Thursday, September 29, 2005

Keep It Sharia Soldier


The Kiss. How many times have you seen the same old photo story: soldier/sailor going off to/coming home from duty, getting a departing/returning kiss from his wife/girlfriend? It's almost a cliche in Western press.

But Western values, by definition, apply in Western society. Great swaths of the world have different values, different cultural norms, different beliefs. We Westerners are shocked when we come face to face with some of these differences. No less are non-Westerners shocked when they come face to face with our differences.

So, I'm of two minds about this one. Aceh is an ancient province on the northern tip of Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. It was historically an independent islamic sultanship, but Indonesia has laid claim to it from the time of its independence emergence in the late 1940's. It has valuable oil and gas resources. The Aceh independence movement and the Indonesian government have been at war for years. The result has been that the outside world has basically been kept out of the region for decades, and it has remained more traditional than other places that have had greater absorption in "modern times".

The place may sound familiar. It was the place where the Great Tsunami and Earthquake hit first and hardest, temporarily pulling the sheets back from the bed of unrest and life in the formerly locked-down area.

Having made this short story long, what happened this last week was the Indonesian army was pulling back some of its forces. It was a publicity event for the army and a lot of press was present. A soldier and his girlfriend were being separated. They grabbed a quick kiss. The press grabbed a quick photo shoot. The local muslim hardliners went balistic. They want the soldier flogged. The traditional consequence for the girl is stoning.

It is not for me to tell them that their ways are wrong for them; you know: "when in Rome...." But they are certainly wrong for me. And it is the great conflagration that arises from these little incidents that will, I'm afraid, characterise the times ahead as the shrinking new world embraces more and more of the traditional, reclusive one. Cool heads on both sides will be required. We can either live through these times or kill through them.

Read about it: http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailheadlines.asp?fileid=20050928.B07&irec=6
and http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,16747414%255E401,00.html

For a similar observation: http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/blind-faith-is-the-new-power-base/2005/09/28/1127804546995.html

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