Islamic Theology in Indonesia, was infected by USA?

This article from Washington Post. About Islamic Theology that is infected by American?

By Andrew Higgins

In the early 1980s, Nasir Tamara, a young Indonesian scholar, needed
money to fund a study of Islam and politics. He went to the Jakarta
office of the U.S.-based Ford Foundation to ask for help. He left
empty-handed. The United States, he was told, was “not interested in
getting into Islam.”

The rebuff came from President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, a U.S.
anthropologist who lived in Indonesia for more than a decade. Dunham,
who died in 1995, focused on issues of economic development, not matters
of faith and politics, sensitive subjects in a country then ruled by a
secular-minded autocrat.

“It was not fashionable to ‘do Islam’ back then,” Tamara recalled.

Today, Indonesia is a democracy and the role of Islam is one of the most
important issues facing U.S. policy in a country with many more Muslims
than Egypt, Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian
Gulf combined. What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S.
interests across the wider Muslim world.

“This is a fight for ideas, a fight for what kind of future Indonesia
wants,” said Walter North, Jakarta mission chief for the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), who knew Dunham while she was here
in the 1980s.

It is also a fight that raises a tricky question: Should Americans stand
apart from Islam’s internal struggles around the world or jump in and
try to bolster Muslims who are in sync with American views?

A close look at U.S. interactions with Muslim groups in Indonesia —
Obama’s boyhood home for four years — shows how, since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks, rival strategies have played out, often with consequences
very different from what Washington intended.

In the debate over how best to influence the country’s religious
direction, some champion intervention, most notably a private
organization from North Carolina that has waded deep into Indonesia’s
theological struggles. But, in the main, U.S. thinking has moved back
toward what it was in Dunham’s day: stay out of Islam.

A change in public mood

In many ways, Indonesia — a nation of 240 million people scattered
across 17,000 islands — is moving in America’s direction. It has
flirted with Saudi-style dogmatism on its fringes. But while
increasingly pious, it shows few signs of dumping what, since Islam
arrived here in the 14th century, has generally been an eclectic and
flexible brand of the faith.

Terrorism, which many Indonesians previously considered an American-made
myth, now stirs general revulsion. When a key suspect in July suicide
bombings in Jakarta was killed recently in a shootout with a
U.S.-trained police unit, his native village, appalled by his violent
activities, refused to take the body for burial.

A band of Islamic moral vigilantes this month forced a Japanese porn
star to call off a trip to Jakarta. But the group no longer storms bars,
nightclubs and hotels as it did regularly a few years ago, at the
height of a U.S. drive to promote “moderate” Islam. Aceh, a particularly
devout Indonesian region and a big recipient of U.S. aid after a 2004
tsunami, recently introduced a bylaw that mandates the stoning to death
of adulterers, but few expect the penalty to be carried out. Aceh’s
governor, who has an American adviser paid for by USAID, opposes
stoning.

Public fury at the United States over the Iraq war has faded, a trend
accelerated by the departure of President George W. Bush and the
election of Obama. In 2003, the first year of the war, 15 percent of
Indonesians surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a favorable view of
the United States — compared with 75 percent before Bush took office.
America’s favorability rating is now 63 percent.

There are many reasons for the change of mood: an economy that is
growing fast despite the global slump; increasing political stability
rooted in elections that are generally free and fair; moves by President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a U.S.-trained former general who won
reelection by a landslide in July, to co-opt Islamic political parties.

Another reason, said Masdar Mas’udi, a senior cleric at Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia’s — and the world’s — largest Islamic organization, is that
the United States has backed away from overt intrusions into religious
matters. A foe of hard-line Muslims who has worked closely with
Americans, Mas’udi said he now believes that U.S. intervention in
theological quarrels often provides radicals with “a sparring partner”
that strengthens them. These days, instead of tinkering with religious
doctrine, a pet project focuses on providing organic rice seeds to poor
Muslim farmers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington deployed
money and rhetoric in a big push to bolster “moderate” Muslims against
what Bush called the “real and profound ideology” of “Islamo-fascism. ”
Obama, promising a “new beginning between America and Muslims around the
world,” has avoided dividing Muslims into competing theological camps.
He has denounced “violent extremists” but, in a June speech in Cairo,
stated that “Islam is not part of the problem.”

North, the USAID mission chief, said the best way to help “champions of
an enlightened perspective win the day” is to avoid theology and help
Indonesia “address some of the problems here, such as poverty and
corruption.” Trying to groom Muslim leaders America likes, he said,
won’t help.

Rethinking post-9/11 tack

This is a sharp retreat from the approach taken right after the Sept. 11
attacks, when a raft of U.S.-funded programs sought to amplify the
voice of “moderates.” Hundreds of Indonesian clerics went through
U.S.-sponsored courses that taught a reform-minded reading of the Koran.
A handbook for preachers, published with U.S. money, offered tips on
what to preach. One American-funded Muslim group even tried to script
Friday prayer sermons.

Such initiatives mimicked a strategy adopted during the Cold War, when,
to counter communist ideology, the United States funded a host of
cultural, educational and other groups in tune with America’s goals.
Even some of the key actors were the same. The Asia Foundation, founded
with covert U.S. funding in the 1950s to combat communism, took the lead
in battling noxious strands of Islam in Indonesia as part of a
USAID-financed program called Islam and Civil Society. The program began
before the Sept. 11 attacks but ramped up its activities after.

“We wanted to challenge hard-line ideas head-on,” recalled Ulil Abshar
Abdalla, an Indonesian expert in Islamic theology who, with Asia
Foundation funding, set up the Liberal Islam Network in 2001. The
network launched a weekly radio program that questioned literal
interpretations of sacred texts with respect to women, homosexuals and
basic doctrine. It bought airtime on national television for a video
that presented Islam as a faith of “many colors” and distributed
leaflets promoting liberal theology in mosques.

Feted by Americans as a model moderate, Abdalla was flown to Washington
in 2002 to meet officials at the State Department and the Pentagon,
including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the then-deputy secretary of defense and a
former U.S. ambassador to Jakarta. But efforts to transplant Cold War
tactics into the Islamic world started to go very wrong.
More-conservative Muslims never liked what they viewed as American
meddling in theology. Their unease over U.S. motives escalated sharply
with the start of the Iraq war and spread to a wider constituency. Iraq
“destroyed everything,” said Abdalla, who started getting death threats.

Indonesia’s council of clerics, enraged by what it saw as a U.S.
campaign to reshape Islam, issued a fatwa denouncing “secularism,
pluralism and liberalism.”

The Asia Foundation pulled its funding for Abdalla’s network and began
to rethink its strategy. It still works with Muslim groups but avoids
sensitive theological issues, focusing instead on training to monitor
budgets, battle corruption and lobby on behalf of the poor. “The
foundation came to believe that it was more effective for intra-Islamic
debates to take place without the involvement of international
organizations, ” said Robin Bush, head of the foundation’s Jakarta
office.

Abdalla, meanwhile, left Indonesia and moved to Boston to study.

One U.S. group jumps in

While the Asia Foundation and others dived for cover, one American
outfit jumped into the theological fray with gusto. In December 2003, C.
Holland Taylor, a former telecommunications executive from
Winston-Salem, N.C., set up a combative outfit called LibForAll
Foundation to “promote the culture of liberty and tolerance.”

Taylor, who speaks Indonesian, won some big-name supporters, including
Indonesia’s former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a prominent but ailing
cleric, and a popular Indonesian pop star, who released a hit song that
vowed, “No to the warriors of jihad! Yes to the warriors of love.”
Taylor took Wahid to Washington, where they met Wolfowitz, Vice
President Richard B. Cheney and others. He recruited a reform-minded
Koran scholar from Egypt to help promote a “renaissance of Islamic
pluralism, tolerance and critical thinking.”

Funding came from wealthy Americans, including heirs of the Hanes
underwear fortune, and several European organizations. Taylor, in a
recent interview in Jakarta, declined to identify his biggest American
donor. He said he has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for money but
has received only $50,000, a grant from a State Department
counterterrorism unit.

“You can’t win a war with that,” said Taylor, who is working on a
26-part TV documentary that aims to debunk hard-line Islamic doctrine.
“People in Washington would prefer to think that if we do nothing we
will be okay: just cut off the heads of terrorists and everything will
be fine.”

As the atmosphere has grown less hostile, Abdalla, the much-reviled
American favorite, returned this year to Jakarta. He hasn’t changed his
liberal take on Islam but now avoids topics that fire up his foes. “I’ve
changed. The environment has changed,” he said. “We now realize the
radical groups are not as dominant as we thought in the beginning.”

Tired of being branded a fringe American stooge, he plans to run in an
election next year for leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama, a pillar of
Indonesia’s traditional religious establishment. He doesn’t stand much
of a chance but wants to “engage with the mainstream instead of the
periphery.” His Liberal Islam Network doesn’t get U.S. money anymore,
skirts touchy topics on its radio show and no longer hands out leaflets
in mosques.

“Religion is too sensitive. We shouldn’t get involved,” said Kay
Ikranagara, a close American friend of Obama’s late mother who works in
Jakarta for a small USAID-funded scholarship program. Ikranagara worries
about Islam’s growing influence on daily life in the country, but she’s
wary of outsiders who want to press Indonesians on matters of faith.

“We just get in a lot of trouble trying to do that,” she said.

http://www.washingt onpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2009/ 10/24/AR20091024 02279.html

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West Java: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

West Java.: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

http://www.charisma mag.com/index. php/news/ 23489-indonesia- church-wins- legal-battle- to-worship- in-building

Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in
their building in Depok City, West Java.

Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail on March 27 had revoked the building
permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship for Gereja
Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church following protests by
Muslims. A court in Bandung on Sept. 17 rescinded the order that
revoked the church building permit, paving the way for congregants to
resume worship there.

Head Judge A. Syaifullah read the decision of the three-judge panel,
which found the mayor’s reasoning for canceling the building permit
inadequate. The mayor had said that most people living near the church
objected to its building in Jalan Pesanggrahan IV, Cinere Area of
Depok City.

“These objections by the local residents should have been raised when
the building permit was going through the approval process, not
protesting afterwards,” said Syaifullah.

Syaifullah added that the mayor also should have taken the views of
church members into consideration.

“In this case, the revocation of the building permit was based upon
the objections of one group in the community without considering those
from the church,” he said.

Construction of the church building had begun in 1998, shortly after
the permit was issued, but halted soon afterward due to a lack of
funds.
When the project began anew in 2007, members of a Muslim group from
the Cinere Area of Depok City and neighboring villages damaged the
boundary hedge and posted protest banners on the walls of the
building. Most of the protestors were not local residents.

The court determined that lawyers for the church successfully
demonstrated that church leaders had followed all Depok City
procedures for the building permit. Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the
HKBP church building committee, stated that the church court win was a
victory for all Christians.

“We won because we had followed all the procedures and had completed
all the required documents,” she said.

In early June the church had filed suit against the mayor’s action in
a provincial court in Bandung, with church lawyer Junimart Girsang
arguing that the mayor’s revocation of the permit was wrong.

Girsang said that the court had finally sided with justice for all Indonesians.

“The judges made the right decision and had no choice, because all of
the papers for the permit were done properly,” he said.

The church had been meeting in a naval facility located about five
kilometers (nearly three miles) from the church building since the
permit was revoked, causing great inconvenience for church members,
many of whom did not have their own transportation.

In South Sumatra Province, another HKBP church outside the provincial
capital city of Palembang is trying to overcome objections by Muslim
protestors in order to complete construction of its building in Plaju.

Church leaders acknowledge they had not finished the application
process for a permit before beginning construction. They said they
went forward because after they applied to the mayor of Palembang, he
told them to talk with the governor of South Sumatra. After talking
with Gov. Alex Noerdin and securing his approval on Feb. 10, church
leaders began construction on a donated plot of 1,500 square meters
only to face a demonstration by members of several Muslim
organizations on June 27.

The South Sumatra Muslim Forum (FUI Sumsel) organized the
demonstration. Carrying a copy of a mayoral decree dated May 2009
ordering a halt to construction, the protestors gathered outside the
building site, listened to speeches and then destroyed a bridge
leading to it before demanding that the government ban the building
project.

Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in
Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in
private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings
leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups
such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent
years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

———— –

Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Our next door neighbour is booming politically and economically.

  

THIS year, most of the world’s economic growth will take place in China. Much of the rest will be in India. But the third biggest source of global growth will be right next door: Indonesia.

We don’t think of Indonesia as a rising economic power. Its output ranks only 15th in the world (a bit bigger than ours). Its market ranks 18th (a bit smaller than ours). But Indonesia is changing.

Yes, there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta last month, but that was the first in four years. It has just held free elections for president and legislature that gave an emphatic mandate to its modernising moderate leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for a second five-year term. The army no longer rules. The economy is no longer broken. Indonesia, for so long under the heel of dictators, is now what one analyst calls ”the best functioning democracy in South-East Asia”.

A decade ago president B. J. Habibie unexpectedly ended the dictatorship to allow free speech, a free press, independent courts and free elections. While China, Singapore and Malaysia remain in the grip of ruling elites that won’t let power out of their grasp, Indonesia has become a country where people can say what they like without having to check who’s listening.

And as the global financial crisis has flattened most countries, Indonesia has flourished. In this decade, its economy has grown by almost two-thirds. More Indonesians now live in cities than on farms. Per capita incomes have risen almost 25 per cent in five years, almost 50 per cent in a decade. Even on the IMF’s forecasts – seen in Jakarta as unrealistically low – its economy would grow 15 per cent over the three years of this global recession. Only China and India will do better.

Indonesia has no lack of problems. But a month travelling the country has left me with a strong sense that it is moving ahead, that the roots of democracy have grown deep in its decade of freedom, and that its potential importance to us and the world will grow if Yudhoyono’s 10 years as President becomes the bridge between the chaos of old and its emergence as a new world power.

Indonesia never will be a giant on the scale of China and India. Indonesia has 230 million people; they each have well over a billion. But it is moving along very different lines from China. Last year, analysts Andrew MacIntyre and Douglas Ramage published an essay for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute titled provocatively Seeing Indonesia as a normal country. Their thesis was that Indonesia is developing into a middle-income, stable democracy that poses no threat to its neighbours, and solves issues by peaceful, democratic means. At the time I thought their title provocative; a year and two elections later, it looks prescient.

China is much bigger, much mightier. But China is not a normal country. As we have been reminded starkly, it is an authoritarian dictatorship that tries to solve problems by bullying and force: arresting Rio Tinto’s chief in China, trying to bully the Melbourne film festival, and now, according to The Canberra Times, engaging in ”cyber espionage”, with China suspected of having sent Australian diplomats fake emails, designed to give the sender access to DFAT’s computer network.

Indonesia is different. For all the mistaken fears of Australians past and present, it is not a threat to us. In a wise paper for the Lowy Institute, Australia and Indonesia: current problems, future prospects, Professor Jamie Mackie tells how in the turmoil of the 1960s, when the British embassy was burnt to ashes, president Sukarno summoned Australian ambassador Mick Shann to explain why his embassy remained intact. ”You [Australia] are part of our region, and we both have to learn how to live alongside each other.”

And we have. At government level, the relationship is in excellent shape. Indonesia and Australia are working closely on issues from climate change to people smuggling. Indonesia is now the largest destination for Australia’s development aid, receiving almost $500 million a year to build schools, roads and health centres. There are 17 Australian Government departments and agencies with staff working in the Indonesian Government, helping them make government work. (One big success has been the Australian Tax Office helping its Indonesian counterpart make Indonesia’s big companies and rich people pay their taxes.)

People-to-people relationships are improving, if underdeveloped. There are now 15,000 Indonesians studying in Australia. In the year to June, a record 436,000 Australian tourists went to Indonesia, despite the official warning urging them to reconsider.

The commercial relationship, however, could be much bigger. Indonesia still has a widespread hostility to foreign investment, which Yudhoyono’s reforms have not challenged. Yet Australian companies in Indonesia – such as the ANZ, Toll and Thiess – are doing well, and there is the potential for Australia to help modernise Indonesian business as it is helping to modernise government.

Indonesia’s democratic revolution has put down deep roots. Its economic revolution is starting to do the same. Much depends on Yudhoyono’s second term, and how it tackles corruption and reforms to the bureaucracy, the labour market, infrastructure and investment. What will be good for Indonesia will be good for us.

 

Tim Colebatch is economics editor.

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

Moslem in China: The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009
12:36 Mecca time, 09:36 GMT
 
FOCUS: CHINA  
 
Uighurs blame ‘ethnic hatred’
 
 By Dinah Gardner in Beijing  
The Uighur say Beijing’s repression of their culture led to the outburst of violence [EPA]
 

The riots that rocked the city of Urumqi in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are the area’s worst for more than a decade. 

In the 1990s, Uighur insurgent groups staged several deadly bomb attacks across the region; in 2008, attacks on police and government targets in Xinjiang ended with more than two dozen deaths.

What makes these riots different, however, is the high number of causalities. Exile groups say violence erupted after police moved in on Sunday to break up a peaceful demonstration protesting against the killing of two Uighur migrant workers in southern China last month.

Many Uighurs – the Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority of the region – and overseas scholars say the recent violence is rooted in deep-seated and long-standing resentment between the Uighur people and the Han Chinese majority, who account for 92 per cent of the population.

Andrew James Nathan, a political science professor at Columbia University in the US, says deteriorating relations between the Uighur and the Han are to blame for the latest riots.

“I don’t know what triggered this specific event, but the underlying tension that broke out in this as well as previous events reflects the alienation of the Uighur residents from the kind of rule imposed by Beijing, which is insufficiently respectful of their culture, religion, identity, and interests,” he says.

Ethnic tensions persist

From her exile in the US, Kadeer denied any involvement in the unrest in Xinjiang [AFP] 

The government, though, is clear about who is to blame – outside forces, in particular Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the US-based World Uighur Congress (WUC).

“The unrest was a pre-emptive, organised, [and a] violent crime. It was instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country,” a government spokesperson said.

Kadeer, a former political prisoner in China who now runs the WUC as a Uighur rights organisation, rejects the accusations.

“I did not organise any protests or call on the people to demonstrate, ” she says.

A young Uighur man, who has been living in Beijing for the past five years, agreed to an interview on the condition that he remain anonymous, saying he feared repercussions from the authorities.

He says Kadeer and the WUC could not have been behind the violence.

“Ever since I was born until now there has been this problem between Uighur and Han,” he says.

“Han people don’t treat us or our culture with any respect, and the key thing is that there are more and more Han coming to live in Xinjiang. And that means us Uighur people are losing our culture and we have less freedoms.”

Relations are so bad, he says, that Han taxi drivers will not even pick him up on the streets of Urumqi.

Uighur children, he says, are barred from learning their own language in schools – from middle school onward studies are solely in Chinese.

“They don’t allow us to teach our children about Islam in schools. They are not allowed to study religion until they are at least 18.”

“They have taken away our language and our culture. Han people treat us like dirt.”

Outside forces

Tensions had been reaching boiling point in the past week or so after the deaths of the two Uighur migrant workers. They were killed in a fight in a toy factory in Guangdong province following a rumour that six Uighur men had raped two Han Chinese women.

While Chinese media is acknowledging the link between the Urumqi riots and the tragic killings in Guangdong, it is insisting that outside forces used the incident “in the name of revenge” to “sow the seeds of racial and religious hatred in Xinjiang”.

Al Jazeera approached several Chinese scholars for comment on the riots in Xinjiang but they declined to be interviewed, saying they do not have permission to discuss the issue with journalists.

The killings were definitely the spark for this latest violence, says Dru Gladney, a professor of anthropology and Xinjiang specialist at Pomona College in California.

“I think it is connected [with the Guangdong killings] at least that’s what I’ve been told by Uighurs I have spoken to,” Gladney says, adding that this time because the violence took place in Urumqi it is likely the protest is rooted in anger at Han treatment rather than any religious-based fight for independence.

“I think it was significant that it took place in Urumqi because Uighurs there only make up about 10 per cent of the population,” he explains by phone.

“Most protests have historically been outside Urumqi, in rural areas in the south or in Yili in the north … There are more worker solidarity issues [in Urumqi] – a lot of the Uighur intellectuals and more secular nationalist Uighurs are based in urban areas like Urumqi whereas more religious activists are in the countryside and places like Kashgar.”

Blaming insurgent groups

Beijing says the insurgent groups are fighting for independence and may be connected to al-Qaeda, but for the average Uighur, independence seems an unattainable dream.

The young Uighur man in Beijing says his people are powerless and it is useless pursuing notions of independence.

“China has caught and suppressed our culture and religion. They have destroyed our history and our ancient buildings in Kashgar. And now it’s all gone.”

Meanwhile, in Urumqi, the city is under lock-down, according to western media. Curfews have been imposed and mobile phone and Internet links cut, much as authorities crushed anti-government riots in Tibet last year.

Despite the crackdown, the chances are, say scholars, that this is not the end of it.

“Protests in Xinjiang have been increasing slowly for many years and I think the prospect is that they will continue to occur, both this year and in future years,” says Nathan.

Anniversary celebrations

Some analysts hope the level of violence will convince Beijing to heal rifts with the Uighur

The government is particularly on edge this year because of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1.

While officially, the government insists this problem is caused by exile separatists and local “outlaws”, Gladney is hopeful that the scale of the violence will convince Beijing that the solution lies less in an authoritarian approach and more in trying to heal the rifts between the ethnic groups.

“I think some of us are hoping that it may cause them to rethink their strike hard tactics that they’ve used up until now, but certainly not until things settle down,” he says. “Clearly with this level of [violence] it should cause them to really rethink that.”

How do the local people see an eventual solution to the ethnic strife?

The Uighur man strokes his beard and laughs nervously.

“I don’t know how to solve this problem,” he says. “I wish I was in Xinjiang now but I’m not there. I feel helpless.”

 
 Source: Al Jazeera

SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens

From: John M Miller <fbp@igc.org>
Subject: SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens
To: etan@etan.org
Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 9:45 AM
SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens
 
Eben Kirksey, Ph.D., University of California (Santa Cruz)
+1.831.429.8276 or +1.831.600.5937  (English or Bahasa Indonesia)
Paula Makabory, Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (Melbourne)
+61.402.547. 517 (English or Bahasa Indoneisa)

John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (New York)
+1.718.596.7668 (English)
 
1 July, 2009 – Previously secret U.S. State Department documents implicate the President of Indonesia in a probable
cover-up of an ambush in West Papua. The documents show Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is running for reelection on  July 8, maneuvering behind the scenes to manage the  investigation into the August 2002 murder of three teachers—one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens.

“Yudhoyono brought politics into a case that should have  just been about forensic facts,” said Dr. Eben Kirksey, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz  and a regional specialist. “The documents reveal that Yudhoyono initially stalled attempts by the FBI to launch an independent investigation,” he continued. The U.S. Congress, outraged at these stalling tactics, blocked funds for Indonesian military training until there was cooperation with the FBI.

The documents released today add a new twist to a hotly contested Presidential race.

“Yudhoyono is not the only controversial former soldier running in the presidential election,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia  Action Network. “Vice presidential candidates and former generals Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto were involved in well-documented human rights crimes in East Timor and
throughout Indonesia.”
 
When a police investigation implicated Indonesian military shooters as the likely murderers of the schoolteachers,
Yudhoyono became involved. Yudhoyono, a retired General and then the Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, wrote to the Charge D’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta that “I have dispatched a fact finding team led by one of my deputies to Timika and its surrounding (sic), to find additional information and other related facts  especially on a broader political and security aspects of the incident.” Timika, the site of the attack, is in the remote province of Papua, where U.S. mining giant Freeport  McMoRan (FCX) operates a concession.

Yudhoyono’s stalling tactics let the Indonesian military cover their tracks,” said Paula Makabory, a Papuan human rights activist who founded the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights in Australia.  “The ‘fact finders’ under his command systematically intimidated witnesses and tampered with material evidence,” Makabory continued.

Following high-level negotiations with Bush administration officials, who promised Indonesia millions in military aid, Yudhoyono allowed the FBI into his country. “By the time the FBI were granted access the trail was cold,” said Makabory.  “The FBI investigation proceeded within a narrow framework that fit the Bush administration agenda,” said Dr. Kirksey.

The Special Agents found a fall man, while tiptoeing around evidence connecting their man to the Indonesian military,” Kirksey added. Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury for his role in the attack. He was apprehended in 2006 by the FBI and sentenced to life in Indonesian prison. Wamang had extensive ties to the Indonesian military, according to a peer-reviewed article, Criminal Collaborations,” co-authored by Dr. Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian investigative reporter (link below).

The declassified documents disclosed today were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by Dr. Bradley Simpson of the National Security Archive. The State Department found 62 documents relevant to the Timika murders. They released only two of these documents in full and 20 others “with excisions.” The rest were withheld. The FBI did not release any documents, writing: “No records responsive to your FOIA request were located by a search of the automated indices.” The FBI is notorious for not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents reveal evidence of a cover-up,” said Dr. Kirksey. “The fact that many relevant documents were not released is more evidence of the same” 

Selections from these documents are published here in seven distinct sections [links to the PDFs of the documents can be  found here: http://etan. org/news/ 2009/06Timika. htm

 
1) Response by the State Department and the FBI to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

2) Initial Reports About Attackers; Yudhoyono Orders a Quick Response The first State Department reports about the
2002 attack seriously entertained two theories: that the perpetrators were Papuan independence fighters (OPM guerillas) or rogue elements of the Indonesian military. The  documents note that the assault took place on a foggy mountain road near a military checkpoint and an Army Strategic Reserve Forces post. Upon learning of the attack, Yudhoyono ordered a quick response to restore security and to investigate the attack. 

The U.S. Embassy noted in a cable to Washington: ”Many Papuan groups are calling for an independent investigation led by the U.S. Calls for an independent probe are unrealistic, but we believe that Papua’s Police Chief, who enjoys a good reputation with Papuan activists (and U.S.), can conduct a fair investigation.” The Police Chief’s investigation later indicated that the Indonesian military was involved. The FBI subsequently launched a separate probe.

3) Attack Victims Treated in Secrecy at Australian Hospital

The survivors of the assault were airlifted out of Indonesia to a hospital in Townsend, Australia. Here U.S.
diplomats, the FBI, Queensland Police, and the Australian Defense Force kept a tight lid on the situation—preventing the victims from speaking with the press and even from contacting family members for the first two days. See: Tom Hyland, “Lost in the Fog,” The Age, September 28, 2008. http://www.theage. com.au/world/ lost-in-the- fog-20080927- 4pb8.html? page=-1

4) Yudhoyono Assumes Coordinating Role in Investigation

Following police reports of Indonesian military involvement, these documents reveal that Yudhoyono began to play a more active role in managing and influencing the direction of the investigation. Yudhoyono met repeatedly with the FBI field investigators, as well as high-level U.S. diplomats, blocking their initial attempts to gain unmediated access to witnesses and material evidence. This  file includes a letter from Yudhoyono to the Charge D’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy where he outlines a strategy  for managing the broader political and security aspects of the incident.

5) Commander-In- Chief Concerned About Washington Post
Interview  The Washington Post reported in 2002 that senior Indonesian military officers, including armed forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto, had discussed an unspecified operation against Freeport McMoRan before the ambush in Timika.  General Sutarto vehemently denied that he or any other top military officers had discussed any operation targeting  Freeport. He sued The Washington Post for US$1 billion and demanded an apology from the paper. Several months after this lawsuit was settled out of court, The Washington Post asked to interview Sutarto. This document contains notes  from a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador and Commander-in- Chief Sutarto where this interview request was discussed: “Clearly concerned, General Sutarto asked why  the Washington Post wanted to interview him, as well as  TNI’s Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chiefs regarding the Timika  case.”  See: Ellen Nakashima and Alan Sipress “Indonesia Military Allegedly Talked of Targeting Mine,” The Washington Post, November 3, 2002. http://etan. org/et2002c/ november/ 01-09/03mine. htm
6) Most Important Issue in U.S.-Indonesia Bilateral Relationship

The U.S. Ambassador stressed in a June 2003 meeting with Yudhoyono that justice in the Timika killings was “the most important issue in the bilateral relationship.” During this period, FBI agents were given intermittent access to evidence. Yudhoyono continued to play an active role in coordinating the political aspects of the investigation. Taking an unusual personal interest for  someone with a Ministerial level position, Yudhoyono repeatedly met with the FBI case agents the low-ranking U.S. investigators who were deployed to Timika for field investigations.

7) Attorney General Ashcroft Suppressed Evidence

On June 24, 2005, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for the Timika murders. The indictment alleged that Wamang was a  “terrorist” who sought independence from Indonesia. Following this announcement, three respected human rights groups and indigenous organizations charged that the U.S. Government suppressed evidence linking Wamang to the Indonesian military. A peer-reviewed article, titled “Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the  Indonesian Military in Timika,” details the nature of these links. The group called for Wamang to be given a fair trial in the U.S., rather than in notoriously corrupt Indonesian courts. See: Eben Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, “Criminal Collaborations,” South East Asia Research, vol 16, no 2.  http://skyhighway. com/~ebenkirksey /writing/ Kirksey-Harsono_ Timika.pdf

John M. Miller     
Internet: etan@igc.org
National Coordinator East Timor & Indonesia Action Network
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668      Mobile: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller  Web: http://www.etan. org
Twitter: http://twitter. com/etan009
Facebook: http://apps. facebook. com/causes/ 134122?recruiter _id=10193810

The Chinese Indonesians’ dilemma in electing president

Http://www.thejakar tapost.com/ news/2009/ 06/24/the- chinese-indonesi ans’-dilemma- electing- president. html

 

The Chinese Indonesians’ dilemma in electing president

Mario Rustan ,  BANDUNG   |  Wed, 06/24/2009 10:23 AM  |  Opinion

 

In the country’s first direct presidential election in 2004, the majority of Chinese-Indonesians knew who to choose for the president — the incumbent Megawati Soekarnoputri, because they wanted to thank for her great attention to this ethnic group. This year, however situation is totally different. Many of them are still undecided, like many other Indonesians.

A group of people share the same ethnicity, but there are still thousands of differences in political perspectives because of class, interests, knowledge, personal circumstance, religion, and others. The Chinese-Indonesians , on the other hand, like every other ethnic group in Indonesia share general attitude and behavior in politics.    

This article tries to give a sketch on how Chinese-Indonesians perceive the presidential candidates, and why.

Chinese-Indonesians experienced cultural and identity renaissance under the presidency of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid (1999-2001) and Megawati administrations (2001-2004). Often scorned and viewed negatively throughout Soeharto’s 32-year ruling and with its peak during the May 1998 riots, all of a sudden they felt appreciated and admitted, and were starting to explore and express their ethnicity.

The Pacific Rim, at the same time, was experiencing a boom of East Asian fashion, food, entertainment, and culture. Those commodities also flourished in Indonesia and were also enjoyed by non-Chinese Indonesians.     

At the same time, the specter of Islamist terrorism haunted Indonesia, while inter-religious conflict was taking place in Maluku and Central Sulawesi. Several Muslim vigilantes groups attacked Christian schools and places of worship. The post-9/11 atmosphere convinced many Chinese Christians that there was indeed a war taking place between Islam and Christianity.

The 2004 presidential election, therefore, became a dire situation. Megawati was seen as the only secular candidate that could promise security for the Chinese and other minorities. When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) was gaining popularity and becoming a new favorite, stories emerged that he was supported by Islamic parties hardliner groups. The fear was strengthened when the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) supported SBY.    

Jusuf Kalla, SBY’s chosen vice president candidate, was pictured as a racist and an Islamist.

Therefore Megawati became the obvious choice, although a handful of Chinese also voted for SBY because of his image as an intellectual, modern, and Westernized firm leader.

Not long after Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won the presidency, Jusuf Kalla allegedly launched a negative statement concerning the Chinese Indonesians. Largely unknown in Indonesia, his comment for a while created an uproar among Asian-American activists.    

Under SBY’s administration, Indonesia was saturated with bad news of disasters, incompetency, and scandals. Poverty was rising, the parliament adopted Islamist-driven bills, and Chinese-Indonesians adopted a low-profile attitude again.    

Although Yudhoyono might be not a proponent of it, since his administration, assertive nationalism has become popular in Indonesia, as it is in several other countries like Russia, China, and Iran. Media, politicians, and public figures express contempt toward foreigners and foreign countries.

Chinese-Indonesians are not specifically targeted, and some even joining in when the perceived enemies are shared, such as America or Malaysia. But although Chinese-Indonesians hardly admit it, the nationalists openly condemn institutes closely related with Chinese-Indonesian lifestyles, such as malls, foreign franchises, and upmarket apartments and private schools.
 
Economic nationalism has become the biggest issue in this election. One of Kalla’s catchphrase is “being a mandiri (independent) nation”, which can be interpreted as self-sufficient, independent, and mature. His point, however, that Indonesia should limit foreign trade and should dare to say “no” to foreigners.

Megawati’s running mate, Prabowo, had been a populist from the start, condemning apartments, malls, and foreign trade on his party’s advertisements. Megawati and Kalla accused the SBY ticket as “neoliberalist” , in contrast to their “people’s economy”. On a lower pitch, Kalla and Wiranto portrayed their wives as devout Muslim women, and rumors appeared on the Internet that Boediono’s wife is actually a Catholic.

These issues, however, don’t turn many Chinese Indonesians to Yudhoyono. In public, many Chinese-Indonesians feel it’s safe (and even cool) to repeat what they have heard from the media, and the media often try to look critical and brave in criticizing the president.

On the other hand, Megawati is still popular as a secular leader, and Prabowo is the hardest-working candidate when it comes to approaching Chinese community leaders. The trick somehow worked since first, he isn’t identified as an Islamist and he could convince people that he is Chinese-friendly, although numerous worldwide news reports and academic papers link him to the May 1998 riots.

Jusuf Kalla is also active in approaching the Chinese community leaders, and even has won the endorsement of prominent figure Sofyan Wanandi, who insists that Kalla isn’t a racist.    

It is true that Yudhoyono would still be popular for many Chinese who don’t know and don’t care much for politics, but only wishing for security, safety, and order. But some of his lesser maneuvers did not really help his image. He also attempted some gestures which could be seen as appeasement to the Islamists, such as promising to rejuvenate the Islamic scout or quickly approving the Iranian election result.

This newspaper stated that there are only 1.5 million eligible Chinese voters out of 170 millions. That’s not even one percent. More than half of them live in Greater Jakarta, leaving less than one million thinly spread all across Indonesia.

In numbers, they are very insignificant and their votes are actually quite expendable. But in economics, international relations, and social affairs, they are indispensable.  

The writer graduated with honors from La Trobe University, Australia.