Terrorism in Southeast Asia and Its Implications for Investment; (Speech of Ambassador ALFONSO YUCHENGCO at the Asia Society of Northern California, San Francisco, California, Nov. 19, 2004.)

Article excerpt

IAM pleased and honored to be asked to speak to you on terrorism in Southeast Asia and its implications for development and investment in the region. Let me begin by thanking Jack Wadsworth, Dr. Pickering, and all of you in the Asia Society of Northern California for your courtesies.

Our world has become truly interconnected but in a way few of us had foreseen before 9/11.

Mega-terrorism is proving to be the dark side of globalization and it has raised unprecedented threats for all our countries.

Yet we need not yield to pessimism since the terrorist threat has also brought the Pacific Basin states together. And we are correct in believing our security to be indivisible since every state is threatened by anarchic forces the world system.

So that, while China and America may wrestle over unresolved trade differences, they have never been as close politically and diplomatically as they are now.

And even if as President George W. Bush says terrorism as a strate weapon of fanatic non-state groupings cannot be defeated so easily, we together can create the conditions that would make "terror as a tool less acceptable in parts of the world."

II. Islam in Southeast Asia

Until the bombings in Bali, political authorities in Southeast Asia had tended to discount the reality of the Islamist threat because its kinds of Islam had seemed more moderate than the Arab variety.

Not conquering armies but Sufi traders and missionaries brought Islam to Southeast Asia beginning in the twelfth century.

Sufis are quietist Muslims who believe that, through meditation and self-discipline, they could attain a direct personal experience of God. Their magical and mystical version of Islam adapted easily to both Hinduism and Buddhism as well as to an even older, indigenous animism then being practiced by the Southeast Asian peoples.

Since then, of course, "globalization" has sharpened tensions between tradition and modernization in plural societies like those of Southeast Asia stirring up resentments among those groups development has left behind.

"Cultural" globalization, in particular, has hit some poor countries harder than even economic globalization has done.

Even in underdeveloped economies that have experienced only limited growth in foreign trade, secularist customs and values from the West borne by the global media are fast-spreading, particularly among young people.

These "pagan" influences Islamists trace most directly from the United States.

By and large, Christianity has adapted to these "irreligious" influences better than Islam has done although Church leaders also decry the tacit atheism of modern-day Western society.

Ideological influences from the Middle East

In recent years, ideological influences from the Middle East as well as from India-Pakistan have intensified this perception among Southeast Asian believers that impious and corrupting outside influences endanger the world of Islam.

Over this last half-century, as we know, the Middle East has also been agitated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the Russian intervention in Afghanistan the Iranian Revolution and the successive American campaigns against Saddam Hussein.

Not only did the "holy war" against the Soviet Union arouse religious nationalism throughout the Muslim world. It also gave thousands of Islamist militants from all over the globe experience of technological guerrilla war and training in terrorist methods.

Hundreds of "holy wariours" (mujahidin) from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam returned triumphantly from Afghanistan, to lead Islamist para-military and terrorist groupings in their home-countries. …