In case you haven’t been paying attention to world events (a lot has been happening right here at home!) there have been some nasty protests and riots in the capital of Indonesia recently:
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo postponed a visit to Australia on Saturday after a mass protest in Jakarta that briefly turned violent as Muslim extremists pressed for the resignation of the capital's governor, a Christian they say insulted the Koran.
Widodo has faced criticism for failing to rein in hardline groups that had promised for weeks to bring tens of thousands onto the streets of the capital, and during Friday's protest his office said he was inspecting a rail project at the airport.
At a news conference after midnight on Friday, he blamed "political actors" for fanning popular anger over city Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is standing for re-election in February, competing with two Muslims for the job.
The governorship of the capital is a powerful position and one held by Widodo before he became president two years ago.
Widodo had planned to use his Nov. 6-8 visit to Australia to cement improving ties, with a focus on economic and maritime cooperation and efforts to counter Islamist militancy.
"Looking at the latest situation and condition in Indonesia that require the presence of the president, President Joko Widodo decided to postpone his scheduled state visit to Australia," a statement from his office said.
The protest against Purnama, the first ethnic Chinese to hold the position of Jakarta governor, was largely peaceful but in the evening the crowd grew restive and police restrained them with tear gas and water cannon fire.
One person died and more than 100 were injured in the violence, many of them police officers. Three vehicles were torched and 18 were damaged, national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told a news conference on Saturday.
Clashes broke out in a north Jakarta area where there are large communities of non-Muslims and about 15 people were arrested there for looting a minimart, Amar said.
Some Chinese-owned shops and restaurants were shuttered in northern Jakarta on Saturday, while security officers guarded a temple and a school, according to a resident.
A spokesman for the Islamic Defenders Front, a group that led the protest, denied responsibility for the violence and said the "provocateurs" were the police who fired tear gas.
The group may organize another protest if the legal process against Purnama for his Koran comments is not allowed to run its course, said Munarman, who goes by one name. "If the law is ignored ... then we will call for similar action."
Later, Reuters tells us what has Munarman and his fellow Islamists riled up:
About a dozen Muslim groups have accused Purnama of insulting Islam after he jokingly said his opponents had used a verse from the Koran to deceive voters. The verse implies that Muslims should not choose non-Muslims as leaders.
Police are investigating the case against Purnama, who has apologized for his remarks, insisting he was not criticizing the Koranic verse but those who used it to attack him.
Notice that droll “about a dozen Muslim groups” – I thought Indonesia was the place with the moderate, live and let live peaceful Muslims? I used to comment back in the day here at W4 on posts about Islam; holding up Indonesia as a model for the future and suggested that their brand of Islam, which was promoted by two large national organizations known as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, might be a model for the rest of the Islamic world. Instead, it appears that more sinister (or normal?) Islamic forces are capturing the imagination of Indonesian youth and just like Islam around the world, we find increasing intolerance for other religions and violence at any perceived threats to any challenges to Islamic honor or ideology. It is all depressingly familiar.
An Islamic Reformation – In Reverse?
An interesting idea, in relation to these Indonesian protests, was expressed as follows by the blogger "Lion of the Blogosphere":
Islam is undergoing a reformation much like the Protestant Reformation, and just as the printing press was the key technology which unlocked the Protestant Reformation, the key technology this time is the Internet. The true meaning of the Koran and the Hadith is spreading, and unfortunately, the true meaning (based on an unbiased literal meaning of the texts) is very similar to what ISIS believes.
Reading what’s happening in Indonesia, this idea does seem to fit – those two large national organizations I mentioned earlier are often described as bureaucratic and hierarchical. Now with the internet and the ability for a charismatic preacher to set up a mosque easily in a large city like Jakarta, it makes sense that more and more Indonesians are being exposed to the passages in the Koran that we all know are problematic (i.e. they advocate violence against unbelievers, encourage jihad against Jews and Christians, etc.) The moderates, if they did ever exist in some form or fashion*, are now fighting a tough battle against the ‘radicals’ who are simply exposing more and more Indonesians to the words of the prophet. Not an encouraging development.
*What's kind of ironic is that the WSJ did an article just four years ago about how moderate Islamic preachers (some known as 'habib' - because they are a direct descendant of the Prophet) were starting to gain a foothold in Jakarta:
But even in this article there were warning signs:
"The rise of youthful habib here—Mr. Almusawa is 39 years old—doesn't mean the struggle for the future of Islam in Indonesia is over. Hard-line groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front still abound, blockading 7-Eleven convenience stores for selling alcohol or vandalizing nightclubs during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month."