Si fueris Romae…

Tim Blair points out a statement from Muhammed Khozin, brother of two of the 2002 Bali bombers:

“Alcohol, bikinis, that kind of thing makes Muslims angry. Don’t do that when visiting a country with a Muslim majority,” he said. “I’m sorry, Australian culture makes war on morality. They come to Bali with bikinis, they make war on morality. Not physical war, morality war. Respect the culture and religion of Indonesia.”

That advice is as old as time and I have a certain amount of sympathy with it:

“When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but in Milan I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal.”

This was the advice that Ambrose gave to the young Augustine more than 1500 years ago.

Lounsbury gives similar advice to praktike, gently chiding him for his living arrangements while studying in Egypt and, as I say, I’m inclined to agree.

There are a few problems with Mr. Khozin’s statement, however. First, while the majority of people in Indonesia (of which Bali is a part) are Muslims, the overwhelming majority—2 million of 2.8 million—of those in Bali are Hindu. Bali is historically and culturally distinct from Indonesia. Where should we draw the boundary? Is Mr. Khozin sticking up for the majority of Indonesians or attempting to impose his standards on the Balinese?

Second, Bali has been marketed to Australians, particularly, as a place to go to “kick up their heels”. It should come as a surprise or offense to no one when they actually do. Drinking and sunbathing will be part of that. And hosts have responsibilities to guests particularly invited guests.

Third, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Banning images (even images of pigs) and wearing the hijab are not consistent with European or American culture and standards. To what standards should Muslims from Africa and Asia be held when visiting the West (even visiting permanently)?

Fourth, establish laws against alcohol in Bali. Establish laws on costume. Even ban travel. Don’t bomb visitors you disapprove of.

2 comments… add one
  • I would normally agree with these sentiments, were Bali not a majority Hindu (or non-Muslim) Island and historically not part of the Islamic sphere of the Indonesian islands.

    I rather disapprove of the Western tourists who come here to where I am based and dress and act as if they were at home (and get offended by suggestions that ‘when in Rome….’), at the same time in the very specific case of Bali, I would hate to give ground to the loons and Islamists who are in effect pushing boundaries.

    This being said, it would probably be prudent of Bali to create “enclaves” that are less visible and more easily secured. The threat is there in the long term, regardless of the lack of historicity.

    I should note I did not mean disapproval of pratike’s arrangement, only disapproval of the naive expectation that the vast majority of people on the planet should not draw the funny conclusions Egyptians would draw. (And Truth Seeker rightly pointed out, conclusions that would have been common in the West a mere 20-40 years ago).

  • I believe that you and I are in complete agreement on this, Lounsbury.

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