo for a long time.
Nevertheless, almost 75 percent of the Moroccan interviewees and
94 percent of the Turkish interviewees qualified the use of condoms
as ‘good’. So they do indeed think about – or are willing to think
about – methods of contraception and protection against STIs.
Of the group which is sexually active, eighty percent of the
Moroccans and ninety percent of the Turks claim to have fewer
concerns when they have used a condom. Rubbers do have a
drawback, however: 36 percent of those interviewed and 37
percent of the young Turks regard them as a turn-off.

M ore than fifty percent of those surveyed online plan on

buying condoms. Over sixty percent do not intend to carry
condoms on their person. However, two-thirds intend to bring up
the subject of condoms and use them with a new partner.
Less than half of all the young people intend to use a condom with
their current partner.

> Is safe sex important? <

More Facts
• Young people who (are going to) use condoms consider virginity
to be less important than young people who rule out the use
of condoms.

• Young people who had sex the first time round without using a
condom were not as well prepared, had more negative intentions
and attached more importance to the ‘virginity norm’.

• Of the potential condom users who were interviewed via,

over seventy-five percent had never been tested for HIV or STIs,
and over twenty percent had had an STI at one time or another.
Of the potential condom users who completed the survey on, almost eighty percent had never been tested for STIs.
More than ten percent had had an STI at one time or another.

• Within, the number of boys who indicated that they did
not fall exclusively for girls is considerable: thirteen percent of
242 boys are homosexual or bisexual, and 2.4 percent are not sure
of their sexuality. These boys are more likely to have had an STI on
more than one occasion, are less likely to be Muslim and do not
think highly of (the use of) condoms.

> 29
The Pill

S ex under the age of 25 revealed that the use of the pill

is more prevalent among native Dutch girls than among
ethnic girls who have experience with sexual intercourse. As a
young, unmarried Muslim woman you do not want to be caught
taking the pill. The prevention of spots and other impurities of the
skin is therefore often used as an excuse for the possession of a
strip of pills.


M igrant women undergo abortions more often than native

Dutch women. In 2005, the abortion rate among migrant
women even rose slightly vis-à-vis 2004. What is striking is that the
increase was highest among Moroccan and Turkish women. These
women have a relatively low abortion rate when compared with
other ethnic groups. The causes are not clear, but self-protection
could play a role for girls. Sexually active girls are keen to cover
their tracks. An abortion can prove to be a way out of an unwanted
pregnancy. The few Moroccan girls who have had to deal with
unwanted pregnancies and were interviewed for Sex Under the
Age of 25 all decided to have an abortion. Single motherhood is not
something many Muslim women would consider an option. After all,
there is no firmer evidence of ‘illegitimate’ sex. The contributions on
the Internet forum have revealed that the family’s honour plays a
role here.

> Is safe sex important? <

Y ou reap what you sow. This is what the desperate young
woman who is not pregnant by choice is readily told on the
forum. At the same time, abortion is also condemned.
Young people believe that Islam forbids abortion, unless the
mother’s life is in danger or in the event of pregnancy caused by
rape. Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel contradicts this. “Abortion is
allowed to a certain degree within Islam. Many scholars believe
that the line between whether an abortion is or is not allowed is
drawn at the point where the foetus is animated. For some, it is
drawn at the end of the fourth month. Others limit the period to
forty or fifty days. It is a highly debatable subject, which is closely
tied in with the religious vision of birth control. However, a total
ban has never gained the upper hand. Many of the regulations of
Islamic law in the area of abortion are based on the religious vision
of the development of the foetus.”

“In some villages in Morocco and Turkey, the

consummation of a marriage is practically
a public affair. In some places the first
time a newly-wed couple has sexual intercourse
they are waited upon by a group of, primarily
women, who stand outside the door, waiting
to see results. The results are important since they
reflect on the family’s honour.”
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality].
> 31
“I f everyone could control themselves, there
wouldn’t be any problems. However, the
temptation is much too great for most people.”
(woman, Muslim)

“W hat if, what if? You should have thought of that

before! Imagine if you were pregnant...for the
sake of the family and honour (it’s not as if you would
have any honour left, but alright), you should take
responsibility for the consequences, put it up for adoption
or something like that...”
(woman, Muslim)

“I ’m talking about the honour and pride you once had but
wasted. And now you’re in a big mess. How do you think
your family is going to react when they find out that their
daughter is pregnant without being married?”
(woman, Muslim)

> Is safe sex important? <

The hymen

T he myth of the hymen also plays a role in the Netherlands.

“Many girls believe that it is a kind of coffee filter, a gauze
membrane through which menstrual blood percolates. And it
should tear during the wedding night,” gynaecologist Obdeijn-van
Welij explains. In reality, the vagina is not sealed off by a
membrane. There is often just a rim of tissue, like a tiny collar, just
behind the entrance to the vagina. And not everyone has a hymen.
When a girl is fifteen or sixteen, the full-grown tissue can no longer
be damaged through the insertion of a tampon or sport. If blood
flows the first time someone has sexual intercourse, this can
usually be ascribed to tension.

T he tradition of blood on the sheets following the wedding

night is still observed in the Turkish and Moroccan
countryside. Not being able to show blood could have far-reaching
consequences, such as ostracism. However, nowhere in the
Qur’an does it say that a woman has to prove her virginity on her
wedding night. The Bible is the only religious book in which this is
mentioned. Deuteronomy Chapter 22 has something to say about
the tradition of keeping the bloodied sheets. These are then used
as legal proof when a husband claims that his wife did not enter
into matrimony a girl. Therefore, the myth of the hymen is more
likely to have a cultural or Christian origin than an Islamic one.

> 33
D iscussions on the Internet have revealed that a number
of Moroccan and Turkish girls are aware of the mythical
nature of the hymen. Still, there are also girls who are concerned
about bleeding on the wedding night. Young boys particularly
continue to believe in it. Some boys even threaten their bride-to-
be if she should fail on the night in question. Dutch Muslims are
starting to change their views on the hymen. Notwithstanding,
hymen reconstructive surgery is carried out several hundred times a
year. Since this operation is carried out as “vaginoplasty”, there are
no exact figures on the actual number. Experts have estimated the
number at five hundred a year. This largely concerns young Islamic
and Hindu women.

G irls who wish to preserve their honour (hymen) are sometimes

sexually active. Some girls do it ‘entre les cuisses’, i.e.
between the thighs. Others even switch to (unprotected)
anal and oral sex to compensate their boyfriend for the absence
of vaginal penetration. Their male partners are sometimes
promiscuous so that they can have sex anyway. This combination
of factors heightens the risk of STIs.

> Is safe sex important? <

“A friend of mine has
been seeing a boy for a
number of years. They
are going to be married
quite soon.
However, they have already
slept with one another.
Will Allah Sabhanoe
forgive them now that they
are going to get married?”
(woman, Muslim)

> 35
5. Choice of partner
An Islamic woman is not allowed to marry a
non-Muslim, whereas an Islamic man is. In
practice, things are not this simple.

F or most families, it is inconceivable that a young adult might

marry a non-Muslim or someone from another ethnic group.
The rule that an Islamic woman is not allowed to marry a non-
Muslim – in contrast to an Islamic man – is still observed. Although,
according to Islamic sources, a Muslim man has the right to marry a
Jewish, Christian or secular woman, most parents would oppose this.

N owadays, numerous Muslims live as minorities in

non-Islamic countries. Many Muslim migrants in the
Netherlands feel restricted in their choice of partner. However,
contact and relationships between young Turks, Moroccans and
peers from other ethnic and religious backgrounds is inevitable. An
interesting phenomenon is that Moroccan boys are more likely to
opt for a marriage with a native Dutch woman than Turkish boys.
Girls on the other hand prefer to marry men of the same descent.
Religion plays an important role when it comes to selecting a future
spouse. The question whether or not the partner adheres to the
same religion has become more important since Islam has become
a hot issue in the Netherlands. An increasing number of young
Muslims have the following to say about their choice of partner: the
most important thing is that he/she is a Muslim.

> Choice of partner <

Parental influence

T he forum has revealed that parents have a great influence

on the marital practice. Parents tend to prefer their children’s
partner to have a similar background: they should be from the
same religious movement and, preferably, from the same region
in Turkey or Morocco. Though not always consciously or directly,
parents often influence their children’s choice of partner. Young
adults bear their parents’ wishes in mind, these wishes are
extremely important, when selecting a partner. One Muslim woman
on the forum said: “My marriage wouldn’t be valid if our
parents hadn’t given us their blessing.”

T he opinions of others - or to be more exact the disapproval

of acquaintances and family members - is something many
parents fear. Research has revealed that migrants are more likely to
cling onto their own cultural identity than people who live in their
country of origin. As a consequence minorities in foreign countries
are more inclined to protect their individuality. It has also become
apparent that parents who do not feel at home in the Netherlands
exercise greater control over the choice of sons- and daughters-in-
law. Parents who feel at home in the Netherlands are inclined to
give greater freedom to their children. They are also less likely to
idealise a partner from their country of origin.

> 39
“Both the Qur’an and the
Prophet allow cousins to marry.
At the same time they strongly
encourage marriage outside
the family circle. The Prophet
himself not only married
women from other tribes,
but also women of other
races and religions.

> Choice of partner <

The marriages created new
ties and came to serve as a bridge
between nations, religions and
cultures. He had this to say
about it: “Unions between
families or tribes will cultivate
friendship more than
anything else”.
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality].

> 41

W hat if a Muslim woman has fallen in love with a non-

practising Catholic boy? Well, Islamisation can prove to
be the solution. If a native Christian converts to Islam he will be
allowed to marry a Muslim woman. Most parents will resolutely
disapprove of the marriage if the man chooses not to do so.
In some cases the partner will actually convert to Islam and in other
cases the Islamisation is no more than a symbolic gesture intended
to preserve the family’s honour. The conversion, or solemnisation
of the conversion, takes place in the company of a cleric, usually
during a small ceremony, at home or in a mosque.

Partner from the country of origin

T he Dutch government was able to understand why the first

generation sought a partner in the country of origin. However,
the fact that the second generation would make the same choice
en masse took many by surprise. Research carried out by Erna
Hooghiemstra has revealed that a majority of second generation
Turkish and Moroccan young adults choose to marry a partner from
their parents’ country of origin; Turks (70 per cent) to a greater
degree than Moroccans (59 per cent).

W hy is marrying someone from the country of origin so

popular? Naturally, love at first sight while holidaying in
the Mediterranean occurs regularly. However, according to the
researchers Leen Sterkx and Carolien Bouw, family loyalty and
conflict avoidance form the prime motives for Turkish and Moroccan
young adults seeking a partner in the country of origin.

> Choice of partner <

> 43
Six types of ‘import marriages’
1 The arranged marriage. Parents and family play a central role in
finding a partner in this type of marriage. In most cases the children
agree with the family’s choice of partner. Many parents were married
this way. Nevertheless, this type of marriage is no longer the norm.

2 The forced marriage. This is an arranged marriage where the parents

decide on a partner against the wishes of their child.

3 The enchanted marriage takes place during the holiday where the
person marries in a flush of excitement after the family and
acquaintances have done their best to ensnare them. When he or
she returns to the Netherlands regret is felt and the participant
pleads temporary insanity.

4 The marriage based on love is a transnational marriage which takes

place during a holiday in which the young adult in question has
reconciled himself/herself to the marriage. Later on justification is

5 The rebellious marriage is the defiant choice of a bride or groom

from the country of origin which stems from a disappointment in
Dutch society.

6 The cosmopolitan marriage is usually reserved for highly educated

individuals who have met a like-minded partner at work (placement)
or during a holiday and who disregard national boundaries.

> Choice of partner <

T he stricter laws in the Netherlands regarding bringing in
partners from abroad fail to stem the tide. Nowadays, those
who wish to seek a life partner abroad have to be at least 21 years
of age and have a regular job which allows them to earn over 120
per cent of the social assistance benefit level for families. However,
this forces many young adults to postpone the arrival of their
partner. It may therefore come about that a girl who marries at the
age of 19 will not have her partner come over until she is 25 years
of age. It might take that long for her to satisfy the requirements
imposed by the government. The ‘Belgian route’, which involves
relocating to our southern neighbours, is another option as the
rules there are more lenient.

Free choice

I n many ways, young people of Turkish and Moroccan descent

who have grown up in the Netherlands lead a life which is
very different to that of their parents. The parents were raised
in a culture of close family ties. This is something that is not as
important as it used to be. Young people crave more autonomy.
They also claim a greater say in the choice of their partner.
This individualisation means that young people attach a greater
importance to their personal selection criteria. The more highly
educated young people are, the more value they attach to the
educational level, ambitions and views of their partner.

H owever, young adults rarely go to extremes in order to be able

to make an autonomous choice. Most young people avoid
dramatic generational conflicts. Instead, they follow a strategy
which carefully stretches the rules. This is an approach which many
non-Muslim young adults also use when it has become apparent

> 45
that their parents are not in favour of a potential partner. The fact
that young people take their family into account to such a high
degree when selecting a life partner does not necessarily mean
that they lose sight of their personal wishes – friendship, like-
mindedness and love; they look for a partner who is a good match
for themselves as well as their parents. To make this choice easier,
the engagement period is increasingly protracted. As a result you
are better able to get to know your potential partner and, possibly,
to call off the engagement without losing too much face.

D ue to the individualisation of young Dutch Muslims

forced and arranged marriages have become less and
less common. Researchers Sterckx and Bouw have predicted
that cosmopolitan marriages will become increasingly prevalent.
Whether or not the rebellious import marriage will increase in
number will partly depend on the position and opportunities of
young Muslims in the Netherlands. Many young adults qualify their
relationship as a ‘marriage based on love’.

The influence of self-organisations

A growing number of self-organizations in the Turkish and

Moroccan communities in the Netherlands regard the
continuous inflow of newcomers as a potential restraint on the
social mobility of their group. The sheer number of informative
meetings about partner choice is evidence of this opinion.
The disadvantages of seeking a partner in the country of origin
are not glossed over. Newcomers invariably have a language
deficiency, which also affects the children from these marriages.
Moreover, these organisations are often faced with the personal
dramas of transnational marriages: a high divorce rate with drastic
consequences for entire families and particularly the isolation of
brides who have been brought in from the countries of origin.
> Choice of partner <

A nother development which could result in a decrease of the

number of import marriages among young Moroccans and
Turks is an increase in freedom and the number of meeting places.
Girls will often complain about the fact that they cannot find a
suitable partner as there aren’t any or as their parents scarcely give
them the opportunity to meet boys. By contrast, the choices in the
country of origin are countless. Parents often allow their children
greater freedom of movement during holidays in their country of
origin. Moreover, young people in Turkey and Morocco are often
prepared to go to great extremes to find a European partner. This
means the marriage market during the holiday months becomes
overheated. Many young Dutch Muslims let themselves get carried
away by this and return married (enchanted marriages), others
may have been tempted, but have managed to steer clear of a
marriage certificate. Girls from the countries of origin have the
reputation of being more chaste and innocent than their Dutch
counterparts, who are sometimes considered to be too independent
to be able to serve as marriage partners.

O n the other hand: more and more young people are aware
of the fact that many girls and women in their countries of
origin aren’t all that pure. For instance, some of them offer sexual
favours from necessity or in the hopes of entrapping a European

> 47
> Choice of partner <
“Honestly: imagine, you have got
a Dutch husband. He’ll never be
able to understand your culture
or vice versa. Let me tell you
this: the differences will bring
about arguments and rifts in
your relationship. This is why
your parents don’t want you to
go out with such a person. They
don’t want you to break your
heart since you are their daughter
and they love you. You’re parents
always know what’s best for you.”
(woman, the Netherlands, Muslim)

> 49
“I am a Muslim woman and am involved with a Christian
boy. I have been going out with him for four years now
and love him very much. The problem is that my parents don’t
accept him. I don’t know what to do. I know I don’t want to lose
him, but I don’t want to lose my parents either. Has anybody
been through this and, if so, were you finally able to make a
decision? Who can help me?”
(woman, Muslim)

“H i all, I have a dilemma: What would you do if you had to

choose between your parents and your boyfriend? I have
been going out with him (a non-Muslim) for nearly two years.
He came to ask for my hand in marriage, but my parents won’t hear
of it. I don’t know why, perhaps they want to arrange a marriage with
someone else...but that is also haräm (a sin), and not obeying your
parents... I don’t know what to do. I love both him and my parents.
I just don’t know what to do...”
(woman, Muslim)

> Choice of partner <

“I love my boyfriend VERY MUCH!! He is a Muslim and his
parents will never be able to accept our relationship... Can
someone please tell me what’s wrong with me and why I’m not
good enough for him? Why can’t they accept the fact that we’re just
extremely happy together? I’d do ANYTHING for him and my life has
completely changed since I first met him. I wish his parents would
just give me a chance to prove myself or something like that...
However, that is probably never going to happen. Why is faith more
important than the well-being of your own children????”
(woman, Muslim)

> 51
6. Girls and boys
Muslim boys have a relatively high level of sexual
experience. In contrast, Muslim girls are restricted in their
sexual freedom.

G irls carry a heavy burden. A family’s honour partly depends on

the sexual behaviour of its daughters. In other words: the
less sexual behaviour a daughter displays, the easier it is on the
parents. At the same time, Moroccan and Turkish girls are rapidly
becoming emancipated. They complete higher education, get
well-paid jobs and are much more assertive.

> Girls and boys <


A suspicion that a Muslim girl is sexually active is enough

to evoke disapproval. This is why young, sexually active
Islamic women will often keep this a secret. This of course causes
tension. They do not wish to disappoint their parents or fear
reprisals. A worst case scenario is that their sexual behaviour can
lead to an honour killing. An honour killing is the murder of a
disgraced daughter committed by a male member of the family,
perhaps in collusion with (some of) the rest of the family. We are
especially familiar with the phenomenon of ‘honour killings’ as
they occur within Turkish culture, but even in Moroccan families,
daughters are sometimes threatened with death if they do not
behave in accordance with the chastity rules. However, in actual
fact, Moroccan communities hardly ever decide to murder a
woman. In the Netherlands, honour killings are known to occur
particularly in Turkish, Somali and Afghan families.

C ontrary to what is often thought in the West, honour killings

are a regional or cultural phenomenon not a typically Islamic
one. They occur in, amongst others, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Irak,
Iran, Syria, Israel, the Arabian peninsula, Somalia, Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Although the same views are held in northern Africa,
‘the guilty party’ is generally not put to death. Murder, this includes
honour killings, is explicitly forbidden by the Sharia, the sacred
law of Islam. In the case of adultery, the death penalty can only
be imposed by religious authorities when there are four reliable
witnesses. Although these rules are interpreted differently by some
clerics, honour killings are generally not approved of.

> 55

T he fact that Muslim circles feel strongly about the sexual

behaviour of girls and women cannot really be ascribed to the
Islamic sources which prescribe the same clear rules for both men
and women. In spite of the fact that, in accordance with Islamic
norms, boys should also dress modestly and marry as a virgin, less
attention is given to their clothing and behaviour. The Sex under
the age of 25 investigation revealed that Islamic boys grab this
freedom with both hands. It seems to be the case that in practice,
and in comparison to irreligious peers and Christian boys, Islamic
boys have a relatively large amount of sexual experience.
They have a great deal more experience than Islamic girls, who in
turn are less experienced than religious and irreligious native Dutch
peers. Moroccan boys appear to be more knowledgeable about
sexuality and safe sex than Moroccan girls. In contrast, Turkish girls
are slightly better informed than Turkish boys.

> Girls and boys <

> 57
“Muslim girls are generally more restricted
in their sexual freedom than Western girls.
In their country of origin, most of them
would only have to prepare themselves
for that moment on their wedding night
when they are awoken by a kiss – like
Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. This
is where many young Muslim women
throw themselves into the maelstrom of
life. Nevertheless, the majority want to
marry a virgin. Moreover, highly educated
Muslim girls are experiencing, as it were,
the Enlightenment, the Romantic Movement
and the feminist movement within a very
short space of time when freeing themselves
from a traditional upbringing.”
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality].

> Girls and boys <

M any Islamic boys in the Netherlands make a distinction
between the phase of experimentation (largely with non-
Islamic girls) and the phase of marriage to a partner from their own
ethnic group. Moreover, in comparison with other young people,
Moroccan and Turkish boys pay a surprisingly large number of visits
to prostitutes. Of the 80 sexually experienced boys who took part
in the Internet survey on, 42 have been to a prostitute at
one time or another; on, seven out of a total of nineteen
have done so.

T he Sex under the age of 25 investigation revealed that

Moroccan boys tend have sexual intercourse and/or anal sex
with four or more partners. The average among other young people
is lower. Surprisingly enough, the double standard concerning the
sexuality of Islamic boys and girls is scarcely addressed, while other
issues are judged harshly.

W hether you are a boy or a girl, you cannot but face the
prospect of marriage. Marrying and raising a family is seen
as a (religious) duty.

> 59
7. Homosexuality
The word ‘homosexuality’ does not appear in the Qur’an.
It is nevertheless clear to most Muslim boys that homosexuality
is ‘wrong’. But what if a young person turns out to be gay
or lesbian?

E very Friday, the COC [Centre for Culture and Leisure] in

Amsterdam plays Turkish disco. The Deputy Editor of Expreszo,
a magazine for young gay people, is a young lady of Moroccan
descent who also works behind the bar in Saarein, a lesbian café
from time to time. Every year, the Arabic gay café Habibi Ana, takes
part in the Gay Parade. This usually involves a large group of belly-
dancing men. If you look hard enough Muslim gays and lesbians
can be seen.

O n, the number of boys who indicate they do not

fall exclusively for girls is quite high: thirteen percent of
the male Moroccan visitors indicated that they were also sexually
interested in the male sex. In absolute terms the numbers are still
very low.

> Homosexuality <

“As far as being born or not
being born a homosexual is
concerned: this would imply that
Allah Taala first allows someone
to be born a homosexual. That
person has strong feelings for men
and none at all for women. Then
Allah goes on to say that this
person is not allowed to perform
these acts and should marry a
woman. That’s rubbish, isn’t it?
Don’t forget that Allah doesn’t
tax men beyond their abilities.”
(man, Muslim)

> 63
The Qur’an

W hat does Islam have to say about homosexuality? The word

‘homosexuality’ does not appear in the Qur’an. The Qur’an
does provide an example of men who do not satisfy the patriarchal
requirement which is that men should always feel drawn to
women. This is stated without creating a negative impression, by
the way. The Qur’an is therefore not explicit about homosexuality.
There is a ban on anal contact, also between men and women,
which could be interpreted by opponents as proof of the ban.
According to Omar Nahas (in his book ‘Islam en homoseksualiteit’
[Islam and Homosexuality]), many homosexual Muslims claim that
socio-cultural, as opposed to the teachings of Muhammad, form the
greatest obstacle to following their natural inclination.

“I say that there is no such thing as being born “gay”. Neither are
people born rapists or murderers. But alright, suppose there is
someone who has certain desires, that person should not give in to them.
It’s simple. If this person is mentally unsound, and thus unlike normal
people...can learn to improve himself for Islam (just as someone who
swears or shouts a lot can learn not to do this in order to become a better
Muslim). The least these people can do is refrain from performing these
indecent acts. If that person does so anyway on account of the fact that
“he was born that way and Allah will forgive him for it”, I mean: come
on, that’s not how it works!”
(man, Muslim)

> Homosexuality <

T he story of the people of Lot, known to Christians as the story
of Sodom and Gomorrah, is usually referred to as a reply to
the question what the Qur’an has to say about homosexuality.
The city, and its inhabitants, were destroyed by God on account
of the ‘bad deeds’ which took place there and the failure to
heed the prophet Lot’s warning about God’s punishment. Many
Islamic writers interpret these crimes as homosexuality. The result
is: disaster and damnation for homosexuals. In reality the story
describes various illegal forms of sexuality. In the story these forms
include various forms of heterosexuality and homosexuality, which
go hand in hand with intimidation and the abuse of power.

T he one-sided reading of the story of the people of Lot leads

some Muslim parents to make the life of their homosexual
child unbearable. Like sexuality in general, homosexuality is
scarcely a topic of conversation between parents and children.
This combination of taboo and disapproval regularly results in
isolation. There are also those who regard homosexuality as a
‘disease’, which may be cured by reading the Qur’an and, if need
be, with the aid of a magician.

H owever, the fact that homosexuality is regarded as more

serious and sinful than other don’ts in Islam, such as drinking
alcohol and anal contact between men and women, is determined
by cultural and not religious factors. It is possible that this cultural
rejection of homosexuality will gradually lose its hold.

> 65
“The occurrence of texts in the Qur’an
and written tradition is proof that
homosexuality was not unknown, just
that it was known by another name.
Although this is not undisputed, it is
argued fairly often that homosexuality
corresponds to the description of the men
of the people of Lot, who approached
each other lasciviously. One example:
“What?! Of all the creatures you
approach men lustfully. You leave your
women whom your creator created on
your behalf? This reduces you to a race
which oversteps all boundaries.”

> Homosexuality <

The prophet Lot had this to say on the
matter: “I truly despise your behaviour”.
The attitude of the average Muslim and
public opinion within the Muslim world
in general has been shaped to a greater
extent by what the prophet Lot had to
say on homosexuality than by the Qur’an.
In the words of the prophet, sexual
congress between two men or women can
be compared to adultery, and should be
punished as such.”
Imam Abdulwahid van Bommel in ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam, Love and Sexuality]

> 67
Opinions of young people

I n most Islamic cultures, homosexuality is characterised as

”learned” behaviour. You can become a homosexual as a
result of wrong upbringing, bad friends or an unwanted sexual
experience in early childhood. This is why the discussion on
homosexuality on the subsites is dominated by the question
whether homosexuality is innate or learned. Many young Muslims
believe that homosexuality is learned since, in their eyes,
Allah could simply not have allowed someone to be born as a
homosexual when homosexuality is a sin.

H omosexuality is far from being accepted by young people.

Research has revealed that, like young Christians and
young Surinamese and Antilleans, young Muslims have a more
negative attitude towards homosexuality than their non-religious
and Christian peers who find religion less important. The forum
contributions have revealed that there are many preconceptions.
One man wrote: “Over half of the gay men have invariably
had a strange/nasty sexual experience in the past. One of the
consequences of sexual abuse is confusion about your sexual
identity. With a bit of detective work, you can look up the statistics
on this.” One Muslim homosexual responded as follows:
“To be perfectly clear, my parents raised me with a slight
resistance (which – let’s be honest - everyone feels deep down) to
homosexuality. Not extreme, but heterosexuality is quite positively
the standard at home. Apart from this, I was not abused during
my youth, not even afterwards. Perhaps I simply belong to what
is left over after the “over half”. You can look up the statistics on
that too. I wonder what this remaining group attributes his or her
homosexuality to.”

> Homosexuality <

Coming out

S ome young people believe that it is permissible to be

homosexual, as long as this natural inclination is not put
into practice. The Western way of “coming out” can easily lead to a
rift with a person’s social environment; it is not homosexuality that
is the problem, but the coming out. Coming out entails tarnishing
the family’s honour, ostracism and the loss of social contacts. For
that matter, the image which Muslims have of homosexuals is
fairly often determined by the macho culture. For instance, a sharp
distinction is made between active and passive homosexuals. The
active partner is not regarded as homosexual, the person who lets
himself “be taken from behind” is.

M any homosexual Muslims choose to keep postponing

a heterosexual marriage until their parents make the
connection to homosexuality on their own. This is a form of
survival. Others lead a double life: they enter into heterosexual
matrimony but are also receptive to homosexual contacts. Since
there is an increasing amount of attention for this target group,
it has become easier for Dutch homosexuals with a Muslim
background to come together to share their experiences, attend
readings on the subject or enter into discussions on homosexuality
and Islam.

A gay or lesbian person who wishes to give expression to and

carry out his or her natural inclination can lose his or her
faith. However, as with Christians and Jews, some homosexuals in
Islamic communities are looking for ways of becoming emancipated
within the faith. Loyalty towards the family, fear of shame and fear
of honour-related violence are important factors which interfere
with the emancipation of gays and lesbians of Islamic descent.

> 69
8. Sex education for
young muslims
What makes sex education for young Muslims different?
This chapter helps teachers, youth workers and others who
provide information on sexuality. It offers items for
consideration. Please note that this is not intended as
educational material on its own. There are special sex
education programs on the market for this purpose.

A ccording to Islam, sex is something that should be enjoyed.

Islam acknowledges the fact that people have a sexual
drive. Sex is allowed to take place within marriage. There is much
uncertainty among young Muslims about what, according to Islam,
is allowed (haläl) and what is not allowed (haräm). Things are
often attributed to religion while they are actually a matter of
culture or interpretation. Take for example the myth of virginity.
Nowhere in the Qur’an does it state that women have to prove
their virginity on their wedding night. In practice, sexual standards
get many women into trouble.

> Sex education for young Muslims <


V irginity is an important theme for young Muslims. Many young

people of Turkish and Moroccan descent endorse the virginity
norm -no sex before marriage. This has been shown by a survey
carried out among the visitors to and Girls are
often slightly more in-tune with this standard than boys. This also
applies to the visitors to, when compared with the visitors
to The survey has shown that young people who find
virginity important are not as well prepared the first time round.
That is to say, if something were to happen anyway, these young
people will not have condoms with them.

W hat does this imply for sex education? To begin with,

that young people who do not intend to have sex before
marriage should nevertheless be prepared for using condoms.
That is not easy, especially not for girls. Boys can probably be more
readily addressed with regard to their responsibilities, since they
rarely apply the ideal of virginity to themselves. However, the
majority of girls will enter matrimony as a virgin. A number of girls
will have sexual experience, but will not be open about this. A girl
A nother topic of
conversation is the
double standard. The virginity
who enters matrimony a virgin has to be aware of the fact that her norm applies to both girls and
marriage partner may have been sexually active. In other words: boys, but in practice boys do
even though you are a virgin, you can still contract an STI if your not need to abide by it. Both
partner does have sexual experience. This is an important subject parents and friends often
for discussion. If you are a girl, will you insist upon an STI test as accept the fact that boys are
a condition for marriage? And what if you are a boy? sexually active before they
marry. What’s double about this
is that girls have to go to great
lengths if they wish to have
premarital sex. What do boys
and girls think about this?

> 73
> Sex education for young Muslims <
Sexual knowledge

M any young people of Moroccan and Turkish descent in the

Netherlands lack certain knowledge about sex.
This is especially true for girls. The Internet and Sex under the age
of 25 investigations have revealed that the need for information
is great. What do young people want to know? In comparison
with their peers, Moroccan boys are relatively more interested
in information about menstruation, sexual organs, HIV and Aids,
virginity and being in love. Moroccan girls are particularly interested
in information about menstruation, bodily changes during puberty,
sexual organs, virginity, pregnancy and being in love. Turkish boys
are interested in virginity and Turkish girls are interested in HIV and
Aids, virginity, relationships and being in love. Noteworthy: both
Turkish and Moroccan girls are significantly less interested in how
lovemaking can be made more fun and enjoyable than their peers.

W ith regard to sex education, this implies that the transfer

of knowledge is important. This particularly applies to
information on being in love, bodily changes during puberty,
virginity, pregnancy and STIs, HIV and Aids.

> 75
Sexual experience

I n terms of sexual behaviour, young Turkish-Dutch people do

not differ much from young Moroccan-Dutch people. Boys of
Moroccan and Turkish descent aged between twelve and seventeen
have a great deal more sexual experience than boys of Dutch,
Surinamese or Antillean descent. Sex under the age of 25 has
revealed that, from the age of eighteen onwards, these differences
have all but disappeared. The Internet survey has revealed that a
surprisingly high percentage of boys have had sex with a prostitute
at one time or another. This applies to 52 percent of the male
visitors to and seven of the nineteen respondents of

I n comparison with native Dutch, Surinamese and Antillean

girls, young girls –twelve to seventeen years of age - of
Turkish and Moroccan descent have significantly less experience
with almost all forms of sexuality. This could be a matter of
religious choice, but could also have to do with feelings of
shame, guilt and social control. The result is that girls have few
opportunities for discovering their sexuality. In terms of sexual
experience, Muslim girls have much in common with young
Christians for whom religion is of great importance.

R egarding sex education, this implies that talking about the

freedom to make your own choices is important. What is the
influence of the environment and the family on their behaviour?
Moreover, it is important to take the points of view of young
people seriously and to refrain from expressing disapproval when
they claim that they have to be ‘chaste’ in order to not upset their

> Sex education for young Muslims <

The use of condoms and safe sex

I t seems as if condoms are largely used to prevent

pregnancies, rather than for the prevention of STIs or HIV.
The participants in the Internet survey did not think that they ran a Sexual skills
high risk of contracting an STI or HIV. Nevertheless, a considerable
number of them had had an STI at one time or another. Thirteen
percent of the sexually experienced visitors to and eight
Y oung Moroccans and Turks
estimate their so-called
‘interaction competencies’
percent of the sexually experienced visitors to had to be lower than those of
had an STI. Do they actually want to use condoms? The majority young people with a Dutch,
of the young Turks and young Moroccans are in favour of this. Surinamese or Antillean
Young people consider the use of condoms good and sensible, but background. ‘Interaction
unpleasant. Moreover, many of them guess that their friends have competencies’ refer to: such
a positive attitude towards the use of condoms. It is nevertheless skills as being able to talk
striking that only a minority intends to purchase and carry condoms. about sex, knowing what
Young people do not relish the thought of being caught by their you want and what the other
parents carrying a condom. person wants, being confident
about your appearance and

T his has implications for sex education. To begin with, it is

important to emphasize that STIs often occur, also among
young Moroccans and Turks. A condom offers the best protection
performance, being able to
draw the line and respect the
boundaries of others. These
against STIs. Furthermore, it is good to make young people realise skills are required in order to
that most of their peers, including young people of Turkish and render sexual contact pleasant
Moroccan descent, definitely intend to use a condom in order to and safe for both partners.
protect themselves. Finally, it is necessary to go into the importance
of buying and carrying condoms for unexpected situations. Tell
them that this does not imply that ‘they are on the prowl’. Show
that you understand that carrying condoms is hard to explain to,
F or sex education, this
implies that it is important
to give attention to such
for example, parents. questions as: How do you make
your wishes and boundaries
clear and how will you know
what the other person does and
does not want?
> 77

O f the visitors to, eight percent of the boys had

feelings for boys and five percent had feelings for both
boys and girls. Of the female visitors to the site, four percent were
interested in girls and two percent had feelings for both boys and
girls. No reliable data is available on the visitors to

H omosexuality can be found among all young people, but

still appears to be far from being accepted. Young people of
Moroccan and Turkish descent particularly think negatively about
homosexuality. Islamic boys and girls – like Christian boys and girls
who attach a great deal of value to religion – have a more negative
attitude towards homosexuality than young people who were
raised non-religiously or attach little value to religion.

I slam regards homosexuality as a sin. This not only complicates

the lives of young Muslims with homosexual contacts, but
also complicates the provision of information on homosexuality.
It is difficult for gays and lesbians to give into their feelings.
A coming out tarnishes the family’s honour and can lead to a
rift with the social environment and a loss of all social contacts.
Avoiding shame is often more important to young people than
controlling personal damage.

> Sex education for young Muslims <

Y oung people find talking about homosexuality even more
difficult then talking about sexuality. Information on
homosexuality is nevertheless important for all young
people. On the one hand young people with homosexual feelings
need support when choosing a suitable lifestyle or developing a
homosexual identity and on the other hand, they need help with
breaking down stereotypical images and they need to foster their
tolerance of, and respect for, people with homosexual feelings.
Since young people sometimes have a highly negative attitude,
it is important that they respect the personal privacy of the other
person, and refrain from rejecting others.

W hen providing young Moroccans and Turks with information

on homosexuality, it is desirable for the health educator to
be aware of the culture and identity as well as certain values, such
as the role of family ties, pride and social status. It will then often
be easier to enter into a dialogue with young people.

I t is also useful to make use of actual experiences or personal

stories, for example on what it feels like to carry a secret.
The ‘Mijn geloof en mijn geluk’ [My Faith and My Happiness] book
contains such stories, which allow young people to empathise to
a greater degree.
> 79
Is sex education
really necessary?

S ome students and

parents wonder
whether sex education is
necessary when they are
not allowed to engage in
premarital sex. In practice,
some ‘chaste’ young people
turn out to be having sex
anyway. Also, girls who wish
to preserve their hymen
are sometimes actually
sexually active. Moreover,
it is important to provide
information since both girls
and boys appear to have
questions and problems in
the area of sexuality. Apart
from this, sex education is Who are these young people?
important for learning skills
and making the right choices
as far as relationships and sex
W hen providing information, it is important not to talk about
‘the’ young person. ‘The’ young Moroccan or ‘the’ young Turk
does not exist in the same way that ‘the’ young Dutch person does
are concerned: now, but also not exist. Young people grow up within a certain cultural context.
for when they are married and Young people whose parents are not of Dutch descent often grow
have sex (for the very first up between two cultures: that of their parents and that of their
time). country of residence. Although this cultural context is important,
every young person has his or her own opinions and experiences.
Large individual differences may occur within each culture.
At times, there are more similarities between people from different
cultures than between people from the same culture. In addition to
cultural factors, other factors also play a role, such as educational
level and living environment.
> Sex education for young Muslims <
> 81
Should sex education be provided separately?

I s it better to provide Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch boys

with sex education separately, i.e. separately from young
Dutch people? Approximately one-third of the young people of
Moroccan and Turkish descent believe this to be so, as is revealed
by the survey which was carried out among Internet visitors.
Accordingly, two-thirds believe that this is not the case.

A n effective sex education is geared towards the young

people for whom the information is intended. A good
provision of information takes differences in terms of gender,
experience, views and skills into account. For that matter, the
provision of information to young people via their own channels,
such as community sites, forms a fine supplement to sex education
in schools. Sex education through schools allows all young people
to be reached. Moreover, the provision of information via their own
channels offers an additional possibility to interact with the young
people. This allows you to deal with their questions taking their
standards, values and experiences into account. This allows you to
adjust your information to young people from a certain ethnic group.

Is sexual education important?

Yes No I don’t know 68% 14% 18% 87% 5% 8%

Is a culture-specific sex education important?

Yes No I don’t know 29% 42% 29% 28% 47% 25%

> Sex Education for young Muslims <
Should young people be allowed to choose for themselves?

A good provision of information emphasises the fact that

every young person has the right to make his/her own
choices. For example, young Muslims have the right to abstain from
sex until they get married. In order to be able to make choices,
young people need to possess social skills. For this reason, it is very
important to give attention to this when providing information.
Some Muslim families regard the right to make your own decisions
as typically Dutch. Justifying their actions to Allah or God appeals to
them more strongly.

A few more suggestions

B e aware of your own cultural point of view. Do not present

Dutch standards, values and views as superior.

T ry to put yourself in the position of the young people you are

providing information. Show interest in important issues, such
as virginity, or such as Ramadan.

A lways take the points of view of young people seriously.

Ask questions in order to find out what they think and why.

A n educator does not have to be completely familiar

with Islam and the Moroccan and Turkish cultures. What
matters is being aware of the fact that culture can be decisive for
someone’s thoughts and behaviour. Be curious, ask questions.

R ealise that the great majority of young Moroccans and Turks in

the Netherlands are Islamic, but that there are differences in
the interpretation of the religion. There are also differences in the
degree to which Muslims abide by the rules and precepts.

> 83
13 Questions and answers
on sexuality
Frequently occurring questions on sexuality and Imam
Abdulwahid Van Bommel’s answers to them have been
summarised on a frequently asked questions page.

The most frequently asked questions:

1. Is French kissing Haräm? 87
2. Is oral sex allowed in Islam? 87
3. Is masturbation allowed in Islam? 88
4. Are men and women allowed to see each other naked? 89
5. Are you allowed to engage in premarital sex? 90
6. Should a woman bleed on her wedding night? 93
7. Are you obliged to shave your pubic hair? 94
8. Is the use of the pill allowed in Islam? 95
9. Is abortion forbidden in Islam? 98
10. Is female genital mutilation part of Islam? 100
11. What exactly does the minor ritual ablution entail? 101
12. How do you perform a major ablution? 104
13. Does Islam allow porn? 105

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

1  Is French kissing Haräm?
When your loved one is Haläl, French kissing is also Haläl.

2  Is oral sex allowed in Islam?

With the exception of anal intercourse, everything a married
man and woman agree upon is allowed. Orogenital contact or oral
sex, a type of sexual activity in which partners experience pleasure
by stimulating each other’s sexual organs with the mouth, lips
or tongue, is not regarded as deviant in most cultures, including
the Muslim culture. There is no text whatsoever that forbids or
disapproves of it. Nevertheless, Muslim scholars have stated that
neither partner should force the other to engage in oral sex.
Not everyone is aroused by the smell of bodily fluids. In spite of the
fact that their religion ordains Muslims to carefully cleanse their
sexual organs, there is often a natural or mental aversion to taking
a sexual organ - by means of which waste products are discharged
– into their mouth . This can become an aversion to the whole
person who forces the other to engage in oral sex. In spite of there
being no interdiction on this, Muslims are advised to carefully
consider each other in this respect.

> 87
3  Is masturbation allowed in Islam?
The opinions of Islamic mullahs with regard to masturbation
are very divergent. However, neither contemporary nor past
Muslim scholars forbid masturbation entirely. In order not to fall
into adultery or fornication, al-istimna bil-yad or masturbation is
allowed, though it remains objectionable. However, masturbation
is not regarded as zinã (fornication or adultery), not even when a
man is satisfied manually by a woman who is not his wife. Some
scholars are more sceptical of their own hand than the hand of a
female slave. However, public disclosure could result in disciplinary
action especially if the motivation was lust. A question was
asked about this in connection with providing medical care in the
hospitals of Cairo. The sheikh at the time (al-Azhar) allowed it.

We have found that the school of Abu Hanifa holds the most
balanced views on the subject of masturbation. As far as
masturbation is concerned its way of thinking is parallel to way of
thinking in regards to the level of obligation to get married.
It is forbidden when it is a result of self-induced lust. However, in
case the feelings of lust become too powerful, and he or she is not
married, it will not be considered objectionable. According to the
hanafites, it is even a duty if there is a real risk of adultery.
All schools condone masturbation if there is a long period of
solitude and/or a risk of homosexual contacts, such as in prison.

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

Ahmad ibn Hanbel has given prisoners and solitary travellers
permission to masturbate for health reasons or as a means of
preventing adultery. Some hanbali scholars have allowed the use
of a kirrandj, a kind of early dildo made of animal skin, for women
whose husbands were away from home for longer periods of time.
The objections of both men and women to masturbation stem from
the fact that masturbation is usually based on imagination, and that
thoughts of imaginary partners open the door to adultery. It could
also encourage homosexual contacts.

4  Are men and women allowed to see each other naked?

Süra 24 (‘An-Nür’) of the Qur’an provides general guidelines
for men and women in the area of dress and nudity.
It has been concluded from these and other Qur’anic verses that it
is good manners not to provoke and tempt each other, or to bother
one another, by revealing parts of your body. Although everyone
realizes the wisdom of this intuitively, we keep on asking for
the sake of asking. If there is a likelihood of sexual harassment,
you will first have to make sure that you are not provoking such
behaviour yourself. From the point of view of Islamic ethics, there
is no objection to being naked in the privacy of your bathroom, for
your spouse or in front of a doctor. Otherwise, everyone has the
right to set his or her own limits.

> 89
5  Are you allowed to engage in premarital sex?
Girls and boys who are not yet married are expected to lead
a chaste existence according to Islam. Things are very different
in reality. Of course you recognise that there is a great difference
between short-lived “lust affairs” or one-night stands and the
intention to truly become man and wife. Since Islam is not
inhumane in its rules of the Sharia, all the schools have provided
a kind of repentance (tauba/istighfãr) and forgiveness (maghfirah)
with retroactive effect to the solemnization of a marriage or
aqdatū-nikah in situations where prenuptial relationships have led
to marriage. When the faqïh or imam is aware of the premarital
affair, he separates the bride and bridegroom for a symbolic
period of time so that they can become reacquainted according to
the traditions which they wish to follow. As mortals, we cannot
determine whom Allah will or will not forgive. Only He can make
that decision. We can perform du’ã’ on your girlfriend’s behalf so
that she may be granted forgiveness.

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

> 91
> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <
6  Should a woman bleed on her wedding night?
In everyday language, female virginity is more likely to be
referred to than male virginity. In Islam both should start married
life virgins. A woman whose hymen is still intact is assumed to be
still a virgin. This implies that the female hymen has not yet been
broken by a male penis. There are many ways in which a woman
can lose her hymen without noticing it, sometimes as early as
birth. For centuries almost all cultures have expected the woman,
in particular, to be virginal on her wedding night. Nevertheless it is
not possible to determine this on the basis of the hymen.

None of the traditions connected to the ‘ceremony of virgins’,

which is held in many villages, are based on reality, neither in the
sources of Islam nor in the historical reality of the prophetic
example. The wedding night acts like a visit to the surgeon, with
only local or general anaesthesia missing, showing the blood of the
broken hymen on a sheet to the crowds waiting outside, and the
subsequent acceptance or dramatic rejection of the bride.
This behaviour is unethical and it is not aesthetic either.
The Prophet’s pronouncement “if only you had taken a virgin, she
would have known only you, and you would have played with her
and vice versa” is not a canonical one. This is a recommendation,
since you could assume that the bond might be stronger with
someone you have made love to for the first time and who has
never let anyone else into his or her bed. The bond with someone
who has already tasted the love of another man or woman might
be weaker. The Prophet himself was almost exclusively married to
widows or divorced women. The only virgin with whom he was
married was Aysha. This was so exceptional that her father received
the nickname Abo Bakr, father of the virgin.

> 93
7  Are you supposed to shave your pubic hair?
In two of the prophet Muhammad’s traditions, peace be with
him, which slightly overlap, he explained that man is naturally
predisposed to cleanse himself. The following seven practices
are part of man’s fitra: the circumcision of a son, the removal
of underarm and pubic hair, cutting your nails, trimming your
moustache and rinsing out your mouth and nose. It therefore forms
part of the sunna, and should be part of the natural hygiene of
every Muslim.

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

8  Is the use of the Pill allowed in Islam?
When Omar ibn al-Chattab was still a caliph he decreed quite
specifically that women are entitled to have a sex life.
They are allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they
want to have a child. Furthermore, the use of the rhythm method,
condoms and caps is allowed. Hormone preparations (the pill) are
known to negatively affect a person’s health and are therefore
not desired. Many migrant Muslim women use them anyway since
the majority of Muslim men believe that contraceptives are a
woman’s responsibility. Although the harmful side-effects appear
to have been reduced to a minimum, many Muslim moralists
describe them as tablets which enable unlimited sexual freedom.
This means they are surrounded by a kind of taboo. There is,
however, a reasonable consensus of opinion with regard to the
use of medicine to halt menstruation temporarily in order to be
able to fast during the entire month of Ramadan or to carry out all
that is required during a pilgrimage. Irritating mechanical devices,
such as the IUD, allow sperm cells to fuse with egg cells and are
therefore not desired. Sterilisation is an operation which is clearly
in violation of nature, and is thus not desired and forbidden by
most Muslim scholars. A pregnancy may only be terminated when
the life of a woman is in danger.

> 95
> Meer weten? <
> 97
9  Is abortion forbidden in Islam?
The word ‘alaqah’ literally means ‘something which hangs’, i.e.
the fertilized egg cell nestles itself into the wall of the uterus.
This view of the onset of life is of course of great importance
to Islamic law with regard to abortion. As far as the parental
contribution to the reproductive process and the various
developmental stages of the foetus is concerned, the observations
of the Qur’an, the prophet Muhammad and modern science are
quite similar. Al-Ghazzâli and Ibn Qayim stated in the eleventh
and fourteenth century respectively that the animation of the
foetus in the fourth of the forty-day cycles can only be known with
certainty to a divinely inspired prophet, by means of a revelation.
This particular moment is also pointed out in the creation of the
first man: “When your Creator said unto the angels: “I am going to
create man from clay, and when I have shaped him and infused
him with My spirit...”” (38:71-72)

In Islamic guidelines, this period of 120 days is of overriding importance in decisions regarding abortion.
Abortion is ruled out after this period, except when the mother’s life is in danger. However, there is
also no consensus of opinion among the various schools and scholars with regard to abortion in the
period prior to the infusion of the soul (breath of life). Most Malikitic jurists forbid abortion completely.
They agree, theoretically speaking, with scholars from other schools that the period of animation is 120
days, but assume that the embryo is intended to become a complete human being and that the germ
of life is sacrosanct from the moment the fertilized egg cell nestles itself into the uterus. Many jurists
from the Hanafitic school allowed abortion up until the end of the fourth month. Some even allowed it
to take place without the husband’s permission, provided the reason was sufficiently important. Many
Hanbalitic and Shafi’itic scholars went along with the Hanafitic scholars’ tolerant attitude to a large
extent, but often limited the period within which a legal abortion was still possible to forty or fifty
days. We can therefore regard Islamic religion in this area as reasonably tolerant.

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

Since premarital sex is not allowed in Islam, abortions where
unmarried mothers are concerned in Islamic countries take place in
absolute secrecy; neither the premarital sex nor the pregnancy nor
the abortion ever took place.

Within the structure of social control, the principles of honour and

disgrace are of such great importance that people receive hush
money to keep the abortion a secret. Accordingly, the texts of the
Muslim jurists do not contain any pronouncements upon something
which is not officially recognized. When an unmarried mother
asks herself this question as a Muslim, she considers herself to be
within the bounds of the moral framework of Islam at one point
in time, although she overstepped those bounds at an earlier
point. Nevertheless, in order to be able to come to terms with the
abortion existentially, it is important that she place herself within
the bounds of the moral framework of Islam. It is good to know
here that the dominant view in both legal and religious literature
inclines towards a general consent. According to Islam, although
new life commences during conception, the creation of human life
takes place at the moment of ‘animation’.

> 99
When we link the Qur’anic verse “He or she who finds himself in
an emergency will not be committing a sin if he or she applies
something which is not allowed” (2:173) to the prophetic
pronouncement “Abortion is only allowed when the woman’s life
is at risk”, it becomes clear that abortion is allowed in the case of
rape. “Since”, Muslim scholars said as far back as centuries ago,
“a woman does not only consist of a material body, but also of a
spiritual body.” For rape victims, the pregnancy which may come
about as a result is unbearable. Rape victims require spiritual help
from the initial period following the terrible ordeal and for years
afterwards. It is highly desirable to provide immediate medical
assistance to victims. A doctor should examine victims for any
venereal disease, Aids, the likelihood of pregnancy, etc. Timely
assistance and taking action is called for. It will be much more
difficult to answer the question about “rape within a marriage”
since, due to the privacy of Muslim families, we are much less
aware of what goes on in this area than in the relative openness
of Western family life.

10  Is female genital mutilation part of Islam?

Female genital mutilation does not have any foundation
in Islam. Female genital mutilation is a Pharaonic tradition which
came about long before Islam, Christianity and Judaism existed.
Not only Islamic women, but Christian women were genitally
mutilated. Moreover, the concept of “female genital mutilation”
is not known to all Islamic countries. The Qur’an does not make
any pronouncements upon genital mutilation. The only words
which have been written in the ahãdith or written tradition with
respect to this subject are “Touch, but do not remove anything”.
This could only refer to and, possibly, justify, an incision which does
not always involve removal. This is the mildest form of female
genital mutilation. However, this is certainly not a commandment.
> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <
In a number of Islamic countries, these words have taken on a life of their own. I do not understand
why, in countries where female genital mutilation still takes place, male Muslim scholars have not
provided clarity on this much sooner. Islam holds girls and women in high esteem, so women could
not have been intended to be mutilated in this way. The Qur’an is quite open about love, affection
and sex. Genital mutilation, often in the most serious form, causes women to suffer, and deprives
them of pleasure. This horrible tradition should have been abolished a long time ago. However, it is
deeply rooted. The Somali imams in the Netherlands keep very much to themselves and do not make
pronouncements upon this subject - in contrast to Egyptian scholars who take a stand and say that
girls should not be treated like this. It affects their dignity in a negative way. If the young girls who are
genitally mutilated every day were to be given a voice, they would say: “Do not torture me.” And, to
be perfectly clear: Islam is opposed to torture.

11  What exactly does the minor ritual ablution entail?

Al-wüdhü’ , the minor ritual ablution, consists of four
mandatory parts:
1 Washing the face from the hairline to below the chin and from
ear to ear.
2 Washing the arms up to and including the elbows.
3 Dampening at least one quarter of the head by running wet
hand(s) over it.
4 Washing the feet up to and including the ankles.

It is necessary to perform the wüdhü following a call of nature, the

bleeding or festering of a wound, unconsciousness, breaking wind,
sleeping whilst stretched out or leaning on something, vomiting
more than a mouthful, laughing so others can hear during prayer,
the bleeding of gums, as a result of which there is more, or as
much, blood in the mouth than saliva.

> 101
In practice, this ablution is performed after the example of the
Prophet, namely as follows: Say the words bismillãhir-rahmãn-ir-rahïm
(in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful) and then wash:

1 The hands three times, interlocking fingers so that the fingers of one hand
cleanse the part which lies between the fingers of the other hand. While
doing so, contemplate the reasons for performing the wüdhü and beg Allah
for purity.

2 Rinses the mouth three times and clean the teeth with a miswãk, a brush
or, if need be, a finger.

3 Wash the nose three times by sniffing some water in and out.

4 Then, wash the face three times, from the hairline to below the chin and
from ear to ear. If you have a beard, comb it with a damp hand.

5 Subsequently, wash the arms up to and including the elbows three times,
starting with the right arm.

6 Then, using damp hands, wet at least a quarter of your head. It is best to
cover the whole of the head using both hands, starting from the forehead
and back again.

7 Without stopping, continue washing the ears by massaging the inside with
your index finger and the outside with your thumbs. You are allowed to
wash your fingers again.

8 After this, use the back of a hand to wash the neck.

9 Then, wash the feet and ankles three times, starting with the right foot.

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

> 103
12  How do you perform a major ablution?
Below you will find a brief explanation of the ghusl (major
ritual ablution):
The Qur’an says: “Oh you who believe, when you get up for
prayer, wash your faces and your hands up to your elbows, run
your (damp) hands over your heads and wash your feet up to your
ankles; and if you are dhünüb, cleanse yourself; and if you are sick
or travelling, or someone in your company comes out of the toilet,
or if you have had (intimate) contact with women, and you cannot
find any water, take some clean earth and rub it over your hands
(up to your elbows) and faces; Allah does not wish to cause you
any problems, but wishes to purify you and confer His grace upon
you so that you will be grateful.” (5:6)

The major ablution consists of three mandatory parts:

1 Thoroughly washing the inside of the mouth.
2 Thoroughly washing the inside of the nose (by sniffing water
deeply in and out).
3 Thoroughly washing the entire body (making sure to wet all of
your skin). The incantation for the ghusl is as follows:
Allahumma Innï ourïdul-ghousl liraf’ïl-janãbati wal-karãhati,
Allahumma tahhir qalbï wa jismï minal janãbati wal-karãhati.

Oh Allah! I truly wish to perform the major ablution, to cleanse
myself of that which I abhor and which is impure. Oh Allah! Cleanse
my heart and my body of impurity and that, which provokes

> Thirteen questions and answers on sexuality <

Following the example of the Prophet, point 3 is carried out as follows:
Following the incantation, carefully wash your lower body. Then perform the wüdhü (minor ablution).
After this, pour water over yourself, three times to begin with, starting with the head, subsequently
three times over the right side of the body and then three times over the left side of the body. Use the
water to massage the entire body. Taking a shower also satisfies these requirements.
Both men and women should perform this ablution in its entirety following sexual intercourse and
following any form of ejaculation or orgasm; women should also perform it following their period and
upon giving birth, as soon as the bleeding has stopped.
It is sunna, thus voluntary, to bathe this way for the prayers of the feast, Friday prayer and the blessed
nights, and if someone becomes a Muslim.

13  Does Islam allow porn?

According to the majority of scholars, exhibitionism,
voyeurism and leering, this includes watching peep shows and
porn films either within the family or by oneself, all come under
deliberately watching sensual performances and wanting to
become lustful or sexually aroused. They do not contain any
instructive material. These films generally do not have a story line,
not even a simple one. From the point of view of ‘idleness is the
parent of vice and boredom is for the stupid’, it is haräm, but since
it also implies a humiliating position for the people who are being
looked at naked, who are exploited and sold, it is double haräm.
If you still want to watch after this, it is your own responsibility.
A small minority is of the opinion that it can sometimes be a source
of inspiration for a sex life, which has lost its spark, but it remains
a tasteless and extremely dull pastime. Moreover, on the scale of
haräm to Haläl, it is nearer to haräm.

> 105
Further reading
Bommel, A. van, Handboek Islam en de rechten van
vrouwen [Handbook Islam and Women’s Rights]. Handboek
voor empowerment van moslimvrouwen [Handbook for the
Empowerment of Muslim Women]. 3 vols.
Forum Utrecht, Bulaaq Amsterdam, 2005.

Vennix, P., Vanwesenbeeck, I. Seksualiteit en relaties van Turkse

en Marokkaanse Nederlanders [Sexuality and Relationships of
Dutch People of Turkish and Moroccan Descent].
RNG Studies No. 8. Eburon, Delft, 2005.

Botsende Waarden. Verslag van een studiedag over hulp- en

dienstverlening aan moslims [Conflicting Values; An Account of a
Seminar on the Provision of Assistance and Service to Muslims].
Forum, Utrecht, 2005.

Ramsaran, R., Spaans, B. Wankele Waarden, Levenskwesties van

moslims belicht voor professionals [Unstable Values; Shedding
Light on Matters of Vital Importance to Muslims for Professionals].
With contributions by A. van Bommel and seventeen experts from
the welfare services and judiciary as well as from the fields of care
and education.
Forum, Utrecht, 2003.

Kaka, I., Kursun, H. Mijn geloof en mijn geluk; Islamitische

meiden en jongens over hun homoseksuele gevoelens [My
faith and My Happiness; Islamic Girls and Boys on their Homosexual
Schorer, Amsterdam, 2002.

> Further reading <

Nieuwe foto via Adriaan

> 107
> Further surfing <
Further surfing
STI AIDS Netherlands is the For boys and girls with an A knowledge centre for
national expertise centre in the ethnic background and refugees, migrants and health.
area of HIV and other STIs. homosexual, bisexual, lesbian
or transgender feelings. A knowledge centre in the area
A website for young Moroccan- of sexuality.
Dutch people. The Islam and A national expertise centre
Sexuality subsite on in the area of multicultural
provides information on love, development. Brings out An organization which
relationships and sexuality, but several publications in the area promotes the integration of
also on Islam. of relationships and sexuality homosexuality.
and the role which Islam plays here. See: the bibliography.
A website for young Turkish-
Dutch people. On the Seni
Seviyorum subsite, you will A knowledge centre for Islam
find information on love, and sexual diversity.
relationships and sexuality, but
also on Islam.
A steering group which stimulates the debate on
A website for young Turks, norms, values and citizenship
Moroccans and Hindus which and the role which Islamic
provides information on organizations can play here.
sexuality and the social,
religious and societal aspects
of relationships and partner A knowledge centre for
choice. homosexuality and health.
> 109
> Glossary <
Allah God Kaaba A cube-shaped building in Mecca
Al-istimna bil-yad Masturbation Khalifa The delegate of God
Al-wüdhü’ Minor ritual ablution Qur’an The book of revelations of Muslims
Ahãdith Prophetic tradition (plural of hadïth)
Aqdatü-Nikah Solemnization of a marriage Maghfirah Forgiveness
Aya A Qur’anic verse Miswãk A piece of wood by means of which you clean
your teeth
Bikr A virgin Muhammad The prophet of the Muslims, the receiver
Bismillãhir-rahmãn-ir-rahïm In the name of God, the of the Qur’an
Most Gracious, the Most Merciful Muslim Someone who subjects himself to God

Dhunüb A condition of impurity brought on by Nikãh Legitimate sexuality

ejaculation or sexual intercourse. In this condition, you
cannot read the Qur’an, pray, enter a mosque or go Ramadan The month of fasting
seven times around the Kaaba, and you are advised not
to take food. Salãm Peace
Du’ã’ Invocation of God Salãt Ritual prayer
Shariah Islamic law
Faqïh Moroccan Qur’an scholar Süra A chapter of the Qur’an
Fiqh Islamic jurisprudence Sunna Custom, tradition

Ghusl Major ritual ablution Tafsïr Exegesis of the Qur’an

Takfïr Declaring a Muslim an unbeliever
Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca Tawãf Going round the Kaaba seven times, a ritual
Hadïth Prophetic tradition during the hajj
Haläl What is allowed (in Islamic ethics)
Haräm What is forbidden (in Islamic law) Wüdhü’ Minor ritual ablution

Imam A pastor, spiritual leader Zinãh Illegitimate sexuality

In shã’a-Allah God willing, if it is God’s will Zinã Fornication
Islam Submission to the will of God
Istighfãr Seeking forgiveness from God
al-Istighfãr Asking forgiveness

> 111
Abdus Sattar, S. Islam voor beginners [Islam for homoseksuele gevoelens [My Faith and My Happiness;
Beginners]. Forum, Amsterdam, 2003. Islamic Girls and Boys on their Homosexual Feelings].
Schorer, Amsterdam, 2002.
Bommel, A. van, ‘Islam, liefde en seksualiteit’ [Islam,
Love and Sexuality]. Uitgeverij Bulaaq, Amsterdam, 2003. Digitaal lief en leed van Marokkaanse jongeren [The
Digital Weals and Woes of young Moroccans]. Uitgeverij
Graaf, H. de, Meijer, S., Poelman, J., Vanwesenbeeck, I. Contact, 2001. (
Seks onder je 25ste; seksuele gezondheid van
jongeren in Nederland anno 2005 [Sex Under the Smerecnik, C., Kok, G., Schaalma, H., Meijer, S.,
Age of 25; The Sexual Health of Young People in the Poelman, J. Hoe gaan Marokkaans-Nederlandse
Netherlands in the Year 2005]. Eburon, Delft, 2005. moslimjongeren om met seksualiteit? Een
kwalitatieve studie naar communicatie op het
El-Saadawi, N. De gesluierde Eva. Vrouwen in de Internetforum ‘Islam en seksualiteit’ [How do
Arabische wereld. [The Hidden Face of Eve. Women in Moroccan-Dutch Young Muslims deal with Sexuality? A
the Arab world]. Van Gennep, Amsterdam, 1980. Qualitative Study on Communication on the Islam and
Sexuality Internet Forum]. Unpublished manuscript,
Feenstra, H., Kok, G., Ruiter, R., Schaalma, H., Einöther, Maastricht University and STI AIDS Netherlands, 2006.
S., Meijer, S., Poelman, J. Islam en seksualiteit:
veilig vrijgedrag en gedragsdeterminanten bij Nahas, O. Islam en homoseksualiteit [Islam and
Marokkaanse en Turkse jongeren, [Islam and Sexuality: Homosexuality]. Uitgeverij Bulaaq/Yoesuf, Amsterdam/
Safe Sex Behaviour and Behavioural Determinants Utrecht, 2003.
among young Moroccans and Turks; An Internet Survey].
Unpublished manuscript, Maastricht University and STI Nahas, O. Homo en moslim hoe gaat dat samen?
AIDS Netherlands, 2006. [Being gay and Muslim; how can this be combined?].
Forum, Utrecht, 2005.
Ginneken, B. van, Ohlrichs, Y., Dam, A. van, Zwijgen is
zonde: over seksuele vorming van multiculturele en Sterckx, L., Bouw, B. Liefde op maat [Tailor-made Love].
religieuze jongeren [It is a Sin to Keep Silent: On the Het Spinhuis, Amsterdam, 2005.
Sexual Education of young Multicultural and Religious
people]. Rutgers Nisso Groep, Utrecht, 2004 Eijk, C. van, Postma, K. Computer- en Internetgebruik
onder Marokkanen, Turken en Surinamers [Computer
Hooghiemstra, E. Trouwen over de grens; and Internet Usage among Moroccans, Turks and
achtergronden van partnerkeuze van Marokkanen Surinamese]. MCA Communicatie bv, Utrecht, 2004.
en Turken in Nederland [Transnational Marriages; The
Backgrounds of Partner Choice of Moroccans and Turks Kooistra, O. et al. Stel je voor het is je eigen zus, of
in the Netherlands]. SCP [The Netherlands Institute for broer [Imagine if it Were Your Own Brother or Sister].
Social research], The Hague, 2003. Rapportage Quickscan Homoseksualiteit bespreekbaar
maken in etnische kring [Quickscan Report Making
Kaka, I., Kursun, H. Mijn geloof en mijn geluk; Homosexuality a Subject of Discussion within Ethnic
Islamitische meiden en jongens over hun Circles]. Rader, Amsterdam, 2006.
> Bibliography <
> 113
Jongeren, seks en islam [Young people, sex and Islam]
is a publication of STI AIDS Netherlands.

This publication was produced in collaboration With the cooperation of:

with the Foundation, and
Maastricht University Abdulwahid van Bommel and Maastricht University
(Herman Schaalma, Hans Feenstra, Chris Smerecnik,
Gerjo Kok, Suzanne Einother, Rob Ruiter).
Text: Rachida Azough, Jos Poelman en
Suzanne Meijer Thanks are owed to:
Editing: Samar Hadad The co-readers: Jihad Alariachi, Anja Lkoundi, Karim
Final editing: Annemies Gort Azaouagh (, Erdinç Saçan (,
Photography: Adriaan Backer Wilco Schilthuis (Public Health Service of
Design/Styling: OKTOBER Amsterdam), Bas Koppers (Schorer), Paulien van
Printing: Uniprint International Haastrecht (Rutgers Nisso Groep), Mijke Withagen
Translation: TVcN Tolk- en Vertaalcentrum Nederland (Dar al-Arqam Foundation), Ger Ceelen (Bureau
Ceelen), Gee van Duin (University of Amsterdam).
ISBN 978-90-78859-02-4 All the boys and girls who were willing to model.
Attributes for photography via Shaheen from
Financial contribution: Public Health Fund © 2007
STI AIDS Netherlands

The photographs of the models in this publication

© 2008 Soa Aids Nederland
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