Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tomorrowville II: The Europeans

I try not to get my undies overly knotted about the state of justice in Islamic countries west of Malaysia. (From Malaysia on east, they tend to be a little less whacko.) I've spent a lot of time in Islamic countries, from sensible places like Indonesia to out-of-their-frigging-minds places like--well, you name it. And I try to keep my head down and not offend local custom.

I assume that by now pretty much everyone has heard about the American woman arrested in the Starbucks in Saudi Arabia for sitting--gasp--with unrelated male work colleagues while working on their laptops. Although she was wearing robes, a headscarf, and the rest of that medieval claptrap. she was, according to her account, jailed for five hours, strip-searched, humilated, and threatened. I don't see why the international press is making such a huge deal out of it.

Get a little perspective. It was just a woman. Plus, according to the Saudis, it was all in accord with Sharia law, and who are we to impose our imperialist view of human rights on a sovereign nation?

This sort of thing goes on all the time in the Mideast; the only reason this relatively mild case caught international attention is that the woman was an American citizen.

And the only reason it caught my personal attention, really, was that it was so closely timed with the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestions that Sharia law needs to be accomodated in the UK. (Keep me posted on this, will you? No matter what I hear, I plan to be damn careful where I sit when I next buy coffee in London.)

Sharia law as enforced under traditional practice makes perfect sense. If a woman is raped, for example, I think it only logical that her relatives should murder her so as to expunge the stain on their honor. And I also think it stands to reason that anyone who criticizes the murder of such rape and murder victims--as Theo Van Gogh was so rash to do--should also be murdered. As should cartoonists who dare to point out the hypocrisy of the whole situation. In addition, I admit it's only right that anyone who refers to how Sharia actually works in practice in most of the world should be condemned by European and American Muslims for providing a distorted view of Islam, which is, as we all know, a religion of peace. A tolerant, progressive society needs to make room for these alternative views of morality, right?

My novel Tomorrowville is a nasty little comedy about the United States in 2088--an increasingly totalitarian, self-indulgent country powered by industries run on prison labor and controlled by a massive Homeland Security infrastructure. Economic growth has slowed, and relations with Europe have been all but severed; there are even two separate internets, and almost no transatlantic travel. The closest ally of the US is China. But some people in the United States maintain romantic notions about Europe...

This is the first occasion I've felt the urge to write a sequel to a novel. And this time round--thanks be to the Archbishop!--I suspect my main characters will be escaping from the US and visiting Europe. (Come to think of it, by the end of Tomorrowville, one of them has already left for Paris...)

The Day After Tomorrowville. I have a couple of other books to write first, but this one sounds like fun.


Janet said...

All I want to know is if the sarcasm machine had been unplugged for the last three paragraphs.

Political correctness just doesn't look quite right on you somehow.

David Isaak said...

Political correctness? I'm utterly baffled by that comment.

I was under the impression that Political Correctness would endorse the Archibishop's view that a liberal and tolerant society needs to respect Islamic law as being "different, but equally valid." I thought Political Correctness was pretty much about respecting everyone's traditions except Western traditions.

If I have a political persuasion, it leans toward Libertarian--which can hardly be described as PC. But I have this whole human-freedom thing which is a bit old-fashioned--and which neither the conservatives nor liberals care about.

Janet said...

Sigh. I see I have communicated ineffectively. I shall remove my tongue from my cheek and say that you have illustrated with devastating clarity the incredible convolutions that political correctness inflicts on its adherents when its internal contradictions are thrust into the spotlight.

Are we friends again?

David Isaak said...

Didn't know we ever weren't. But in any case, I said I was baffled--not unfriendly!

Usman said...

David Hi,
Sharia Law as practiced by the Saudis is one of my favorite rants. Let me not isolate the Saudis there are others.
The point: We are all under the spell of the so called 'traditional sharia' and its many malpracticed versions; without knowing one bit what it means. That of course is the fault of Muslims like me, who are the majority , but never try to explain what Islam means.
Even if we did, would you listen or prefer the story of starbucks coffee. It does sound better that way doesn't it.

Janet said...

I obviously have to forswear any attempt at humour on the internet. Sorry about that.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Usman--

Well, to be completely serious for a change, I think the real problem is that so much of so-called Islamic law gets confused with Arab tribal practices. Since I have many good friends and colleagues who are well-educated Muslims

Similarly, when a fundamentalist Christian wants to do something oppressive, they invariably cite something from the Old Testament of the Bible, which is a Jewish tribal document.

What the Starbucks story really shows, though, is how nutty people can be when you give them too much authority.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Janet--

Well, I've often had my irony misunderstood. (And not only on the Net.)