What I find interesting about Malaysia is that, in many ways, it’s a very modernised society. Take the young folks. Lots of ‘em are music-listenin’, phone-tappin’, ‘net-surfin’ coach potatoes – with a keen interest in fashion and technology. Many of the same yooves, however – those of the Islamic faith – have views like this

Their sexual preferences are their business, I guess. This is more dispiriting…

What’s interesting about the last figure is that one might think that truly barbarous things aside (what did Barbara do to deserve that term?) you’re liable to become more tolerant of something as you grow familiar with it. (And, indeed, by and large, I’d say that’s true.) Lots of people who endorse the whipping of drinkers must know people who are fond of the odd pint of Carlsberg, though – Chinese and Indian Malaysians are big fans of the stuff. It’s not a view they’ve carelessly adopted from their parents, then, but an idea they’re really keen on.

These views – and others relating to personal and governmental conduct – are shared by their co-religionists across Asia and Africa. Their faith represents the clearest example of the relevance of belief to the modern world. If religious beliefs was merely the rationalisations of one’s lifestyle and identity you wouldn’t see them so consistently expressed by people with lives as different as a young Malaysian with a smart phone and a Pakistani farmer who thinks any phone is pretty damn incredible. (Note: that’s consistent trends; not homogenous blob.) And, considering that many of such views contain prescriptions for the lives of people other than whoever cleaves to them, it’s only sensible for us to believe in beliefs.

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