Thursday, November 1, 2007

Islam's Woman Problem

Andrew Sullivan links to this article about statements by Nik Abdul Azia Nik Mat, described as "the spiritual leader of the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party." It seems that Nik is worried about the emotional abuse of men:

“We always [hear about] the abuse of children and wives in households, which is easily perceived by the eye, but the emotional abuse of men cannot be seen,” Nik Abdul Aziz said. “Our prayers become unfocused and our sleep is often disturbed.”

So what is it that gets Malaysian men so riled up? Women who wear sexy clothes in public.

Just another fruitcake, you say? Well, maybe -- it is important to remember that he is a leader of the opposition party, and that it is therefore safe to assume that most Malaysians don't agree with him. It is certainly a mistake to view all Muslims as one undifferentiated mass. Still, in a country of about 25 million people, his Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party claims 800,000 members. That is an appreciable portion of the population. And Malaysia is a non-Arab Muslim country -- it's not Saudi Arabia.

It's not unusual for left-leaning secularists to warn against christian reconstructionists and dominion theology -- which is fair enough, since those people are nuts. But you know, the chances that the country which brought Jessica Alba to the world is going to devolve into a theocracy where sassing one's parents is punishable by death is pretty low.

Which is why, while American secularists ought to oppose what Andrew Sullivan calls "Christianists," we ought to recognize that views which are relegated to the lunatic fringe among western Christians are, in fact, quite mainstream in the Muslim world. So, for example, while every majority-Christian country has a legal code undoubtedly influenced by Christianity, none have adopted any form of "Biblical Law" which purports to apply Biblical commands directly. Yet a number of countries have, in form or another, adopted some form of Sharia law.

Islam is a real problem, and you don't have to take a "the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim" view to recognize that fact. Not all Muslims are Islamists, but it is not clear, as of now, that Islam is compatible with a secular state that is tolerant of religious differences. And it might be a good idea for my atheist friends to stop obsessing about ultimately trivial stuff like moment of silence laws and worry more about a religion many of whose members actually do want theocracy.

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