The Malaysian National Fatwa Council has told Malaysians that yoga is the work of the devil, but now the Malaysian Prime Minister is saying it's dandy as long as there are no mantras.
Are there really heads of state wasting their time on ridiculous debates like this? Apparently yes, since their citizens insist on paying attention to under-medicated and morally bankrupt organizations, like for example the Malaysian National Fatwa Council which unfortunately seems to be running around loose. And while I'm insulting imams in power, please view that famous Mohammed cartoon one more time, just for good measure, here). The Council's last edict was to ban lesbianism (yes, really). Way to go guys! I'm sure with you protecting your people from lesbianism, per capita income will catch up with the rest of the world next year. Soon Malaysia will be the envy of everyone everywhere! Indeed, the mystery is why this isn't the case already.
It's no surprise that Malaysia is still playing economic catch-up t secular Singapore. Singapore has been a regional power for years at this point, and Malaysia has an inferiority complex, for obvious reasons. In point of fact, Singapore (per capita income $49,754) and Malaysia (per capita income $13,385) were both part of the same country until they split in 1965. Tempting to see what Singapore did differently, isn't it? A clearer political experiment could not be asked for (although in the case of the Koreas and the Germanys, we got one anyway).
But those imams on the Fatwa Council never rest in their relentless protection of Malaysians (apparently, from economic success, among other things), and their next act may be to protect Malaysians from the teaching of evolution in schools. After all, in Islam Online, in an article called "Call for Muslim Scientists - Join the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism", we are told "'[An] 'ism' of great danger to Islam... is Darwinism,' said Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the leading Muslim thinkers of our time, in his book Islam and the Plight of Modern Man. He is certainly right." Does any of the hot air coming out of these yahoos sound familiar? Yes, it does - as does the feeling that it would be hilarious if there weren't millions of people who swallowed every word of it. The article is incredible; you really should read it. Here's a more in-depth discussion over at John Hawks' blog.
If you're still in doubt as to whether America made a smart decision in becoming a secular meritocracy blind to religion, you need look no earlier than to the founding of Georgia colony. Samuel Nunez, a Portuguese Jewish physician, arrived in Georgia and promptly saved the bulk of the population from dying of malaria. One of his descendants purchased Monticello when it was in shameful condition, restored it, and sold it to the National Park Service (photo of a monument on the property by yours truly). Needless to say, back in the 1730s this didn't stop some people from fretting that by allowing him in, Georgia had become a Jewish colony and would be ruined forever. I've been to Georgia. Several times. Great beaches, great hiking. Great people too, not least because they didn't go extinct from malaria.
Hey Malaysia! If you have no use for your independent-minded and college-educated, by all means send them to the U.S. We'll take all your smart and hard-working masses yearning to breathe free. And you can keep that powerhouse economy of yours safe from yoga and evolution. Somehow we'll get by.