Showdown With Islamic Militants (in Indonesia)
May 20, 2008: Islamic radicals continue pushing the government to drop the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, and legalize persecution of any religion considered an “insult to Islam.” Recent attacks on the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect, which has 200,000 members in Indonesia, are used as a cause for the agitation. The sect has been active in Indonesia for about 80 years, and is one of dozens of varieties of Islam practiced here. But the other sects are just adaptations of pre-Islamic religious practices to Islam. These also offend Islamic conservatives, but are more difficult to get banned.
Islamic radicals demand that the government declare Ahmadiyah illegal. Ahmadiyah was founded in Pakistan over a century ago, and is banned there. The government banned Ahmadiyah, but now has to reconsider because of the constitutional issues, and the fears of the 20 percent of Indonesians who are not Moslem, and the majority of Indonesian Moslems who practice versions of Islam that would not pass muster with Islamic conservatives. The government was heavily criticized at home and abroad for the Ahmadiyah banning, especially with the recent burnings of Ahmadiyah mosques. The Islamic radicals are using the Ahmadiyah issue as a rallying point, and threaten widespread violence is the government does not enforce the ban. The government, which has tried hard to avoid offending the Islamic conservatives, now must reconsider that policy, as it is being backed into a corner by Islamic radicals.
May 18, 2008: East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, signed a military agreement with seven other Portuguese speaking country to receive military training. After six years of independence, East Timor is a political and economic wreck, with no place to go but up. Or so the locals hope.
May 6, 2008: Another top Islamic terrorist, Faiz Fauzan, was arrested. He was involved in Jemaah Islamiya bombings three years ago. The local backlash against Islamic terrorism has shattered Jemaah Islamiya, leaving most of its key members more concerned with avoiding arrest, than in planning more attacks. Most top Jemaah Islamiya people appear to have fled the country, seeking refuge in Malaysia, the Philippines, the Persian Gulf, and even Pakistan.
May 5, 2008: In West Timor, Indonesian police arrested four East Timor rebel soldiers, and sent them back to East Timor in handcuffs. The four were involved in the recent attempt to kill the president of East Timor.
May 2, 2008: Violence flared up in the Malukus, where two churches and over a hundred homes were burnt as Christians and Moslems fought in a land dispute. Several hundred police showed up and separated the armed men from the two villages. Such land disputes are common in this part of the world, but add in religion and things get really violent. This incident ended up with three dead and several dozen wounded.