Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, took a firm step toward guaranteeing freedom to all groups and religions within its borders. Parliament passed a new bill which supports freedom of association and encourages peaceful settlement of disputes. The bill allows any 50 adults to establish a new political party if it can have chapters in at least 60% of the nation’s provinces. A goal of the legislation is encouraging the development of alternative political associations in order to further the cause of pluralism. The bill also insists that 30% of the party must consist of women in a move toward fostering gender equity.
It is all too common in the Western world to equate “Muslim” with the extreme version as practiced in nations like Saudi Arabia or now in Iraq. The vast majority of Muslim people live in nations which do not insist on Sharia law, which do not insist on dress codes, and in which women play active roles in all facets of society. For example, in Turkey, the Muslim Justice and Development party made certain that at least 60 women ran on its ticket in recent parliamentary elections. Isn’t it time for the American media to present a broad perspective of life in Muslim societies?