Friday, January 12, 2007

Puppet Show and Islamism

Reuters, via Dhimmi Watch, reports that Islamists in Malaysia are seeking to eradicate a traditional form of puppetry:

Osman Bakar is a specialist in Malaysia's traditional art of shadow puppetry, but fears his craft is flickering out under curbs imposed by strict Islamist rulers in the country's northeastern state of Kelantan.

"I have lost a source of income," said Osman, who has been a drummer for 20 years at performances of wayang kulit, as the art of puppetry, based on myths from India's Hindu epics, is known.

Wayang kulit is slowly fading out in the province following years of restrictions on this ancient form of puppetry, which dates back centuries before Islam spread to the region and whose origins are derived from Hinduism.

Sadly, the campaign against walang kulit is simply part of a broader assault on traditional Malaysian culture by the region's ruling Islamist political party:

The move was the latest in a series of changes PAS has ushered in since taking power there in 1990, as it seeks to discourage behavior it considers against the tenets of Islam.

It has shut down bars serving alcohol, which is forbidden under Islamic law, instituted separate checkout queues for men and women in supermarkets, and clamped down on traditional performing arts that it considers breaches Islamic law.

The following passages describe the impact of this campaign to suppress "offensive" culture and behavior:

"Now we see a lot more women in headscarves. There weren't so many earlier," said Azmi Noh, a cloth trader in Kota Baru's Siti Khadijah market, where his shop is surrounded by traders seated on platforms selling pyramids of vegetables and rows of chickens.

"They have been closing cinemas in the city for more than a year, eliminating illegal structures, and building more places for people to pray," he added.

The Siti Khadijah market is the only one in Malaysia with a mosque, batik trader Azmi said, adding that officials from the mosque occasionally targeted unmarried Muslim couples walking through the market with advice to mend their ways.

While Islamism draws upon elements of traditional Islam, it is anything but conservative. Rather, it is a radical, revolutionary ideology dedicated to the eradication of all cultural traditions that conflict with its totalitarian vision.


Post a Comment

<< Home