Those of us here in the atheist blogosphere, like my friend the Spanish Inquisitor, often find the Islamic world to be a veritable gold mine of stories that make us sigh and roll our eyes, such as the recent fatwas in Malaysia against yoga classes and women dressing like "tomboys".
But as batshit crazy as these edicts seem to us, it is easy for us to forget that it is the many moderate Muslims who are the ones who actually have to live under these religious rulings. I recently read a humorous take on the impact these fatwas have on Muslim women in Indonesia by a Julia Suryakusuma in the English language Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post. Below are some excerpts, but I recommend reading the entire column, which you can read here.
Yesterday morning I woke up early as usual and got ready for my early morning meditational yoga. It's something I've been doing since 1981, clearing my mind and reinvigorating myself for the day ahead. It's like getting your cell phone recharged, as simple as that. But then I remembered reading that the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) is thinking of issuing a fatwa declaring yoga haram (forbidden), inspired by the Malaysian National Fatwa Council which has declared yoga haram because it "goes against the teachings of Islam".
So, okay, I thought, I'd best skip my meditation. I donned shorts, T-shirt and sneakers and stepped out of the house for my morning walk instead. Then I remembered I was wearing a bra. Another fatwa, yikes!
The growing conservatism among hardline Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of the world suggests some Muslim leaders want to halt modernity, even turn it back. And if they can't make the world get in line with their regressive fantasies, then they want to destroy it. They share this with their more extreme terrorist brothers (and a few suicidal sisters), as we have seen again and again in recent years, most recently in Mumbai.
It starts with a few ridiculous fatwas. Do we want it to end in more mindless, tragic massacres? Surely it is past time for all Indonesians who believe Islam can be a religion of the modern world to start saying no to this nonsense while it is still a laughing matter.
And while I have an entire series of posts bashing Islamic fundamentalism (with an emphasis on mental) in Malaysia, that southeast Asian country is not without its own voices of sanity. One such organization, which I believe I have mentioned in a previous post, is Sisters in Islam.
Sisters in Islam "is a group of Muslim women committed to promoting the rights of women within the framework of Islam." They have, among other things, publicly condemned the fatwas banning yoga and "tomboys," and they can reliably be counted on to speak out against the forces of misogyny and intolerance in Malaysia.
As we say here in America, "You go, girls!"