al-Shabab. Taliban Copycats in the Horn of Africa
Somalia's hyper-armed Islamist militia, al-Shabab, has banned men and women from shaking hands in a district under its control, according to this BBC report:
Under the ban imposed in the southern town of Jowhar, men and women who are not related are also barred from walking together or chatting in public.
It is the first time such social restrictions have been introduced.
The al-Shabab administration said those who disobeyed the new rules would be punished according to Sharia law.
The BBC's Mohamed Moalimuu in Mogadishu says the penalty would probably be a public flogging.
The militant group has already banned music in areas that it controls, which include most of central and southern Somalia.
While al-Shabab considers its next steps in consolidating the misery of Somalians, meanwhile, in Pakistan, locals are pretty riled up over the publication of a sex education book for Muslims by Dr. Mobin Akhtar despite the doctor's novel take on sex education from an Islamic perspective:
When I started to study what the Koran, Islamic law and religious scholars had to say about it, I realised there is so much discussion about sex in Islam. One would be surprised.
There are sayings from the Prophet Muhammad about sexual matters, and historical sources tell us he answered detailed queries on the subject from both men and women.
The intentions of Dr. Akhtar, a psychiatrist, would seem pretty reasoned:
Dr. Akhtar says he has seen cases where teenagers, not understanding what is happening to their bodies, have become depressed and even committed suicide.
As someone who once explained conception to a 27-year-old educated Afghan man, and in light of examples such as the following, I must concur that clearly there is a need for straightforward sex education as a way to promote good mental and physical health in this part of the world (and no doubt in others too):
[A female U.S. Army medic completing a year-long tour in a rural area of Kandahar province] and her male colleagues were approached by a local gentleman seeking advice on how his wife could become pregnant. When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked -- 'How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.'
(Hat tip to Terry Glavin for bringing this example from a Human Terrain Team study, "Pashtun Sexuality", to my attention).
But instead of encouraging avenues for the open discussion of healthy sexual practices like Dr. Akhtar's effort, Islamists are repressing even the meekest expression of human sexuality, right down to hand holding (at the same time that al-Shabab forcefully marry, rape and behead Somalian women and girls, divergent extremities of sexual repression and aggresion that I strongly suspect are linked). As the good Dr. Akhtar notes,
It is a very sad reaction. Ignorance about sexual matters is causing a lot of our young people unnecessary psychological distress, and we have to change that.
I am only talking about educating people gradually and sensitively, but at the moment we are not even doing that.
Lauryn Oates is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist.