Friday, September 18, 2009

On Taking Your Religion Very, Very Seriously

They like to say that here in Texas people take their barbecue, and their religion, seriously. Now having sampled the former from one end of the state to the other, and having witnessed the exercise of the latter everywhere from a Texas church to a Texas state school board meeting room, I have heartily agreed.

Until today.

No, not about the barbecue. I still think that barbecue is the one thing that Texas does like nowhere else on the planet.

About religion. I now disagree that Texans take their religion seriously, because I now have a new scale to measure “religio-seriousness.”

Say what you will about the religion known as Islam, the one that Barack Obama is falsely accused of following by the lunatic rightwing fringe of America, the followers of Islam, Muslims, possess a level of religio-seriousness that cannot be surpassed.

Not even by the Methodists.

I say this now because of a story I read today at MSNBC. An amazing story.

Malaysia, you see, is known world-wide for its moderation in all things Islam. They are by all standards of measurement a tolerant state where Islam is practiced by a majority of its citizens. It is a diverse state, however, with lots of ethnic Chinese and Indians, much like the population that occupies that cosmopolitan island across the Strait of Johor, Singapore.

And unlike the Islamic Republics further to the west, Malaysia is not run by a government that promotes or requires one to practice in any one religion.

Religion in Malaysia is, as they say, a voluntary thing.

But in Malaysia, they have Sharia, or Islamic Law. And Islamic Law is enforced by government-run Sharia Courts. These courts have absolute rule over Muslims. Their rules are, as you may know, strict and violations of the rules are harshly dealt with.

Witness the case of Mohamad Shahrin Abdul Majid, and Nadiah Najat Hussin, young lovers, who were caught semi-clothed in their car in the preliminaries of getting nooky. These two were caught, tried and sentenced by a Sharia Court for engaging in sex before marriage. A crime punishable by a 5,000 ringgit fine and a caning.

A caning.

This is when they take your shoes off and hit the bottoms of your feet with a rattan cane several times. It’s pretty painful and can result in permanent or long term injury.

Now here is where it hurts the most: if you are an ethnic Chinese, an Indian, or one of the eleven million people in Malaysia who does not practice Islam, the Shariya Court has no jurisdiction over you. You can get all the nooky you want with absolutely no legal repercussions.

This is why I say that Muslims, especially the Muslims of Malaysia, take their religion very, very seriously. They subject themselves to a system of laws whose crimes are trivial in other cultures, and whose punishments are harsh beyond words.

The couple paid the fine, but they are trying to get a reprieve from the caning sentence, because, they say, they will be married soon.

This couple are some serious Muslims, I think. They are that serious. They are so serious about their religion that it probably didn’t even dawn on them that simply by renouncing Islam as their religious belief it takes them outside of the law. And a permanent reprieve from the cane.

Or does it? Gee I don’t know. If it doesn’t then I take it all back and simply have to suggest that Islam isn’t so much a religion with strict social customs, but a life sentence.


Anonymous said...

A voluntary thing? You must be joking!

If you re born into Islam and attempt to escape that religion, you may be imprisoned by those sharia courts for the offense -- and, having been denied the basic human right to freely choose your religion, you will be denied other basic human rights as well. So your suggestion that the couple renounce Islam doesn't work.

If you are a non-Muslim and you die and someone other person -- not even necessarily a family member -- claims that you at some point converted to Islam (even if you never practiced Islam after the alleged conversion), your body may be seized and buried according to Muslim rituals over the objection to your family and your surviving spouse will lose custody of your children because, under sharia law, the kids became Muslim upon your conversion. Oh, yeah, the kids will be forced to become Muslim, too, due to your alleged conversion.

If you are a non-Muslim, you will be forbidden to give or sell non-Muslim religious material to Muslims under penalty of law, because sharia forbids attempts to convert Muslims and the government enforces that ban. The government at one point actually attempted to limit what words for "God" could be used in non-Islamic religious literature in the country in order to avoid potentially confusing the Muslims. And the government requires that all non-Islamic religious literature be prominently marked as not being for Muslims.

Yeah, that sure sounds like a paradise of religious freedom where adherence to the strictures of Islam is voluntary.

Hal said...

Yeah, so it sounds like a life sentence. . .

Anonymous said...

You can see, therefore, why so many folks have a real problem with Islam. It isn't religious intolerance per se, but rather intolerance of certain aspects of that religion that decent people should not tolerate and instead should condemn.

Which is not, of course, any reason to hate Muslims as individuals. Most Muslims are pretty decent people, but they get a bad name from those who insist upon following its actual teachings.