The other day, I did Mr. Aput a disservice – I posed a question he couldn't answer truthfully. For that, I apologize.
It was a blunt question, and he seems to be the most reasonable Muslim I've ever encountered, so I asked rather naively, "Is there any religion more dangerous than Islam?"
That was very unfair of me because first, it's a no-brainer, and second, because I didn't really want to put him in an impossible position. But I didn't realize just what I was doing to him until I came across a story over the weekend. More on that in a moment.
I admit I was slightly irritated when I got back his rationalization – that any religion is dangerous when its principles are misconstrued by the wrong people. True enough, but it appears that Muslims have a disproportionate share of the wrong people.
Then Mr. A. referred to Jerry Falwell as an example of a dangerous Christian. Preposterous as that is, I certainly didn't want to get into an argument on his blog, especially when I sort of unintentionally set him up. Besides, I know he didn't really believe what he said, he was merely defending something near and dear to him, his faith.
But then I read this story about a woman who renounced Islam and became a Christian, and the Supreme Court of her country is to decide on Wednesday if she's allowed to do that.
And her country? Malaysia…
"KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Lina Joy has been disowned by her family, shunned by friends and forced into hiding – all because she renounced Islam and embraced Christianity in Muslim-majority Malaysia."
Yes, I know, in the Middle East, she'd just be dead.
See, apparently in Malaysia, you have a constitutional right to choose your religion – but you don't have a constitutional right to leave it - if it's Islam.
So how many think the country's Supreme Court is going to change that tomorrow with sixty percent of the country being Muslim?
And even in progressive Malaysia, you can be fined and jailed for even approaching a Muslim about another religion.
After converting, Ms. Joy, in 1998, applied for a name change on her identity card.
"The National Registration Department obliged but refused to drop "Muslim" from the religion column.".
Yes, you read that right, the RELIGION column.
She appealed and appealed and all were referred to the Sharia court. Joy argued she should no longer be bound by Sharia Law. Minorities are governed by civil courts.
But here's the good part:
"If Joy loses her appeal and continues to insist she is a Christian, it could lead to charges of apostasy and a possible jail sentence."
Here's the better part:
Joy's decision to leave Islam sparked angry street protests by Muslim groups and led to death threats against Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a Muslim lawyer supporting her."
"'Our country is at a crossroad,' said another of Joy's lawyers, Benjamin Dawson, who told The Associated Press. 'Are we evolving into an Islamic state or are we going to maintain the secular character of the constitution?'"
Now here's the best part:
Joy and her Indian Catholic boyfriend went into hiding early 2006 amid fears they could be targeted by Muslim zealots.
"Um, Ted, how is that the BEST part," you ask?
Well the article says the boyfriend is known only as "Johnson."
It does not say if that's his name or if there's another reason for referring to him as such.
At least he's not called Huge G. Rection!?! (Tip of the hat to Robert Baker, wherever you are)
Meanwhile, "'It is not about one person, it is about challenging the Islamic system in Malaysia,' said Muslim Youth Movement President Yusri Mohammad, who set up a coalition of 80 Islamic groups to oppose Joy's case.'By doing this openly, she is encouraging others to do the same. It may open the floodgates to other Muslims because once it is a precedent, it becomes an option.'"
One can only hope, but…
"If Joy wins her case, he warned, it could rend Malaysia's multiracial fabric by fomenting Muslim anger against minorities, who have largely lived in peace with Malays."
Uh-huh. Your neighborhood religion of peace at work…
But all this caused me to realize that as nice and rational as Mr. Aput is, he cannot speak freely. I mean he may believe everything he says, but if he doesn't, he can't just say what's on his mind, even on the Net. Too dangerous.
So now I see the bigger picture – that even in a moderate Islamic state, the conditions resemble the old communist states, and as such, it's probably worse than I can even imagine it to be.
Good luck, Ms. Joy… and Mr. Aput…
I sincerely mean that.