14 April, 2007

Fatwa Frenzy in Malaysia

A museum exhibit on ghosts and the supernatural was canceled after a fatwa was issued against it:

The National Fatwa Council Thursday reportedly ruled that exhibitions on ghosts, ghouls, and supernatural beings were forbidden, as they could undermine the faith of Muslims.

"Supernatural beings are beyond the comprehension of the human mind. We don't want to expose Muslims to supernatural and superstitious beliefs," council chair Abdul Shukor Husin said.

Abdul Shukor said that the council's decision would be presented to all of Malaysia's state governments for gazetting as religious law.

"Only state governments have the power to take action, especially concerning the ghostly exhibitions," he said.

So, the National Fatwa Council (NFC) wants Malaysia's state governments to ban any future exhibits on the supernatural. If they succeed, I wonder what other types of exhibits would fail to pass muster as well.

But that's only half the fatwa fun, for the NFC also found time to decry Internet trading:

National Fatwa Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said that non-Muslim investment schemes accessed through the Internet pay interest and guarantee a steady profit, which is banned under Islamic or Syaria law.

"We advise those making investments via the Internet to stop immediately," Abdul Shukor was quoted as saying in Malay-language daily Berita Harian.

"There are many alternative investment schemes based on Islamic principles initiated by the government which Muslims can participate in," he said.

Islamic funds ban the earning of interest and cannot invest in companies associated with tobacco, alcohol, or gambling, which are considered taboo by Muslims.

Yes, these are relatively minor and even silly instances of Islamist censorship and intolerance.

What makes them important is that they are symptoms of a broader culture war within most Islamic societies. For the last several decades, Islamist extremism exported from the Middle East has encroached on traditionally tolerant customs and practices throughout the Muslim world.

The rise of jihadist terror organizations such as Al Qaeda is merely a reflection of this process. If radical Islamists succeed in remaking the Muslim world in their image, the consequences for intellectual freedom worldwide would be disastrous.



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