‘Dark clouds’ of extremism threaten Indonesia’s democracy


The United Nations’ human rights chief has warned of the “dark clouds” of political extremism and intolerance that are building over Indonesia. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has highlighted the blasphemy laws that were used to imprison Jakarta’s governor last year, and planned new legislation that will criminalise gay sex, reports suggest:

“If Muslim societies expect others to fight against Islamophobia, we should be prepared to end discrimination at home too,” said Mr al-Hussein, who is Muslim.

He said the debate about the laws “betray strains of intolerance seemingly alien to Indonesian culture that have made inroads here,” Mr al-Hussein said. “The extremist views playing out in the political arena are deeply worrying, accompanied as they are by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence in various parts of the country, including Aceh.”

The United States has implemented a range of programs that enhanced Indonesia’s counterterrorism capabilities, including equipping special counterterrorism police units, training military officials on effective counterterrorism strategies, and providing maritime security assistance, notes Scott Mastic, vice president for programs at the International Republican Institute, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy. These programs have helped to curb the threat of Islamic extremism in Indonesia and are an excellent example of how foreign assistance can directly further America’s national security interests, he writes for The Hill:

Underpinning this kinetic assistance is a related effort to strengthen Indonesia’s democratic governance to better combat these challenges and prevent the rise of extremism. Effective assistance on this front starts from the ground up, by helping local governments to craft policies and deliver services that respond to the needs of citizens. This creates the conditions in which citizens can thrive, and reduces the opportunities for extremists to foment hatred and recruit vulnerable populations to their cause.

Asia’s two largest emerging democracies, India and Indonesia, suffered significant declines in their scores and fell down the rankings in our latest assessment, says the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index:

India dropped from 32nd position in 2016 to 42nd in 2017, while Indonesia slid to 68th position from 48th. Democracy in Indonesia suffered a setback following the mayoral polls in Jakarta, the capital, in which the incumbent governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok), who comes from a minority community, was arrested for alleged blasphemy. The rise of conservative religious ideologies also affected India. The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices.


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