NICE WORK, BARRY: Hardline Islamists Gain Ground in Indonesia.
We wrote about the Indonesian blasphemy scandal last month; at the time, police had agreed to investigate the complaint and the governor apologized for his comments, in an attempt to cool the rising tensions. But these gestures have hardly had the desired effect. If anything, hardline Islamists have been increasingly emboldened as they exploit the scandal to build support for their cause.
For many years, the world’s most populous Muslim nation has resisted the siren call of fanaticism. That increasingly appears to be changing, with the rising influence of hardcore forms of Islam. Apart from its effect on Indonesia’s domestic politics, this changing climate could have significant effects on the Asian power balance. Indonesia is a key link in the group of coastal Asian countries, from India to Japan, that have tried to balance China’s rising power. Even shifts in the political balance in relatively small countries like the Philippines can ripple across the region; a shift in Indonesia would be a much bigger deal.
The ongoing radicalization in Indonesia also suggests that the intellectual foundations behind Obama Asia’s policy were weak. Obama’s pivot was grounded in the belief that non-Chinese Asia could be rallied around Western ideas of international law and democratic development. This is conspicuously not happening.
If the West looked like the “strong horse,” it would be. But under Obama, Merkel, etc., it looks weak..