19 December 2006

Bombs on Bali but not on Ibiza and Mikonos

(First posted January 2006)

The title may surprise you. Read on.

That the small island of Bali was selected in
all of enormous Indonesia is pretty obvious:
It has the biggest tourist resorts and they
generate substantial income for the island and
for Indonesia, so putting Bali out of business
might help to destabilise Indonesia.

But the bombings, although carried out in a
Muslim country, were also an attack on the
West in general as the vast majority of the
holiday-makers are from affluent Western
countries, mainly coming from Europe and
Australia, flying out to Bali for a couple of
weeks to "have a good time".
And that is the real problem.

Whenever we travel and wherever we go, there
is an obligation on us to behave according to the
laws and customs of the places we visit and above
all to conduct ourselves at all times in a generally
responsible and decent manner.
Indonesia is a Muslim country. The importance of
decency in public in a Muslim country cannot be
overstated. The Muslim attitude can be summed
up like this: behave yourselves in public and do
what you like in private so long as you can justify
it before your Creator.
To me, that is civilised behaviour.

I have seen a middle-aged French couple,
both wearing shorts, trying to enter a mosque
in Agadir - they were politely prevented access
by two old men.

I have personally told a young couple not
to mouth-kiss in a cathedral in Budapest -
I don't know where they were from but
they ought to know better.

From Dublin to Bucharest, from Oslo to Cadiz,
I have seen Europeans, and not all of them
young ones, in restaurants, cafes and other
public places, trying to eat, drink, smoke,
read, telehone, SMS, Walkman-Discman-MP3
via headphones, tongue-kiss and grope all at
the same time, and you have the impression
that if it were physically possible to do it all
simultaneously, then they would overdose
themselves into oblivion on it all.
Just Do It as that dreadful Nike slogan goes...

This is "Instant Gratification Syndrome" at
its worst and a cancer of Western society.
There is a time and a place for everything!

To say that they behave like pigs is an insult -
to the pigs of course. Pigs just do what they are
supposed to do according to their software and
operating system.

In recent years it has been a case of
"instant relief" for me when I have gone from a
Western to a Muslim country, the difference is
immediate and striking.
My traditional and cultural and religious
background is not Islamic but European-
Scandinavian, so I cannot say that entering a
Muslim country is "like coming home" but the
feeling is similar, a feeling of being in the right
place, of being where I belong.

Back to Bali:
When affluent Westerners on holiday on Bali walk
about almost naked, drink and drug themselves
into a stupor and dance themselves into a daze
to obscene Western music, it should surprise
nobody if the locals are offended and dismayed.

Yes I know that the inhabitants of Bali are
predominantly Hindu but that does not change

There is a balance to be struck between jobs and
money for the local community (and, in truth,
how much stays on the island and how much is
owned by foreigners anyway?) and watching your
culture being ridiculed and poisoned.
I do not know whether Muslim groups held
peaceful demonstrations against the behaviour
of foreign tourists before the bombings or
whether there had been any other warnings
or indications that "enough is enough".
Clearly, for some in Indonesia, it was
more than enough.

On to Ibiza and Mikonos:
It surprises me that there have been no
protests in Spain and Greece against the
behaviour of tourists on those two islands
(used here as specific examples).

You may ask: Who would protest?
Well, decent Christians, of course!
Both Spain and Greece are deeply religious
countries with the Catholic and the Orthodox
churches, respectively, still enjoying widespread
genuine support.
The fact that Western countries have separation
of state and religion does not prevent anyone with
deeply held religious views from protesting and
Spain's socialist government recently legalised
homosexual marriages and, whilst there were
meetings between government and church where
no doubt worries and objections were expressed,
the fact that there were no big demonstrations
where one might have expected millions in the
streets in all the major cities, is a cause for,
maybe not concern, but certainly reflection.

Is it because there are no decent Christians
anymore? Of course not.

Is it because decent Christians are content so
long as they can practice their religion in peace
but do not feel the need to impose it on the
rest of society?
That is probably part of the answer.

Is it because decent Christians have simply given
up trying to influence the secular world around
them because they know from experience that
they will either get shouted down or voted down
or simply ignored?
That is probably pretty close to the facts.

And very sad. Why?
Because in that case religion has already
admitted defeat and retreated from the World.
All religions are, how can I put it, an "operating
system" for how to live a decent life but, to
continue the metaphor, it is not enough to know
the instructions: You have to run the programme!
How can you separate your religion from your
daily life? And your daily life is of course your
secular existence. How can you separate the two?
To me, the separation of state and religion is a
nonsense, is a fake, an illusion, a hallucination.

Take Turkey: A pure Muslim nation but since
1922 a secular state. I understand the reasons
why Kemal "Ataturk" Mustafa designed the
constitution the way it is but it is a schizophrenic
arrangement and in the long term it will return
to haunt the nation through causing enormous
frictions within society.
Maybe for Turkey that "long term" is coming to
an end after more than 80 years of secularism?
Governments can legislate all they want but the
simple fact is: You cannot stop people being
religious. Communism tried and failed miserably
in that endeavour as in all others except
education and military power.

That is one aspect of Islamic culture which so
impresses me: It is a living religion, it is a part
of everything you do. It governs your spiritual
life and your secular life to the extent that the
boundaries between the two become blurred
and for many they merge into one, and that,
surely, is precisely the purpose.

I am sure that, not in the recent past but long
ago, Christianity was lived in the same way,
and maybe Christianity could be revived to be
like that again - but only if decent Christians
really want it to!
That would of course require Christians to say NO
now and then, and not just say it but mean it and
live it. The only current example I know of is the
anti-abortion direct action groups in the US.

If their religion mattered as much to decent
Christians as it does to decent Muslims, then
there would have been bombs going off, or
something similar happening, long ago on Ibiza
and Mikonos, where holiday-makers from mainly
northern Europe congregate in the Summer
months to freak out and compete with each
other as to who can be most gross or obscene,
including copulating on the beaches,
homosexuals too.

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