Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Indonesia denies permit to Lady Gaga"

The news item thus headlined went on to say, "Lady Gaga will have to cancel her sold-out show in Indonesia following protests by Islamic hard-liners and conservative lawmakers, who said her sexy clothes and dance moves will corrupt young people...Although [Indonesia] is secular and has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years. Worried they could not guarantee security, local police recommended the permit for the show be denied."

When I read the paper this morning this piece in the "People & Entertainment" section troubled me so I set it aside for further consideration after work.  And now that I have read it again and thought about it for a while, I think I know why it struck a nerve.

I've written here that I think Lady Gaga is an intelligent young performer with an important message to spread through her music, and it's a message of love and inclusiveness.  It's a message that "hard-liners" of any ilk, be they Islamic, Jew or Christian, abhor; it's a message that "conservative lawmakers", wherever they sit, would legislate out of existence in favor of laws that deny rights to any who do not conform to their standards or who are, by birth or by choice, different in any way.

What really troubles me about this item is not that a concert was cancelled in Indonesia, but that I think we as a society are headed in a direction whereby the same type of thing could happen here.  Consider this sentence from the article, with one minor change: " Although [the U.S.] is secular and has a long history of religious tolerance, a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years."  I think this statement is already true, with  the "extremist fringe" coming from the ranks of social and religious conservatives who seem to have combined forces, financed by wealthy industrialists who have their own motives, to gain new political clout.

"Hard-liners" of any religion and conservative lawmakers of any patriotic persuasion are threatened by messages of love and inclusiveness and enlightenment, no matter who is spreading them (just ask Jesus) - it wasn't Lady Gaga's clothes or dance moves that got her banned, it was her message.  And if we don't stand up to our own "fringe element", the same thing could happen here, and our "long history of religious tolerance" will be just that - history.

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