An op-ed piece in the Jakarta Post this week complained about men and women accused of corruption suddenly donning haj caps, head scarves, and Muslim shirts — powerful religious symbols in Indonesia.
The writer, a teacher at the School of Cultural Sciences at Andalas University in Padang, said ‘adopting the concept of Erich Fromm’s escape mechanism, the abuse of religious symbols by the graft suspects or criminals is called “automaton conformity.” . . . . [T]he graft suspects deceive and invert public logic by changing themselves to conform to a perception of society’s preferred type of personality, that is, repentant sinners.’
Corruption and religious headgear most famously appeared together in the United States on the day when Washington Über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty. He showed up for court wearing a black fedora.
‘He had put it on,’ wrote David Margolick in Vanity Fair, ‘because Orthodox Jews are supposed to cover their heads, but he feared that the yarmulke he would normally have worn would invite charges of false or newly minted piety. Besides, the forecast had called for rain. But he had unwittingly stepped right into a stereotype: Meet Jack Abramoff—the Fat Cat in the Hat.’
Back in Indonesia, the writer closed with this wisdom: ‘Rather than covering up their heads with veils, those graft suspects would be better off admitting their mistakes, apologizing to the public and returning any money that may have been taken. The community does not like those who are toying with counterfeit religious expression in an attempt to gain public sympathy.’
Amen to that.