More devaluing of jahiliyya. From The Wall Street Journal via the Post Gazette, with thanks to Twostellas:
KAMPUNG BUNOHAN, Malaysia — Rohimah Zakaria, dressed in a fringed black tunic and matching pants, with a silver dagger tucked into the waist, rocked hypnotically on a wooden stage at the edge of this rural village.
The 53-year-old grandmother was dressed as Dewa Muda, a mythical Malay god raised as an earthly prince who travels by magic kite to meet his fairy princess in the sky, only to be slain by her attendant. Arms outstretched to a starry, palm-fringed sky, Mrs. Zakaria moved slowly to the discordant wail of a three-stringed fiddle called a rebab.
Mrs. Zakaria, who is a Muslim, is one of the last experts in Mak Yong, an endangered form of dance theater rooted in the animist and Hindu religions that held sway in Southeast Asia long before Islam arrived eight centuries ago. In more recent times, the dance has been deemed un-Islamic by Parti Islam, the political party ruling this lush, tropical seaside state of Kelantan on the South China Sea.
Since the local arbiters of taste banned Mak Yong 15 years ago, people like Mrs. Zakaria have performed it in secret. And because interest is waning, her troupe has been able to stage just a handful of shows in the past year.
The version Mrs. Zakaria did this recent night was just a 20-minute sketch, not the traditional three-hour performance. And there was no shaman to put in his traditional healing appearance at the end. The performance was put on mainly to give visitors from Kuala Lumpur a taste of the culture.
“It’s not the same,” Mrs. Zakaria sighed. “But at least people can see a little of what it’s like.”
The steady creep of a more fundamentalist version of Islam throughout Southeast Asia — which is home to more Muslims than live in the Arab world — began in the 1970s when Muslim students and scholars overseas were energized by the emergence of Iran as an Islamic state. They brought home fire and brimstone.
Read it all.