Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

Islamic website aimed at young Emiratis would provide relationship guidance

Anonymous website would help UAE youth get the right information about sex and relationships from Islamic scholars.

ABU DHABI // Young Emiratis have reacted positively to the idea of the creation of a website where they could openly and anonymously ask Islamic scholars about issues related to sex and relationships.

The concept was hatched during the second annual forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which took place in the capital last week.

As part of the forum’s aim to battle the online influence of violent extremists, the project Haqqathon (Haqq meaning truth in Arabic) tasked five groups to create viable ways of fusing technology and faith to bridge the gap between Islamic scholars and young people.

One of the groups decided to create an Islamic sex-education website and app called “Marhubba”.

It received the highest number of votes from live and online audiences.

Hamda Al Zaabi said the anonymous nature of chatting with an Islamic scholar online would encourage Emirati youth to talk more freely about the topic.

“I’m sure a lot of kids do things they are not supposed to because of a lack of guidance. Knowing they could chat with a knowledgeable person without telling them who they were would persuade more to talk,” she said.

Ms Al Zaabi said even though she could confide in her mother on such matters, she would still make use of such a website.

“Even though I’m pretty open with my mum there might be certain things I would be too embarrassed to approach her with,” said the 22-year-old Emirati.

Having the option of talking to a female Muslim scholar would be crucial for Emirati girls, said Ms Al Zaabi.

“For this to work you would need the girls to feel completely comfortable and having a women to talk to would be essential,” she said.

Fatimah Farah, 23, agreed that such a website would be better than any of the other options she was aware of.

“We have many questions but we can’t get answers because it is considered provocative, so we just end up sharing opinions rather than finding the truth,” said the Emirati freelance artist.

Ms Farah said scouring the internet for answers left her confused most of the time and calling into Islamic TV shows or Awqaf, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, was not an option.

Another young Emirati who said the online platform would be useful was Abdulrahman Saleh.

“This topic is generally taboo and what you learn you learn from your friends without any religious context,” said the 22-year-old film student.

Mr Saleh said as long as it was anonymous and easy to access he could see it becoming very popular.

However, none of those interviewed knew that Awqaf currently offered very similar services.

Since 2007, it has provided religious edicts through its Fatwa Centre, which receives more than 1,000 calls daily, and three times as many during Ramadan.

The centre not only answer questions by phone, text, or online but also provides female Muftis to girls and women who feel uncomfortable speaking with men.

But all three young Emiratis agreed that parents should always be the first and primary source of sexual education.

“If I had a daughter I wouldn’t want her getting this information from a website, I would want her to come to me,” said Ms Farah, adding that even if she did not have the information asked of her she would seek it out and share it with her children.

“It was never mentioned in my house but I think it is very important for parents to talk to their kids about the topic,” said Mr Saleh.

For more information on Awqaf’s services, visit www.awqaf.gov.ae.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae

Updated: May 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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