Thursday, March 25, 2004

Fundamentalists Stymie AIDS Prevention

If you read the headline to this post and immediately though of a bunch of Southern Baptist bible-thumpers protesting AIDS prevention education you could be forgiven. We've all read about just such occurrences in the US.

But no, in yet more proof that fundamentalists of all types are cut from the same, tattered, soiled cloth, I'm talking about Islamic fundies in Indonesia. Despite the World Health Organization designating Indonesia as more of a potential AIDS hotspot than either China or Thailand, the mullahs are censoring any attempts at frank discussions of preventive measures - most especially condom use.

It's the same story(Wall Street Journal - subscription) you'd likely hear from our friends the Southern Baptists:

But when leaders of some of this country's Islamic fundamentalist groups hear about her tactics, they react with outrage. By urging people to protect themselves with condoms, they say, Ms. Arifin is promoting sinful behavior.

"This is not how to solve the root of this problem," says Neno Warisman, a popular singer of Muslim songs and former television star. A candidate for Parliament from the Prosperous Justice Party, which campaigns for Islamic causes, she says efforts to stop the disease's spread should focus instead on improving people's morality.
Sound familiar? There's more:

For two years Family Health International, a U.S. group that runs health-care projects in developing countries, has struggled to get a hard-hitting AIDS campaign onto Indonesian national TV. When a commercial depicting men patronizing prostitutes was broadcast briefly in 2002, the Indonesian Mujahiddin Council, an organization of fundamentalist Muslin clerics, sent a letter to TV stations claiming the advertisement could provoke the wrath of Allah. The stations immediately pulled the ad, even though Indonesian censors and the Health Ministry earlier had cleared it.
Even the description of the spineless media sounds familiar. And in case you think I'm stretching the comparison, even the Wall Street Journal makes the explicit comparison:

The resistance the Indonesian activists now face comes amid similar clashes elsewhere in the world. Over the past 20 years, blunt messages from AIDS-prevention campaigns have drawn fire from religious and socially conservative groups. In the U.S., some AIDS activists have complained of problems getting public-service announcements broadcast, because TV-station managers feared upsetting their audience.
Yet more proof of why religion has no place in the development of public policy. Can you see the path to theocracy that BushCo and his base supporters in the Religious-Whacko-Right want to lead us down?

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