misshepeshu: (Default)
My sister forwarded me this write-up in the International Herald Tribune about the clash between Islam and secularism in Malaysia.

My stomach sank as I read it. I hope that the writer got some things wrong, such as female police officers regardless of religion being required to wear a head scarf during official functions, but my gut feeling is that he probably got it right.

A landmark in this conflict between Islam and secularism is the case of Lina Joy, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. The Malaysian government has refused to recognize her apostasy. There's been quite a bit of hysteria over her case, and the government has banned public debate over it--which strikes me as an incredibly bad idea, but many things the Malaysian government does are.

To quote from the article:

The context of the tensions in the Lina Joy case is a Muslim community that says it feels under siege and threatened by a thriving evangelical Christian movement. Newspapers cite wild estimates of mass conversions if Lina Joy wins her case and call for a strengthening of religious law.


This attitude puzzles me, to be honest. If so many people are straining to leave Islam (and I sincerely doubt there are), why attempt to keep them there by judicial fiat? Surely it's better for people to remain Muslim because they sincerely believe, not because they're afraid of the legal consequences if they don't toe the line. The analogy that springs to mind is preventing a spouse who's cheating from leaving the house instead of making a clean break. It's abusive and counter-productive.

I'm also puzzled--and infuriated--by the fear of dissent and new ideas. Disallowing public debate and laws such as the one forbidding others from evangelizing to Muslims make Islam look weak, as if it needs all these special protections to flourish, or as if Muslims are so feeble-minded that they could be driven to apostasy merely by being exposed to different viewpoints. This lack of faith in Islam by the most faithful of Muslims speaks volumes about what they really think of their religion, I think.
misshepeshu: (Default)
Here's a pretty interesting article about Malaysia--specifically, Kuala Lumpur: "Back to the Future".

Other than fucking up the spelling of "kampung," it's a pretty decent overview of the situation in Malaysia. (I didn't, however, know that they're selling cars at the pasar malam [night market] nowadays.)

This one particular passage caught my eye:

And yet, the affirmative action and global trade that brought Malays into the middle class now threatens to keep K.L. in a sort of stasis. Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister and the most outspoken critic of Mahathir's administration, is concerned that the system has created a generation of overdependent, underqualified Malays. "The program can no longer work in an increasingly globalized world," Ibrahim says over a cup of coffee at his house. "Graduate unemployment is huge. And these issues can explode"—as they did in 1969—"if they are taken up by demagogues." Speaking about the impact of the affirmative action policies that discriminate against Chinese Malaysians, Azmi Sharom, a law professor and sometime social activist, tells me, "You can't expect to exclude thirty percent of the population from the best universities and jobs and not face the fact they are going to take their talents elsewhere." Estimates vary, but there's little dispute that in the recent past Malaysia has suffered a serious brain drain, specifically among middle-class Malaysian Chinese. Unable to secure places at local universities, many go abroad to study and never come back.


I knew this was an issue, but it's odd to see the fact acknowledged so baldly. I wonder how many of my old school friends are now living in Australia, England and the United States, with no plans to return to Malaysia permanently?

I'm a statistic. How interesting.

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