Indonesia a Different Kind of Muslim Nation
Honorine, Solenn, Newsweek
Byline: Solenn Honorine
When Barack Obama arrives in Indonesia later this month, he'll find a country very different from the one he lived in as a boy. When he moved there at age 6, in 1967, Indonesia's economy was sliding toward bankruptcy, strongman Suharto had just started his 32-year-long iron-fisted reign, and millions of people embraced an inclusive type of Islam tinted with animism. Today Indonesia is a thriving democracy, an emerging economic -powerhouse--and far more rigorously Muslim in character.
This is a new chapter in Indonesia's history. For decades the Suharto regime worked to depoliticize religion and make it secondary to national identity. But during the turbulence of the late 1990s, when Indonesia was buffeted by a sudden transition to democracy and the devastating Asian economic crisis, many predicted a turn toward fundamentalism. Sure enough, in the 2000s, about 50 of Indonesia's 450 districts and municipalities passed Sha-ria-inspired local regulations, including a curfew for women traveling alone. As devoutness increased--some 80 percent of Indonesia's 200 million Muslims pray five times a day, compared with just 59 percent in Egypt--Islamic political and social movements emerged as well. One of them, Hizb ut Tahrir, aims to unite all Muslims into a worldwide caliphate. Fifteen years ago its weekly publication, Al Islam, had a print run of 500 copies; today it reaches 1. …