Sex (change), Gossip and Indonesia’s Frivolous Fatwas

AFP reported today that Indonesia’s highest Islamic body, the meddlesome Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), has issued a fatwa banning Muslims from watching gossip shows or  -gasp! – having sex-change operations.  This is the very council that messed up the correct prayer direction for the world’s most populous Islamic nation. 

Like me, dear reader, you must be tired of the trigger-happy clerics in MUI who abuse fatwas to consolidate their influence over a largely ignorant populace – all this while perpetuating heinous crimes against humanity such as the taking of child brides.  Like most fundamentalist religious groups, MUI’s priorities are misplaced – surely the rampant corruption in Indonesia (amongst government officials, politicians, civil servants and the infamous immigration officers) merits more attention than gossip shows and hapless transgender individuals?

Of course, like most politicians, the clerics are more interested in scoring brownie points with attention-grabbing gestures than actually solving the real social evils.  We need to be clear about this.  The Indonesian masses need to be clear about this too.  Alas, the United Nations has foolishly adopted a resolution that, in theory, protects these hypocrites from criticism.  No one has the right to persecute a person on the basis of his/her religious beliefs – that’s fair enough.  But neither do religious groups have the right to persecute sexual and/or gender minorities based on their misinterpretation of religious texts.  Ironically, we can take some comfort in the fact that the UN has no teeth – otherwise Aung San Suu Kyi would have been freed a long time ago. 

In light of MUI’s religious fascism, I declare a fatwa against their ridiculous behaviour.  And why not?  At least my fatwa is well researched and based on logic and truth.  In embracing our true selves, I believe transgender women are closer to God than these morons.


3 Responses to “Sex (change), Gossip and Indonesia’s Frivolous Fatwas”

  1. K.J. Lee Says:

    Unlike Shia Islam, a fatwa in Sunni Islam is definitely non-binding. While it is similar to a legal opinion in Western jurisprudence, a fatwa does not carry anywhere close to the same weight under the Sharia law. In other words, it is entirely plausible that a rival organization could issue a contrary fatwa without repercussions, except to its moral authority in the hearts and minds of the commoners.

    So, Muslims in Indonesia are free to ignore the fatwa. The rank and file would probably disregard the edict. But like in Malaysia, Indonesia’s new middle classes, most of whom are first-generation urban dwellers, are the carriers of these beliefs. Likewise in Singapore, the once Chinese-speaking new middle classes are the bearers of Christian fundamentalism.

    Islamic revivalism has taken many guises since the 19th Century. Presently, it is assuming a fundamentalist stance due to the perceived failures of the previous attempted revivals at reversing the seeming decline of a once proud Islamic world, especially the Middle East.

    • ahkuashow Says:

      Once again, very well researched and succinct. Thanks for contributing to our understanding the cultural wars KJ. My concern is, these people can mobilise the masses. It’s a David vs the Goliath situation, except Goliath wears God’s clothing.

  2. K.J. Lee Says:

    Can these people mobilize the masses?

    The answer is yes and no.

    Not only would they have to contend with one another, these Indonesian Sunni ulamas have to compete with the central government, military, local governments, and traditional chieftains of a multitude of ethnicities. Hence, the outcome depends heavily on the balance of power among them. As a rule of thumb, the greater the social dislocation, for instance large scale migration from the rural to urban areas, the larger the opportunities for the non-governmental authorities, including those that are secular.

    For example, the Malaysia of today is infinitely more religious than that of the 1950s. A closer examination will reveal that the first generation urban dwellers who are educated are the bearers of Islamic fundamentalism, as they endeavor to grapple with the demands of Western modernity. Meanwhile, the Malay peasants in the kampongs still adhere to adat. In contrast, the UMNOcrats and traditional aristocracy are very Western, or even decadent depending on your viewpoints, even though they have to resort occasionally to demagoguery, including religious and racial incitements, to maintain their exalted positions.

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