Thursday, December 22, 2005

After the Waves Come the Islamists...

What do members of the "religion of peace and love" do when the world isn’t looking? After all the media attention shifted away from the tsunami aftermath in Indonesia, the Islamists came slithering out in force. Allah sent the tsunami to punish sin, you see. Sin being defined as anything that falls afoul of Islam.

MARLUDDIN JALIL, a Sharia judge who has ordered the punishment of women for not wearing headscarves, was uncompromising: "The tsunami was because of the sins of the people of Aceh."

Thundering into a microphone at a gathering of wives, he made clear where he felt the fault lay: "The Holy Koran says that if women are good, then a country is good."

A year after the disaster which many see as a divine punishment, emboldened Islamic hardliners are doing their best to eradicate sin — and women are their prime targets.

With reconstruction slow, irrational fears of a second tsunami high, and nearly 500,000 still homeless along 500 miles of coastline, the stern message falls on fertile ground. A Sharia police force modelled on Saudi moral enforcers enthusiastically seeks out female wrong doers for public humiliation.

The Wilayatul Hisbah, which loosely translates as "Control Team", has arrested women, lopped off their hair, and paraded them in tears through the streets while broadcasting their sins over a megaphone.

More than 100 gamblers and drinkers — men and women — have been caned in public and some clerics are calling for thieves’ hands to be amputated.

Muslims seem to exhibit a particular venom for the idea that women should have the right to think for themselves or behave as they choose. It’s as if Muslims don’t regard women as people so much as cattle or mere breeding stock. That would explain the heavy restriction placed on Muslim women and the requirement that they conceal themselves from other men (potential sexual partners).

The Islamic law introduced without popular enthusiasm in 2002 has been implemented rigorously since the tsunami, especially in towns such as Lhokseumawe, where Fatimah Syam, of Indonesian Women for Legal Justice, knows of 20 women who have fallen foul of it.

She said: "They seek out women without headscarves or unmarried girls meeting boys in private and parade them through the streets in an open car. I’ve seen the police laughing and boasting, and the girls in tears. The Sharia police say the tsunami happened because women ignored religion. We never heard of this parading before the tsunami."

The poor, powerless and female have borne the brunt of the moral enforcers’ righteousness. Mrs Syam claimed the wife of an official caught without a headscarf on a scooter was let off last month and a prostitute who was paraded through the town won the sympathy of passers-by because of the hypocrisy of her persecutors: the woman’s client was allowed quietly to disappear.

This sort of repressive nonsense is rife throughout the Muslim world, and is exported to any country to which Muslim immigrate. The recent riots in Australia followed years of Muslim harassment of non-Muslim Australians, particularly women. In Scandinavia and parts of Western Europe, Muslim immigrants are responsible for a disproportionately large percentage of rapes, and are notorious for harassing women on the streets. Worse, despite occasional rebellions against the authority and power of Islamists, the general sentiment of the Muslim public runs strongly in their favor.

The religious police have not always had it their own way. In one incident on the island of Sabang, attempts to humiliate a bareheaded girl backfired when angry villagers turned on them. By the time the civil police arrived to rescue the enforcers they were surrounded by an angry mob flicking lighted cigarettes at them.

But such setbacks and public unease have not dampened the zeal of Dr Jalil, a small, neat man with a trimmed moustache whose particular concerns are headscarves, gambling, alcohol, and girls meeting boys. "Sin starts small and gets bigger," he said. His next target is a displaced persons’ camp outside Lhokseumawe where he has heard of young men and women freely mixing.

"Another tsunami is possible," he said. "The Holy Koran says that if humans don’t listen to Allah they will be punished."

He was not sure whether there was more or less sin since the disaster although he believes that the Acehnese are more God-fearing now. In the tent camps and temporary wooden barracks where desperate survivors endure grim conditions, Dr Jalil’s views are often well received. There are 67,000 survivors still living in tents and a further 75,000 are in the slum barracks, which are taking on a semipermanent air. Only half of those who lost their jobs in the disaster are back at work and drug abuse among the young is growing.

The evidence mounts daily that Muslims embrace a cultural outlook that is so radically discordant with that of Westerners that no reproachment or assimilation is possible. Yet, the West continues the suicidal policy of admitting tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants into its territory (Europe, North America, Australia). Such is the madness of "multiculturalism."