Joko Widodo Can't Save Indonesia from Extremism

Doug Bandow
Reuters

Doug Bandow

Politics, Eurasia

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

Joko Widodo Can't Save Indonesia from Extremism

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.

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