09 December 2012

What's The Difference Between Indonesia And Indiana?

At one time, the French referred to sadomasochism  as "le vice anglais."  It's rather ironic, when you consider that "sadism" is named for a Frenchman, le Marquis de Sade, and masochism immortalizes Baron von Masoch.

Now, it seems, "Islamist" groups often depict homosexuality and transgenderism as "Western" vices--along with Christianity and Judaism!  One such group is the Islam Defenders Front, which managed to shut down a transgender festival in Jakarta, Indonesia last week.

Nominally, Indonesia is, like Turkey, a secular country in which most of its people are Muslims.  However, as in Turkey and other countries, the more extreme and fundamentalist Islamist groups have taken root in Indonesia.  And they are not shy about their efforts to root out western "corruption."  Earlier this year, the IDF forced the cancellation of a Lady Gaga concert.

Of course, referring to something one doesn't like as a "corrupting influence" brought in from "outsiders"--especially if said outsiders have, or seem to have, greater privilege and prosperity--is nothing new.  Nor is blaming said outsiders for the corruption of youth and the erosion of values a society is believed to have.

This is exactly the reason why, for example, anti-Semetism is found among people who live in places where there are no Jews.  When times get tough, it's easy to blame a group of people one hasn't met and about whom one believes the stereotypes.  And it's a reason why I fear that, as the battle for scarce resources grows more intense, secular and democratic countries will fall under the spell of angry charismatic leaders who preach their own vision of their country's religion or history, and claim that some minority group is trying to undermine it.  And, of course, such a demagogue will claim that the outsiders who are "destroying" the "foundations" of the country are the reason why so many people in his country are choking under the yoke of colonial (i.e., Western) oppression and exploitation.

Since such demagogues' versions of history are almost always based, at least to some degree, on some romantic masculine vision of their societies.  They can spell only trouble for women--whether gay or straight, cis- or trans-gender--as well as men who don't fit into such a narrative.  

And it's not only the trans people of Muslim countries who are in danger.  The things I've described are happening here in the United States.  As laws are passed in an effort to ensure equal rights for LGBT people, there are religious fundamentalists as well as pure-and-simple-haters who not only want to keep us out of sight, or to destroy us altogether.  The difference between this country and those in the Middle East and South Asia is, of course, that most of the religious "fundamentalists" in America are Christian rather than Muslim.  But their hatred--and rationale for it--are exactly the same as those of the IDF and other Muslim "fundamentalist" groups.

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