Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and was once a hub of Al Qaeda and radical militant activity. One
2002 bombing in the beachside idyll of Bali infamously killed 202
people, mostly tourists. But Indonesia has calmed of late, with America's favorability polling at 63%, up from 15% in 2003. How did this happen? Indonesia has been relatively left alone by Western powers, spared the sort of interventions employed in Iraq and Palestine. As U.S. forces struggle
to tamp down extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, could
Indonesia's shift toward moderation offer lessons to the West?
- Indonesia Moderated When Left Alone Washington Post's Andrew Higgins explores
how Indonesia came to be "moving in America's direction" after failed
post-9/11 attempts to promote moderation. "More-conservative Muslims
never liked what they viewed as American
meddling in theology. Their unease over U.S. motives escalated sharply
with the start of the Iraq war and spread to a wider constituency," he
writes. "Indonesia is a democracy and the role of Islam is one of the
important issues facing U.S. policy in a country with many more Muslims
Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf combined.
What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S. interests across
the wider Muslim world." Higgins extrapolates the success in Indonesia.
"Should Americans stand apart from Islam's internal struggles around
world or jump in and try to bolster Muslims who are in sync with
American views?" he asks, implying that only the former can work.
- Fighting Radical Islam, Less Is More Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch sees support
here for a hands-off approach, which he says President Obama shares.
"It demonstrates how overt American attempts to promote 'moderate
Muslims' or 'liberal Islam' routinely backfire -- and offers more
evidence in support of the Obama administration's hands-off,
disaggregated approach to what used to be called the 'war of ideas',"
he writes. "Identifying 'moderate Muslims' by the U.S. consistently
credibility with the audiences which they most needed to reach. Funding
them made American 'idea warriors' feel all robust, but
generally had little positive effect and often made things worse."
Lynch suggests Obama understands this well. "Instead of building up
al-Qaeda and its affiliated movements with an
exaggerated focus on 'violent extremism', he isolates and marginalizes
them by switching the conversation to other things about which ordinary
Muslims and Arabs care far more."
But Anti-Americanism Remains Huffington Post's Antony Loewenstein visits Aceh,
a devoutly Islamic province ravaged by the 2004 tsunami. He finds
little cause for optimism. "I found unconventional attributes of an
Islamic state and fierce
resistance to orthodox interpretations of the Koran. Aceh is not Saudi
Arabia, Iran or Gaza, all places I have witnessed creeping Islamization
and brave men and women challenging its implementation. Aceh remains a
traumatized province despite a 2005 peace deal that
ended the decades-old, violent conflict. Sharia law is now implemented
with homosexuality and adultery punishable by stoning.
Poverty is rife -- the smell of rubbish is everywhere and dirty water
runs across some streets -- while women mostly wear headscarves and sit
separately from men at public events," he writes. "The idea of a benevolent America was appealing but images on satellite
television from the Arab world dispelled those myths very quickly."
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