Friday, March 10, 2006

Showdown in Indonesia

Might we have an actual culture war on our hands in the Muslim world? Indonesia stands as a testing ground, as the parliament there considers passing a variety of archaic sharia laws.

Won't somebody please think about the children?

Indonesia's parliament, which contains a large bloc of Islamic-based MPs, is debating whether to amend the criminal code to outlaw anything that could offend decency or "arouse lust" in children.

Husbands and wives kissing in public would be banned, as would unmarried couples living together and, of course, homosexual sex. And any flash of thighs, navels, bottoms or breasts would be punishable by up to 10 years in jail or sizable fines.

Such measures conflict with Indonesian tradition; despite being the world's largest Muslim country, they've largely shunned the kind of Islamic law seen in the West. And a backlash is brewing.

A fierce debate over sweeping anti-pornography and morality laws that are backed by Islamic parties in the parliament have infuriated the vast majority of moderate Indonesian Muslims.

There have even been threats of secession in mainly-Hindu Bali and Christian-dominated Papua province.

"People are angry, they are up to the neck, but they are afraid of them because they are militant and they are numbering hundreds, sometimes thousands," said Bambang Harymurti, editor of the respected Tempo newsmagazine.

(Pardon the juvenile lapse, but is Bambang a cool name or what?)

And a warning to foreign visitors: Balinese leaders have warned bikini-clad tourists could be arrested if the laws are enforced.

Let's hope modernity wins out. If it can't survive in Indonesia, is there any hope for the Middle East?

1 comment:

  1. Indonesia's president is named Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. They seriously have the coolest names ever.