24 October, 2008

Why Liberalism is still important

From AP:

Islamic clerics in Malaysia rule to ban tomboys
By JULIA ZAPPEI Associated Press Writer

Oct 23rd, 2008 | KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's main body of Islamic clerics has issued an edict banning tomboys in the Muslim-majority country, ruling that girls who act like boys violate the tenets of Islam, an official said Friday.

The National Fatwa Council forbade the practice of girls behaving or dressing like boys during a meeting Thursday in northern Malaysia, said Harussani Idris Zakaria, the mufti of northern Perak state, who attended the gathering.

Harussani said an increasing number of Malaysian girls behave like tomboys, and that some of them engage in homosexuality. Homosexuality is not explicitly banned in Malaysia, but it is effectively illegal under a law that prohibits sex acts "against the order of nature."

Harussani said the council's ruling was not legally binding because it has not been passed into law, but that tomboys should be banned because their actions are immoral.

"It doesn't matter if it's a law or not. When it's wrong, it's wrong. It is a sin," Harussani told The Associated Press. "Tomboy (behavior) is forbidden in Islam."

Under the edict, girls are forbidden to sport short hair and dress, walk and act like boys, Harussani said. Boys should also not act like girls, he said.

"They must respect God. God created them as boys, they must behave like boys. God created them as girls, they must act like girls," he said.

Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said the ruling was prompted by recent cases of young women behaving like men and indulging in homosexuality, according to the national news agency Bernama. He did not elaborate.

Malaysian media have reported on recent incidents of school bullying among girls, which have been caught on film and circulated on the Internet. In one film, some girls are seen beating up another girl in a bathroom.

A well-known Malaysian Muslim actress caused an uproar last year when she shaved her head bald for a film. Harussani and other muftis urged Muslims not to watch the movie, arguing that the actress had violated Islam by making herself look like a man.

"Muallaf," or "the convert," is scheduled for release in Singapore next month, but no date has been set for its release in Malaysia.

Muslims make up some 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people, and are subject to Islamic laws and the council's edicts, even if the rulings have not been enshrined in national or Shariah law.

It was not immediately clear what kind of punishment awaited those who violate the tomboy edict, or "fatwa." Malays generally follow the council's "fatwas" out of deference, but violators rarely get into trouble unless the edict is incorporated into national or Shariah law.
There are two things that I feel it is important to point out here.

First of all, the conservative movement in America has been dead since (if not before) President Ronald Reagan's inauguration. Exactly when it died, and why, is up for debate.

By pointing this fact out I am making an honest and urgent plea to my friends who consider themselves conservatives to take an honest look at what passes for "the Right Wing" in America today, and to asses the true goals of the movement.

Second, rulings like this are the inevitable direction that an unchecked authoritarian/fascist form of government will take, regardless of the underlying pretense of ideology.

Again, if you take an honest and frankly non-partisan look at the direction American politics have taken ever since we realized the unfettered growth in power following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (itself a sad semi-colon in our ill-conceived transition from a social republic to an imperial actor), you can only conclude that (1) America, in spite of the wise advise of its founders, has undertaken a course of action in the last 120 years where it has become a de facto empire and (2) imperial policy has escalated to the point where unilateral intervention and Exceptionalism is considered mainstream.

All of these trends are an indicator of humanity's affinity toward order and conformity. Humans desire to shore up power and to self-identify as a member of a more powerful group. Most people will identify with being somewhere in the hump the the bell-curve of human society that values structure and order in their lives, work, government and society in general.

On the other hand our government in the US was designed specifically to throw up roadblocks in the way of those who would consolidate power against the best interests of the people in general, as had been the case in the Georgian period of British history.

That said, one has to wonder if it is any coincident that the most notorious empires were also the most oppressive at the height of their power: Victorian England, the Spanish Inquisition at the time of Isabella, Japan under Hirohito, Germany under Hitler and Rome, which would like the rest of this list eventually collapse and fail.

The freedoms we enjoy in modern democratic societies owes a great deal to a famous sexual deviant: Henry VIII.

Even after beheading one wife after the next, old Hank 8 could not have realized what he had started. Sure, everyone likes to cite Martin Luther the German founder of Protestantism for a variety of things: breaking from the Catholic hegemony, starting the Renaissance, starting the explosion of religious freedom that would ultimately draw a line to his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr.

Nonsense, I say.

It was the serial "monogamist" Henry VIII who truly set in motion the course of events that would culminate in "The Declaration of Independence." His defiance of the neo-Roman Empire, controlled by the theocracy of the Catholic church, shook European politics, trade and "group identity" to its core.

It is unlikely that without Henry's help the "Enlightenment" period would have happened a mere century later.

Without the Enlightenment fueled by French philosophers and revolutionaries America as we know her today simply would not exist.

Skipping forward 200 or so years we have a Republican party that proudly boasts that it "campaigns against the 1960s" and will for decades to come. But what the Republican party in it's current incarnation really campaigns against is Civil Rights, Labor Rights and "social democracy."

Conservatism has been long dead.

The sheer hypocrisy of a right-wing, so-called "conservative" movement who purports to value small and unobtrusive government while taking firm and obstructionist stances against the rights of women, gays and workers should be apparent to any critical thinker. The same right-wing that flies the false banner of "conservatism" does exactly the opposite of the definition of "conservative" in pursuing it's aggressive foreign policy aims.

Sadly the disease is not confined to the right-wing. America has, over time, quietly accepted it's extreme position in the world theater to the point where her next president, Senator Barack Obama, is often incorrectly labeled as a "liberal" or "socialist."

On the subjective scale of world politics Obama finds himself slightly right of center. Senator John McCain on the extreme authoritarian war mongering right of that scale and Governor Sarah Palin is off the charts -- inviting comparisons to authoritarians who were, as monstrous as they may have been, at least smarter than she.

If you are still with me I am sure you are wondering what a fatwah against being a "tom boy" has to do with either US, global politics or imperialism.

This decree is a power-grab -- one that has the effect of oppressing the free will of an individual. In California a serious effort is afoot to, in spite of judicial review of the state constitution, deny equal citizenship to homosexuals.

On a much larger and far more serious scale the United States has decided (or rather had, long ago) that it has the right to act unilaterally and aggressively; imposing it's will on others not because any sort of consensus was reached between the US and is allies, but because the US is peerless in it's military might: to wit, because we can.

We can deny gays the right to marry. We can invade Iraq. We should not be surprised when Iran (sanely) moves in a defensive manner. Regardless of the actual fact of whether or not they are pursuing a weapons program, the history between our two countries is such that it should be no surprise to anyone that Iran has a legitimate basis with which to fear and suspect the US -- yet ironically we are told in the US that we should fear Iran, and are told by our most vocal chest-thumping war cheerleaders how Iran is an enemy of freedom, a repressive regime and a terrorist threat.

In short-con games like three-card Monte this is called misdirection.

Second to Israel the citizens of Iran probably enjoy equal or better freedoms than Egyptians, and certainly more than Saudis. Yet all four have major flaws: Israel being a democracy only for her Jewish citizens, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and certainly Iran being theocratic states who oppress women (worthy of note: oppression of women is much more harsh in US ally Saudi Arabia).

Mind you, if Iraq or Saudi Arabian citizens were given true enfranchisement today, the results would likely be ugly. In contrast, Iranians enjoy a greater degree of democratic control of their government.

Imagine what could have been if we had not interfered in 1953 by installing the Shah against the will of the Iranian people and setting in motion a sequence of events what would eventually lead to the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

I want the US to be a beacon of freedom now like 17th and 18th Century France was, but I cannot in good faith say that we are that.

If we continue to choose to elect people like John McCain or Sarah Palin, we drift further away from the intention of the founders of this nation.

If we elect to ban one group of people the privilege of marriage, the civilized world will roundly mock us for being like the clerics of Malaysia who have banned "tom boys."

Liberalism is a rejection of these unneeded incursions on our personal freedoms and an endorsement of the potential of humanity to overcome it's baser Draconian instincts of endless conflict, control and order.

Oppressive societies may have produced Beethoven, Darwin, Sarte, Washington, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Buddha, Jesus, Rosa Parks, Einstein and others, but to drift back towards authoritarianism or fascism disrespects their combined sacrifices.

Obama/Biden 2008