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Indonesian scholar's views on sex ruffle Islamic feathers

Doctorate student's dissertation calling pre-marital sex a 'human right' sparks outrage among Muslims

Indonesian scholar's views on sex ruffle Islamic feathers

Yudian Wahyudi (center) rector of Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, explains to reporters that Abdul Aziz’ dissertation is academically sound. (Photo courtesy of uin-suka.ac.id)

An Islamic scholar has found himself in hot water in Indonesia after writing a dissertation in which he says non-marital sex is not contrary to Islamic law.

Abdul Aziz, who was studying for a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, stated in his dissertation that non-marital sex was a human right and does not violate Islamic Shariah.

Setting conditions on how it should take place he said premarital sex should be consensual, not in public or involve infidelity and not homosexual.

It should also not involve more than two people or be incestuous, he wrote.

“Besides that, everything is permissible. It is part of our human rights,” news portal suara.com reported him as writing.

The dissertation, which was examined on Aug. 28 and saw him graduate with honours, points to writings by Muhammad Syahrur, a Syrian-born scholar.

Aziz, who teaches Islamic Family Law at the State Islamic Institute of Surakarta, said the dissertation was a critique of Indonesian laws which criminalize sexual relations outside of marriage.

It sparked outrage among Muslim groups, including the Indonesian Ulema Council.

Council secretary-general, Anwar Abbas, told ucanews.com on Sept. 3 that the dissertation was against the Quran and dangerous to public morality.

"It is a distortion and must be rejected because it can cause moral damage to the people and nation," he said.

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He said, the argument in his dissertation can be used to justify casual sex and extra marital sex, which can damage family life and the noble purpose of marriage, which is to build a sacred household based on love, not on lust.

The council also expressed disappointment with the dissertation’s promoters and examiners and accused them of "not being sensitive to public feelings."

Aziz has since apologized and promised to revise his dissertation in response to the criticism.

Meanwhile, Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University rector Yudian Wahyudi told a media briefing on Sept. 3 that the dissertation was academically acceptable but not appropriate in an Indonesian context.

He said the university would not give Aziz his certificate until he has corrected crucial points in the dissertation.

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