A Whole Boatload of Awesome

This is great.  I see commercials on the news here all the time for this album, which are strangely paired with public service announcements that Indonesians should respect intellectual property rights in order to safeguard the national treasures of Indonesian cultural life.  Don’t worry SBY, I won’t be downloading "Good Luck With Your Struggle" illegally.

To continue our theme from yesterday, two other things I’ve seen on TV that are interesting for discussions of Islam.  First is a television program called Halal? which tries to help Indonesians figure out whether or not certain things are permitted or not under Islamic law.  (Don’t forget, Islamic law is open to interpretation and legal scholarship (fiqh)).  The discussion yesterday was whether or not Islam prohibits body-piercing.  I thought it was going to be very much opposed, given that it started off with videos of tons of Indonesian schoolgirls with pierced tongues and big thick bars through their ear cartilage, accompanied by a soundtrack that would have been appropriate for any telenovela.  But it turns out, according to Hasyim Muzadi, the leader of the Indonesian Council of Ulamas, body piercing is not necessarily that big of a deal.  The only things that would make it forbidden are whether its done out of pride and self-centeredness, in which case it violates injunctions against immodesty, or whether it is harmful to your health, in which case it violates injunctions against self-injury.  So body piercing is OK unless it’s done "excessively" (berlebihan) or makes you sick.  Given that these are very fuzzy concepts, there’s an interesting amount of personal discretion there.

The other was a news piece on a village in Central Java that was carrying out a ceremony to ward of disasters, given that Indonesia’s current national disaster is floods.  They slaughtered a cow and buried its head with a bunch of medicinal plants, then banged on some gongs and did a bunch of chanting that I did not understand.  Then the local religious leader said an Islamic blessing.  This is a good illustration of how Islam coexists rather easily with pre-Islamic religious practices in Indonesia.  Although I’m not sure why this should surprise most Americans, with their yearly Saturnalia festival and all.