About 20 delegates, mostly Muslim scholars, stormed out of an international AIDS conference Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after an American academic suggested that some Islamic teachings worsen the spread of the disease. Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, in presenting a paper at the second International Muslim Leaders' Consultation on HIV/AIDS, said, "Islam and Muslims exacerbate the spread of AIDS.... A traditional Islamic theological response can never cure AIDS." She also said HIV poses a particular threat to Muslim women, who are bound by Islam to comply with their husbands' desires for sex, even if their husbands are HIV-positive.
Some delegates tried to interrupt Wadud during her presentation and demanded a right to reply, which organizers did not allow. About 20 delegates then walked out in protest and later issued a statement calling her comments "venomous" and "unsubstantiated." However, about 50 conference attendees signed a petition supporting Wadud's right to make the comments.