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November 27, 2003

Polygamy in Indonesia

In The Washington Post there is an article on the revival of public polygamy in Indonesia. A few things to note:

  • The Western observers who extoll the liberal pluralism of Indonesian Islam need to realize that this version of Islam, tolerant, relaxed and almost syncretic is giving way to a more "orthodox" form that looks more directly to the Koran and Hadith.
  • Also, this "debate" is almost certainly do to the public emergence of a practice that has been maintained underground during the years of secular authoritarian rule under Suharto.

It is interesting turnabout to note that the Islamists are making utilitarian arguments in favor of this practice, that the nature of men and women is accommodated by polygamy, while the non-Islamists are arguing in terms of sacred principles of love, fidelity and chastity. This is one situation where the strict interpretation of Islam does not impose a hedonistic cost, but rather enables the full sexual expression of men.

Some have argued that gay marriage will undermine monogamous heterosexuality. I don't know how polygamy fits into making marriage more or less inviting to young men-but the negative outcomes of the practice, least judging by the social correlates in cultures where it is widely practiced, makes me rather wary of allowing it to have any toehold in this country.

Finally, please note this assertion by a "progressive" Islamic scholar in Indonesia:

Today, he said, the Koran, read according to the principles of modern justice, bars polygamy.

When you begin to read your Holy Book by the principles of modern justice, rather than reading modern justice from your Holy Book, that is doing nothing but inviting secularism. I've got my finger's crossed....

Posted by razib at 11:32 PM