Sunday, April 01, 2007

COMMENT: Indonesian Muslims Caught Between Loud-Mouthed Feminism & Playboy?

It’s so hard being an Indonesian (or indeed any) Muslim these days. You get so many conflicting messages from the neo-Cons. I mean, consider these.

First …

You get hammered for allegedly treating your women in a manner unsuited to the feminism of Pamela Bone. As if ageing Western feminists marching in the streets are really going to help Muslim women activists struggling to achieve basic rights from patriarchal societies inspired less by religion than by ancient entrenched cultures. Loudmouths like Taslima Nasrin don’t go down too well with Muslim feminists in Bangladesh.

But then …

When you wake up and do decide to adopt some feminism, you get hammered by Indian journos for wearing a nasty skullcap and for not allowing them to see your women’s private parts.

The debate over Indonesian Playboy had already started when I was there back in January last year. Yes, there were a fair number of mullahs opposed to pornography. But there were also some respected NGO’s we visited, including women’s groups like Rifka Annisa in Yogyakarta.

As in Australia, so in Indonesia you don’t find too many feminists jumping up and down supporting pornography. Yet if you believe journalists like Sasanand Dhume, you’d think that Indonesia is being overrun by nasty religious zealots wearing skullcaps.

(Amazing how skullcaps figure so frequently. It makes you wonder if there’s more in common between 21st century Islamophobia and mid-20th century anti-Semitism than meets the eye …)
And what sophisticated argument can be found in this analysis? Cop this …

American popular culture ought to be celebrated rather than derided. In its crass commercialism and blithe disregard for Islamist sensibilities lie the greatest hopes of bringing Muslim societies to terms with modernity.

Will Mr Dhume be giving the same advice to Hindu extremists who oppose the celebration of Valentine’s Day? Don't hold your breath ...

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

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