Saturday, December 01, 2007

Slow Learners

There's a fascinating article in today's NYT that suggests Nigerian fundamentalists may be faster learners than American fundamentalists:

Discussing the fact that it took less than a year for the populace to become disgusted with religious police, the article notes that:

The shift reflects the fact that religious law did not transform society. Indeed, some of the most ardent Shariah-promoting politicians now find themselves under investigation for embezzling millions of dollars. Many early proponents of Shariah feel duped by politicians who rode its popular wave but failed to live by its tenets, enriching themselves and neglecting to improve the lives of ordinary people.

“Politicians started seeing Shariah as a gateway to political power,” said Abba Adam Koki, a conservative cleric here who has criticized the local government’s application of Shariah. “But they were insincere. We have been disappointed and never got what we had hoped.”

The article continues:

Facing backlash from citizens and criticism from human rights groups at home and abroad, state governments that had swiftly enacted Shariah and embraced its harshest tenets are now shifting the emphasis from the punishments and prohibitions to a softer approach that emphasizes other tenets of Muslim law, like charity, women’s rights and the duty of Muslims to keep their environment clean.

“Shariah is not only about the cutting off of wrists,” said Muzammil Sani Hanga, a member of Kano State’s Shariah Commission and a legal expert who helped draft the state’s Islamic code. “It is a complete way of life.”

New programs have sprung up to encourage parents to send their daughters to hybrid public elementary schools that offer traditional Islamic education along with math and reading, in keeping with Islamic principles that call for the education of girls. In many of these classrooms, girls outnumber boys, and the United States Agency for International Development is so impressed with the potential of these programs that one third of the schools it supports across Nigeria are integrated Islamic and secular, according to officials at the agency.

State officials are using Islamic exhortations on cleanliness to encourage recycling of the plastic bags that choke landfills and gutters. One governor, citing the Islamic duty to care for the indigent, recently instituted a monthly stipend for disabled beggars.

“Our approach is a humane Shariah, not a punitive Shariah,” said Bala A. Muhammad, director of a state program in Kano called A Daidaita Sahu. The name, a Hausa commandment, means “straighten your rows,” a reference to the razor-sharp lines formed by Muslims as they line up to pray and a metaphor for the orderliness required in everyday life by the Koran.

Hundreds of yellow motorized rickshaws purchased by the state government make it easier for women, who had been barred from taking motorcycle taxis, to get around.

Maybe there's hope yet for American fundies, although I've seen little evidence that they're tired of being duped into voting for the Larry Craigs, David Vitters, Tom DeLays, and Rudy Guilianis. I've seen little evidence that they've realized that the Republlican party uses them and yet, even when in control of all three branches of government, somehow never manages to deliver on its promises to end abortion, kill all the queers, and round up all the immigrants. I guess they need to take lessons from their fellow fundies in Nigeria.

Update: In comments at Eschaton, jwd points out this absolutely delicious diary at kos. After detailing all the reasons why Republicans are in trouble with voters this time around, (and I especially enjoy the Republicans' consternation that a Democratic victory in 2008 would probably also mean a national health-insurance program that would irrevocably expand government involvement in the economy and American life, and itself make voters less likely to turn toward conservatism in the future. In other words, if the Democrats get elected and give Americans what they really want, it will hurt Republicans. And the Republicans know it. The mind boggles.) the diary discusses Republican strategists' best hope for squeaking out another victory this fall:

"The most plausible path toward a renewed center-right majority involves consolidating and deepening the trend of the decades before 2006: holding on to as much of the existing conservative coalition as possible while adding more downscale voters who lean right on social issues."

There you have it. The grand Republican plan to return to their former glory is to hoodwink ever more poor folk into believing that the Republican Party has their best interests at heart.
In Nigeria, nowadays, that wouldn't work. Poor American fundies! You're the Republicans' only hope! Show up and vote against your own health care in order to keep gays from getting married! Do it for Jebuz!

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