Norway's Enova hands $114mn for hydrogen production    Gold prices in Egypt on June 29    World Bank to provide Egypt $500 million to enhance food security – minister    Saudi citizens could enter Schengen countries visa-free    Egypt's Petrojet returns to Libyan oil sector after 11 years    Cemex, VeryNile sign deal for Egypt's Nile River    NATO remarks Egypt's role in maintaining stability in Middle East and Africa    Congo needs Egypt's expertise to diversify its economy – FPI official    Dostarlimab drug cures rectal cancer patient 100%, trials show    Egypt: A royal train turns into a new tourism attraction    Conclusions and Recommendations of the 1st edition of Africa Health ExCon    For the first time John Legend to perform in Egypt    Egypt discovers newly treasure trove of ancient artifacts at Saqqara Necropolis    Noura Al-Mutair – first Gulf female boxer in World Championships    Liverpool fans: "You'll Never Walk Alone" to Cristiano Ronaldo    Egypt to play key role in integrating water, climate issues globally – World Bank official    Egypt's telecoms regulator announces working hours for holy month of Ramadan    Maha karara joins AAIB as Head of Corporate Communications, Sustainability    Egypt works on charting cooperation strategies with international institutions for 5 years: Al-Mashat    Over 2.4 million newborns examined for hearing impairment: Health Ministry    Netflix releases trailer of Arab adaption of 'Perfect Strangers' film    Balqees to headline concert celebrating launch of streaming giant LIVENow in MENA    Sawsan Badr to be honoured at Aswan Women Film Festival    MP Abdel Hady Al-Qasby calls government to facilitate and support NGOs    Al-Sisi follows up on 'Great Transfiguration Project' in St. Catherine    Cairo, London stress need to strengthen cooperation to face climate change    Foreigners account for 22.6% of Egypt's T-bills issuances in 1H 2021: CBE    Egypt's ambassador to Italy passes away    Egypt confirms readiness to help African countries face terrorism and extremism    An estimated 235 million people needed humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021, an increase of 40% compared to 2020: IOM Egypt    Egypt, DRC discuss water cooperation during WYF    Egypt, DR Congo discuss boosting bilateral cooperation during WYF    Cameroonian police probe assault on three Algerian journalists covering AFCON    Pharaohs start AFCON 2021 campaign with fierce clash against Nigeria    Foreign Ministry opens capacity building course for French-speaking African diplomats    Egypt's trade with Nile basin countries climbs 26% y-o-y in 9 months    Russia says it's in sync with US, China, Pakistan on Taliban    It's a bit frustrating to draw at home: Real Madrid keeper after Villarreal game    Shoukry reviews with Guterres Egypt's efforts to achieve SDGs, promote human rights    Sudan says countries must cooperate on vaccines    Johnson & Johnson: Second shot boosts antibodies and protection against COVID-19    Egypt to tax bloggers, YouTubers    Egypt's FM asserts importance of stability in Libya, holding elections as scheduled    We mustn't lose touch: Muller after Bayern win in Bundesliga    Egypt records 36 new deaths from Covid-19, highest since mid June    Egypt sells $3 bln US-dollar dominated eurobonds    Gamal Hanafy's ceramic exhibition at Gezira Arts Centre is a must go    Italian Institute Director Davide Scalmani presents activities of the Cairo Institute for ITALIANA.IT platform    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Indonesia's democratic miracle
Published in Daily News Egypt on 15 - 09 - 2008

JAKARTA: Modern miracles do happen. Ten years ago, as the Asian financial crisis savaged Indonesia's economy, many experts predicted that the country would become unstable, if not splinter. Instead, Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country, has emerged as a beacon of freedom and democracy for the Muslim world. What happened? And why hasn't the world taken note?
The story is as complex as Indonesia itself. One leading expert on Indonesia, Benedict Anderson, roots Indonesia's nature in its core Javanese culture, particularly the wayang religious tradition. According to Anderson, "In contrast to the great religions of the Near East.the religion of wayang has no prophet, no message, no Bible, no Redeemer..The endless variety and sharp individuality of its dramatis personae indicate that wayang reflects the variegation of human life as it is felt by the Javanese... In short, Javanese culture helps Indonesia handle the many diverse voices that a new democracy throws up.
There is also a strong Indonesian tradition of resolving disagreements through "musyawarah dan mufakat (consultation and consensus). Of course, this tradition has not always prevented violence, most notoriously in the killings that followed the 1966 coup against President Sukarno. And ten years ago, during the financial crisis, violent anti-Chinese riots erupted again, causing many Chinese to flee the country.
Today, however, many of those Chinese have returned. In a remarkable development, Chinese language and culture, which had been suppressed for decades, is allowed free expression. By contrast, imagine Turkey, a more advanced member state of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, allowing free expression of Kurdish language and culture.
Indonesia's record looks even more remarkable when compared to the United States. Americans explain their country's democratic backsliding by pointing to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But Indonesia was attacked, too, with the bombing in Bali coming little more than a year later, on October 12, 2002. Despite this, Indonesia has consolidated its democracy. Indeed, in 2005 Freedom House declared that Indonesia had moved from "partly free to "free.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono deserves great credit for this remarkable success. Under his leadership, the long-standing and painful Aceh conflict was peacefully resolved. Some credit the 2004 tsunami, which killed hundreds of thousands of Acehnese, for this breakthrough. But Sri Lanka was hit equally hard by the tsunami, and since then the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict has worsened.
Today, the biggest threat to Indonesia's democracy comes from America, even though most Americans want Indonesia's democracy to succeed. With modern technology, Indonesian Muslims can see clearly the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, the disastrous results of the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and America's silence when Lebanon was bombed in July 2006. Many senior Americans were puzzled that Turkey, a long-standing NATO ally and a secular state, refused to allow American forces to use Turkey as a base to invade Iraq. If relatively secular Turkish society could be swept by a surge of anti-American sentiment, so, too, can Indonesia society.
Indeed, a major struggle is underway between those who want Indonesia to become more fundamentalist and those who want to preserve the traditionally open and tolerant nature of Javanese culture. Curiously, while many Americans and Europeans want moderate Muslim voices to succeed in Indonesia (and Southeast Asia), they often undermine moderates with policies that are perceived as anti-Islamic.
America's stance on military aid to Indonesia is but one example. For several years, some members of the US Senate have maintained a punitive policy towards Indonesia by cutting off military assistance and curtailing Indonesian military training in the US. These punitive policies are self-defeating. In recent years, the Indonesian military has provided a model for other Third World military forces on how to accept a transition to a full democracy. There are no threats of a coup d'état, and senior generals, such as Bambang, who studied in American military colleges, returned to Indonesia as convinced democrats.
It is a tragedy that ignorance of how much Indonesia has changed is being allowed to endanger its democratic development - and its role as a beacon of freedom and hope in the Islamic world. It is to be hoped that Barack Obama, should he win America's presidency, will recall the tolerant Indonesia where he grew up and shape policies toward it accordingly.
Kishore Mahbubaniis Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. His most recent book is The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East. This commentary is published by DAILY NEWS EGYPT in collaboration with Project Syndicate (

Clic here to read the story from its source.