Here Thar Be Monsters!
Read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. Now at Augenguy.com! The original Indonesia Bureau brings you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor Monday thru Friday at 9a WIB (8p CST), from the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet. Be sure to check out Radio Far Side. Send comments_to email@example.com, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all!
Beating Plowshares Into Swords
Apparently, Islam has failed to learn from history. Militant religious crusades do not turn out well in the long run. I suppose, though, like everyone in this world, we need to learn from experience. Failure to control its most radical fringes will only result in marginalization and eventual decline in influence.
On the other side of the argument, Islam is being used by various groups for political ends. Granted, most of the cannon fodder being thrown around are seriously deluded and uneducated people who are easily steered, but the people pulling their strings and radicalizing those mindless robots are cynical forces trying to effect political upsets using religious zeal as a weapon.
Take, for instance, the Jakarta riots earlier this month, and threatened again for later this week.
Former Jakarta governor and now Indonesian president Joko (Jokowi) Widodo came to Jakarta as a Trump-like populist reformer. He brought with him long-time ally and deputy governor Basuku Tjahaja (Ahok) Purnama, who became governor of Jakarta when Jokowi was elected president.
Both Jokowi and Ahok have reputations for being tough on corruption and strong on reform. Their administrations have been known for enforcing laws that were previously passed just to assuage various factions and interests, but which were ignored with a couple of well-placed payments. This has not made a lot of friends in government circles, since bureaucrats here have made small fortunes from graft and kickbacks over the decades. Jokowi also beat a figure named Prabowo, who in many ways is similar to Hillary Clinton, in that he has been a background power-broker and political force who thought he, too, deserved the presidency for his years of service.
This potent brew of interests has been seething just outside the spotlight for the past few years, particularly since Ahok is the first Christian and ethnic Chinese to hold such high office in Indonesia. Powerful offices here have been primarily the domain of Javanese Muslims since the founding of the country.
The icing on the cake is that Jokowi has initiated a number of major infrastructure projects that in times past would have been gold mines of graft, corruption and kickbacks, but which are now being managed by foreign corporations who are focused on completing the projects on-time and on-budget - something unheard of here. This has upset the so-called "mafia" here, who aren't getting their usual cuts of anything and everything that goes on in Indonesia.
One of the major power-brokers here is former president Susilo Bambang (SBY) Yudhoyono. SBY is former general and a mover-shaker type. He has fingers in a lot of pies and has been accused of running a significant part of the drug trade in Indonesia through his son. Under the Jokowi administration, SBY's interests have been threatened, as the old ways of "doing business" in Indonesia are slowly eroding in the reformist era. SBY, of course, supported Probowo for president, as it would have perpetuated the 'business as usual' system.
Starting to sound familiar yet? Prabowo also refused to accept the election results, since he was quite sure his network of vote fraud assured him the office. Really starting to sound familiar, right?
At any rate, Ahok is a lynch-pin in Jokowi's power base. They basically have each other's backs as they both try to reform the two most powerful governments in the country. Because Ahok is Chinese-Christian, he is an easy target, owing to the fact that the ethnic Chinese are a generally despised group in Indonesia, and because the most powerful offices in government are (by tradition) reserved for Muslims, and specifically for Javanese Muslims. Ahok is also outspoken and does not mince words. In many respects, he is the personality of Trump, while Jokowi is the actions of Trump.
So, a while back Ahok made a comment about being attacked by factions that were quoting the Quran out of context. To further the insult, his words were quoted out of context (according to a police investigation), which opened the door to those who want to undermine Jokowi's administration, and need to get rid of Ahok to do it.
These factions immediately accused Ahok of "blasphemy," a crime in Indonesia, but only enforced against those who speak against Islam. The other four constitutionally-protected religions are pretty much fair game, as far as the Muslim-dominated government agencies are concerned.
According to most sensible people here, SBY saw the opportunity to impeach Ahok, undermine Jokowi, and set up his son for the presidency in 2020. Further according to these reports, SBY, Prabowo and their allies put up IDR200 billion rupiah (roughly US$14 million) to stage a mass demonstration against Ahok in early November. That demonstration, as we reported at the time, devolved into riots by sundown, leading to mobs surrounding Ahok's neighborhood and being turned away with tear gas and water cannons.
Not satisfied with the lack of effect, the same group has now put up IDR500 billion rupiah (~US$36 million) for another mass demonstration on Friday, 2 December. All this money is used to fly in demonstrators from around the country, most of whom don't even know who Ahok is, feed them and pay them to participate - though after the demonstration they are just abandoned on the streets, their purpose served. It should be noted that Ahok supplied buses to take the demonstrators home after the earlier protest.
The demonstrations are demanding that Ahok be arrested and jailed, pending trial for "blasphemy." This is despite the fact that recordings were found by the police investigation showing that Ahok was completely misquoted and that the misquote has been used for nefarious purposes.
What all this boils down to is that religion is being used as a weapon. Ahok's Christianity is being used to denigrate him, and Islam is being used to falsely accuse a man and destroy him for political purposes. And the 'religion' of politics is a nasty business that has no place in civil society.
This is not the only example. In India, immigration laws are being selectively enforced to get rid of Muslims. In Europe, there is a toxic brew of culture clash caused by unassimilating Muslims. In the US, just today, a Somali Muslim went on a rampage in Ohio, ostensibly because the university didn't have enough musholla, or prayer rooms.
It is obvious that Islam is being used, not just by outsiders, but by insiders, as a weapon for any number of reasons. This kind of behavior will not lead to greater acceptance, but rather to a massive and violent backlash. History is replete with examples of militant religions being squashed, and the results have rarely been pretty.
Most people have no problem with an individual worshipping whomever, whatever and however they desire, but when that religious zeal becomes militant and starts killing people, they will eventually fight back with equal or greater force. One need only look at the Roman suppression of Judaism or the Catholic Reformation, and in many ways, even the American, French, Bolshevik and Indonesian Revolutions.
History further shows us that the most successful governments have been those that are most tolerant of religious diversity, since oppressed minorities will always rise up when the pain of oppression outweighs the pain of revolution.
No system, regardless of origin, can survive through violence and oppression. Weaponizing systems will only lead to weaponized resistance because human nature defaults to "leave me the hell alone." This is further reinforced by the fact that weaponized systems only benefit a tiny cabal of insiders, and do little to nothing for the general population.
Paid demonstrators are only loyal as long as the food lasts, after that, you're on your own.