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Joko Widodo Can't Save Indonesia from Extremism

April 22, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Indonesian president Joko Widodo apparently won his electoral
rematch with Prabowo Subianto by a solid if not overwhelming
margin. That almost certainly is to the benefit of Indonesia and
its neighbors.

Subianto is a putative strongman, made an army general by his
father-in-law, the late dictator Suharto. Subianto commanded the
brutal Special Forces and was cashiered for having kidnapped regime
opponents. He sought political support by encouraging Islamic
extremism.

Nevertheless, in response Widodo, informally known as Jokowi,
abandoned his more liberal views and appealed to the same
intolerant forces. Indonesia’s reputation as home to a tolerant
Islamic faith continues to erode.

Indeed, Islamic extremism long has existed barely beneath the
surface, ready to burst forth. Two decades ago on the main island
of Java I joined the group Christian Freedom International in
visiting a Bible school which had been destroyed by a mob. Out of
fear of further violence, the local authorities refused to grant
permission to rebuild. On the same trip I visited the Moluccan
Islands, with a larger than average Christian population, which
were roiled by more than two years of violent conflict. I met a
militia leader who fought to defend Christian villages—and
was killed a couple weeks later.

Jakarta’s reputation as
home to a tolerant Islamic faith continues to erode.

In 2002 Islamists targeted Australians for their nation’s
support of America; the bombing killed 202 people on Bali. I stood
in front of Jakarta’s JW Marriott in 2003, after it was bombed by
Islamic radicals, ironically killing more Indonesian Muslims than
Western Christians (the hotel was hit again a few years later). In
2006 I met a pastor’s wife who lost her leg in a bombing at her
church outside of Jakarta. During the same trip I talked with
members of a church in Kalimantan, which had been destroyed by
their neighbors. They were blocked by the local government from
rebuilding the church.

In fact, since 2004 the U.S. Commission on International
Religious Freedom has placed Indonesia on its “Tier 2”
list for violations of religious liberty. The USCIRF’s latest
report noted that “For decades, hardliners and other
intolerant groups have had deep connections to and influence on the
highest levels of government.” Although advocates of
tolerance remain, other elements “have grown more vocal in
calling for increasingly conservative interpretations of
Islam.”

Indeed, observers see the Arabization of Indonesian Islam, with
a rise of Salafism. Moderation and syncretism, accommodating
traditional local beliefs, are fading. The New York Times
has reported that bureaucrats “steeped in austere Wahhabism
draw converts in government prayer halls. Hundreds of Indonesians
joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. And hundreds of
thousands more cheer for the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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