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Editorial correspondence | Back to Politics | Back to the world news

The Islamic giants
The democratic miracle of Indonesia
How many more innocents have to die?
Irian Jaya's struggle for independence
Suharto's successors struggles to reinvent Indonesia

  • (july 2011) The Islamic giants. One of the bad legacies of Osama bin Laden's career is that for most people "Islamic" means "Arab". The largest Islamic countries are actually not Arab at all: Indonesia (202 million), Pakistan (174) and Bangladesh (145). All other Islamic countries pale by comparison (Egypt has 78 million people, half of Bangladesh). Turkey and Iran (two of the most visible Islamic countries) have even fewer people than Egypt. The Islamic giants have one thing in common: they are all located in the part of Asia that is booming. Spiritually they might belong to the Islamic world, but economically they belong to the China-India axis. Indonesia and Bangladesh are functioning democracies. Indonesia had its own equivalent of the "Arab spring" in 1998 when riots caused the downfall of the Suharto regime. Bangladesh even has a tradition of female presidents and prime ministers. Pakistan might not be a model of democracy and transparency, but it is the only Islamic country with nuclear weapons. They all share the same problem with the Arab countries: a rapidly increasing population, that creates terrible demographic pressures (too many young people for regions with poor educational infrastructure, i.e. the danger of widespread illiteracy and unemployment). What the Arabs have that Indonesia and Bangladesh don't have (in large quantities) is oil. Oil has been traditionally attracting the interest of the developed world. However, the success stories of China and India prove that there is more than oil to the future of an economy, and the failures of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran prove the same theorem from the viewpoint of those that have it.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (april 2009) The democratic miracle of Indonesia. Surprisingly, not even Obama's biography has managed to draw attention to one of the success stories of the last decade: Indonesia. In 1998 riots caused the fall of the Suharto regime. In 2001 a woman was elected president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the father of Indonesia's independence, Sukarno. In 2004 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won presidential elections. Since then Indonesia has experienced a mild economic boom. The war in Aceh has ended. New elections have been fair and peaceful by the standards of any new democracy. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and stands as an example for the rest of the Islamic world: a multi-ethnic and multi-religious confederation that is led by a secular leader (his predecessor was even a woman) and boasts the third largest democracy in the world (171 million registered voters).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (October 2002) How many more innocents have to die before we eradicate the problem? The Jihad (holy war) declared by Islam against the rest of the world has struck Bali, a hindu island popular with Australian and European tourists: a perfect target, if you believe in the manual of war called "Kuran".
    The whole world knows what the problem is, but we live in a strange era in which we have to deny that we know what the problem is; and thousands of Euro-pacifists even pretend that fighting the problem is a problem, rather than a solution.
    The real problem, instead, is that we keep ignoring the problem. The problem is that we let these people hit and hit and hit, over and over again.
    The facts were known for at least 20 years. In 1983 the Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir founded Jemaah Islamiyah, a clandestine organization whose goal is the establishment of a pan-Islamic state all over Southeast Asia. In 1999 Abu Bakar Bashir returned to Indonesia and founded the Mujahideen Council, a federation of terrorist groups with the aim to make Indonesia a purely Islamic state. By this time they Bashir had established contacts with Osama Bin Laden. They began training a private army to help Muslims persecuting Christians in the Moluccas (islands in eastern Indonesia): hundreds of Christians were massacred by these Islamic militia. In the meantime the Indonesian cleric Hambali (also known as Riduanisamuddin), a close associate of Jemaah Islamiyah, joined Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, and still is one of its top executives. In December 2000 these Indonesian terrorists, led by Fathur Rohman al Ghozi, blew up a train in Manila (Philippines) killing 22 people. There were no Westerners, so nobody cared. The Indonesian government ignored the detailed accusations coming from the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists kept training undisturbed in Indonesia. In january 2002 Jemaah Islamiyah was planning to bomb the US embassy in Singapore. Investigations by Singaporean police unveiled the whole story of terrorism in Southeast Asia and the connection with Al Qaeda. Singapore informed Indonesia of the whole plot. Again, noone was arrested in Indonesia (the second largest Muslim country in the world), despite the very detailed reports coming from Singapore. Nine months later, 200 innocents are dead, victims of the ideology of Islam.
    Bashir's ideology is, like the Taliban's, inspired to a literal interpretation of the Kuran. His enemies are not the foreign powers per se, but all infidels (non-Muslims), whether the Catholics in the Philippines or the Hinduists in Bali, that promote the trinity of wealth, health and education. Like the Taliban, the Indonesian fundamentalists want to build a society with no money, no doctors and no teachers. And, above all, no freedom for women.
    The source of the problem is in a country called Saudi Arabia, and we all know it. The problem is called Islam (see Islam kills). Islam is winning its war against the rest of the world, causing massive devastation in every single corner of the world, without suffering any major setback.
    The problem is called Islam. And we all know it. We need to eradicate the very ideology of Islam, the very belief (written in the Kuran) that every non-Muslim is an enemy.
    How many more innocents have to die before we face the problem?
    See a timeline of terrorism
    Singaporean intelligence on Indonesian terrorists
    Role of Indonesian military in Islamic terrorism
    An article on Bashir
    An article on Fathur
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (December 2000) Irian Jaya's struggle for independence. The West has defended for decades the right of East Timor to declare independence from Indonesia, and Indonesia eventually complied with the desire of the international community. But hardly anyone has ever sided with Irian Jaya, the New Guinea province that technically belongs to Indonesia even if geographically it belongs to another continent. Irian Jaya declared independence in 1961 but noone paid attention, and noone paid attention to the continued repression by the Indonedian army. This week alone, while people were celebrating the anniversary of independence, the army killed several demonstrators. The West has never wanted an independent Irian Jaya because 1. its people are not Christians, therefore not reliable allieds (unlike East Timor, that will obviously always side with Europeans and Americans), and 2. it houses the world's largest mines of gold and copper, that formally belong to Indonesia but in practice are run by Americans (and the Americans, in turn, pay a hefty "tax" to the Indonesian government for the right to run them). Bottom line: Irian Jaya is big business, whereas East Timor was a crowded and poor island of no economic value.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (October 1999) Suharto's successors struggles to reinvent Indonesia. The election of the president of Indonesia, to succeed president Habibie, who took over when dictator Suharto was forced out of office in May 1998 in the face of growing discontent and student protests, has been a long and painful process. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's founder Sukarno, whose party won 34% of the public vote in June's parliamentary elections, and general Wiranto, the chief of the army, which still controls de facto the country and is entitled to a number of seats in the parliament, were early favorites. But, thanks to political alliances, the new president is the respected Islamic cleric Abdurrahmad Wahid, whose party finished a distant third in June's elections.
    Megawati's only credit was the genetic code that links her to Indonesia's national hero. Like other important daughters of Asia who became living emblems of a revolution, she has no real experience in running a country. It may be for the best that the parliament gave the post to a less fashionable but more concrete politician.
    The new government faces four main problems: 1. avoiding religious upheavals in the world's biggest Islamic country (and, in particular, avoiding a drift towards Islamic fundamentalism); 2. keeping the country together after the secession of East Timor, especially since Aceh (in the island of Sumatra) and Irian (in the island of New Guinea) are no less adamant about their rights to self-determination; 3. healing the abuses of the Suharto era and preventing future abuses by his cohorts, by the armed forces, by the financial elite; 4. preventing a collapse of the armed forces (which already occurred in Timor, where the anti-independence militias were joined by thousands of army deserters).
    Indonesia is the fourth most popolous country in the world.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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