Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No compulsion?   posted by Razib @ 8/29/2006 10:19:00 PM

The New York Times has an article about a Malay woman who converted to Christianity and now wishes to marry her fiance, who is also a Christian. Her problem is the ideology promoted by the Malaysian government that by definition Malays are Muslim. Additionally, Islamic tradition reinforced by shariah imposes strong sanction, up to capital punishment, upon those who apostatize from the faith. The day to day reality of apostacy varies, there are many unbelievers within the Muslim world, but their rejection of religion is not public and they do not generally follow another religion. The woman profiled in the article not only rejected Islam, but, she converted to another religion and is making her conversion public knowledge and attempting to assert her rights to conversion through the legal system. "Moderate" Muslim nations like Malaysia are in a twilight zone, attempting to reconcile the medieval center of gravity of world normative Islam with their own acknowledgement that the "next stage" in national development requires a relaxation of the coupling between traditional norms and state sanction. The power and strength of Christianity, in particular evangelical Christianity, in concert with the the suffocating march of international liberalism is that it will confront a large number of Muslims and force them to turn away from the older norms of exclusion, domination and anti-individualism (radical Protestants also played this role in northern Europe). One of the advocates for the woman in question is himself a Muslim; in nearby Indonesia it is not unknown for nominal believers in places like East Java to transfer their religious identification to Christianity or Hinduism. A similar process of religious competition occurs in much of Africa as Muslims become Christians and Christians become Muslim. But, the unfortunate reality is that the "center" of the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, represent the other antipode of fluid toleration of freedom in regards to choice of religion. For the world of Islam these are the Edgardo Mortara moments, but the outcome will not be measured via such sensational cases, but rather by the slow but inevitable wheels of liberalism grinding away at the edifice of medieval social control.