To pick and choose what religious spaces are and aren’t worth respecting is to put power in hands of the usually quite ignorant to go around labelling things as serious or not. Tim Stanley of The Telegraph writes ..
What is it about the Brits and public nudity? Why do we feel the world needs to see our nether regions, displayed in various parts of the world like we were flashing our credentials? This childishness is only surpassed by our innocent surprise to discover that the “funny looking stick” we’re mooning at is actually a totem poll – and that the local toll for sacrilege is “death by Mau Mau” …
Such was the predicament of Eleanor Hawkins. She’s the 24-year-old ex-public schoolgirl who got nude with some travellers on a sacred mountain in Malaysia and was punished with a few days in jail and a fine. That’s just a slap on the wrists considering that the locals think her strip caused an earthquake. Their accusation is a badge I’d wear with honour.
We’ve all done silly things and I hope Hawkins gets home safely. But some people are laughing at the natives. Julia Hartley-Brewer, who is otherwise all round sound, says we shouldn’t have to automatically defer to foreign cultures that are plainly daft. There are two problems with that. First, to the Malaysians it may be that we are the daft ones. So, presumably, no Brit will protest if a mountain worshipper drops his trousers in St Paul’s cathedral?
Or maybe they will protest – and rightly so. Because you don’t have to be religious to despair of sacrilege and its implied insult to the host culture. It’s a rejection of hospitality, a sign of disrespect that breaks the traveller’s code.
Second, if we’re laughing at the sacredness of a mountain then where do we stop? Is the Garden of Gethsemane hilarious? Lourdes? To pick and choose what religious spaces are and aren’t worth respecting is to put power in hands of the usually quite ignorant to go around labelling things as serious or not.
Canadian Emil Kaminski, one of those arrested, has been “trolling” the people of Malaysia from his cell – asserting that it’s “just a f––––– mountain”. Well, the mountain has apparently fought back. Mr Kaminski’s arrogance is extraordinary and suggests that at the heart of all this nudism is the cult of “me first” – a rejection of the local culture and the proud announcement that the more civilised, atheistic white folk have arrived. It is a sort of imperialism by any other means. And what kind of culture are the tourists exporting to these “savage”, overdressed countries? One in which the flashing of boobs and bums is regarded as a profound expression of liberty. A junk culture. Hardly a culture at all.
My colleague Julia Hartley-Brewer says that it’s far worse when conservative Muslims import the burka to Britain. But the veil is at least an attempt to preserve a religiously-inspired concept of purity, which is a higher moral cause whether one agrees with it or not. If the cultural choice is between the veil and mountain worshippers on one side and the chauvinist nudists on the other – then I’m with anyone but the British.