April 18, 2013 | 20 comments
April 5, 2013 | 0 comments
March 7, 2013 | 7 comments
January 24, 2013 | 9 comments
January 2, 2013 | 3 comments
The limits of Islamic democracy.
Indonesia — the world’s largest Muslim country by population (with over 200 million Muslims constituting a demographic of just under 90 percent of the population) — is often held up as an example of a modern, moderate Islamic democracy.
Indeed, this is precisely how David Cameron — the current UK prime minister — characterized Indonesia in a visit to the capital Jakarta back in April, addressing students there with the following remarks: “The people of Indonesia can show through democracy there is an alternative to dictatorship and extremism. That here in the country with the biggest Muslim population on the planet, religion and democracy need not be in conflict.”
But is this conventional wisdom accurate? To begin with, it is worth noting that as of this year, Indonesia is still denoted “Free” by Freedom House, scoring (on a descending scale of 1 to 7) 2 for political rights and 3 for civil liberties. A report by the think-tank from last year affirmed, “Indonesia is an electoral democracy. In 2004, for the first time, Indonesians directly elected their president and all members of the House of Representatives (DPR), as well as members of a new legislative body, the House of Regional Representatives (DPD).”
These elections — as well as direct elections for regional leaders that began in 2005 — have generally been judged free and fair. In addition, Freedom House declared that “Indonesia is home to a vibrant and diverse media environment.”
However, these points do not make Indonesia a model of democracy and civil rights for the Muslim world.
To begin with, consider the case of Aceh, an autonomous region of Indonesia in the far north of Sumatra. Aceh rigorously enforces aspects of Islamic law that curtail civil liberties. For example, the sale of alcohol is banned and those caught gambling are subjected to caning. Further, there is a special Islamic police force in the province known as “Wilayatul Hisbah” that oversees observance of a dress code, targeting women wearing shorts or seemingly tight trousers.
Debate also continues over whether adulterers should be beaten publicly — as is the current practice — or subject to the punishment of stoning. In fact, the question of whether Islamic law is enforced strictly enough was a talking point behind the election of the provincial governor back in April. The incumbent Irwandi Yusuf, who opposes stoning for adultery, lost out to Zaini Abdullah, who promises to introduce a “purer” form of Shari’a to the province.
It should be noted that Abdullah was a former rebel leader in the Free Aceh Movement, which waged a 30-year insurgency campaign against the central government. Autonomy and local elections came as part of a peace agreement in 2005.
Yusuf, who was elected governor for a five-year term in December 2006, has always been seen as a maverick among the rebel movement that has since morphed into the Aceh Party, which is described by the International Crisis Group as an “autocratic, almost feudal party that brooks no dissent.” With the rise of Abdullah, who is strongly backed by the Aceh Party, the latter can consolidate its power in the province.
Aceh was probably the first area in what is now Indonesia to adopt Islam. The Sultanate of Aceh that emerged in 1496 always had a reputation for religious observance and fierce independence. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was renowned for its pirates who regularly conducted raids against Thailand, besides attacking European and American trade convoys in the straits of Malacca. This was one of the motives behind the eventual Dutch conquest of Aceh in 1913.
As scholar and adviser on colonial affairs Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje noted in his work The Acehnese:
From Mohammedanism (which for centuries she [i.e., Aceh] is reputed to have accepted) she really only learnt a large number of dogmas relating to hatred of the infidel without any of their mitigating concomitants; so the Acehnese made a regular business of piracy and man-hunting at the expense of the neighboring non-Mohammedan countries and islands, and considered that they were justified in any act of treachery or violence to European (and latterly to American) traders who came in search of pepper, the staple product of the country. Complaints of robbery and murder on board ships trading in Acehnese parts thus grew to be chronic.”
Now, it could be argued that Aceh is only an anomaly in Indonesia. To be sure, the sale of alcohol is allowed elsewhere in Indonesia. In addition, it would be wrong to generalize and claim that Islam as practiced in Aceh is the same across the entire country.
For instance, on the island of Java, which is home to the country’s capital of Jakarta and has a population of 138 million, the conversion from Islam to Hinduism was for many only a nominal process, unlike Aceh. Consequently, they practiced a rather syncretic form of the religion, and in recent years there has been to a certain extent a Hindu revival in Java.
Nonetheless, the overall trend is pointing in a negative direction with respect to treatment of religious minorities. In February of last year, a Christian man was convicted of “blasphemy” against Islam and sentenced to five years in prison. For Islamists in Java, this punishment was not enough, and in a subsequent rampage they attacked members of the Ahmadiyya sect that affirms its Muslim identity but is deemed heretical by most orthodox Muslims. At the same time, two churches were burned and a third razed to the ground.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online