I’ve spent some time clicking through the various American-based message boards where Muslims can submit their queries to muftis and await a fatwa. I find the questions to be fascinating. As far as I know, there is no equivalent for Theravada Buddhists. The questions asked speak to how much Islam is a part of the lives of devout followers and of the lives of those seeking to be more devout. I am nominally Buddhist, I would say, having grown up in secular nations. Most of the questions asked on the Islamic message boards would never occur to me; I do some of the things asked about without any thought to the religious implications. They are not moral questions for me in the way that they are for some of these Muslims.
Do read the entire post to view a few questions. Now, good Muslims follow these rules very well. Note that this is in the US. Imagine on top of these restrictions, the various laws in the Middle East and other Islamist regimes. For example, the complete covering up of women, death for alcohol consumption, chopping off of hands for stealing, etc. It is truly insane.
Islam, like any other religion, provides not only a moral compass but completely controls a person's behavior and preferences. Of course, most Muslims don't follow all the rules. For example, sports were banned in the purely Islamic Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Yet, even wretched regimes like Saudi Arabia don't ban soccer or tennis or cricket. Of course, women are barred from participation in any sport. As hard as it may seem, modern Islam is less restricted as it used to be. Though, it's still centuries behind the West.
I understand how Victor Charlie feels since I have read countless number of these questions in magazines and newspapers in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Here are a few samples with some answers from memory. These questions were in Urdu:
- My wife's mother gave me a gold ring. Isn't it haraam (forbidden) for men to wear gold? What should I do?
- I got a job last year. I'm going to be making a healthy living in the future (Inshallah). I want to deposit my money in the bank but the bank loans out money and charges interest. Is it still alright for me to deposit money in that bank? (Charging interest is forbidden in Islam)
- My son is into computers. He likes to take pictures and edits them. I know it's haraam to take pictures. But since he doesn't print the pictures but only uses them on the computer, is that okay?
- Is the celebration of birthdays allowed? (The answer: NO. Reason: celebrating a birthday is an infidel tradition; it has no basis in Islam)
- My son wants to get a dog as a pet. Is that allowed? (The answer: NO. Reason: the tradition of infidel; a dog can be used for watching over property)
- My boss is very happy with my performance and gave me a gift: silk ties. Should I return them or sell them? (For men, wearing silk is haraam)
And on and on it goes. Decisions, that have absolutely nothing to do with morality, are made by self-appointed Maulvis, Muftis, and Mullahs. There might be a new and innovative business or a promising technology which is DOA because it's haraam. An aspiring youngster who loves photography or plays a musical instrument or likes to draw people (gasp) has tremendous pressure to not pursue his/her dreams. Why? Because Islam doesn't permit it. Such restrictions murder individual growth and societal dynamism.
Yet, there are fools who think that all cultures are equal.