Date: 03-19-2003

Indonesia Could 'Capsulize' Feelings of Muslims Around World

HONOLULU (March 19) -- Indonesia could well "capsulize" how Muslims around the world will react to the U.S. war against Iraq, analysts at the East-West Center said.

"The moderates will become radicals, and the radicals will become more radical," said Muhamad Ali, a lecturer at the State Islamic University in Jakarta and a graduate student at the East-West Center.

Ali said that although Indonesians consider Saddam Hussein a "bad" person, "people are worried about Iraqi citizens. The fear about Iraqis dying in the war is worse than the suffering under Saddam. America becomes the real terrorist. Indonesians feel solidarity with Iraqi Muslims. It becomes a cultural attack against Iraqi people. This cultural gap will take a long time to recover."

Richard Baker, a specialist on Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, said some of the TV footage that will likely dominate after the war starts will be reaction in other countries to the U.S. attack, like "riots in Indonesia and people attacking McDonald's.

"The most important stories are not what happens in Iraq but all the related stories downstream. Indonesia could be a capsule of that."

Baker warned that the Indonesian government might not be strong enough to control war-related violence, protests and a growth of radicalism in Indonesia, considered a moderate Muslim nation.

Arun Swamy, a South Asia expert, said developments in Pakistan could be similar to Indonesia. Pakistan, which declined to support the United States in the U.N. Security Council, does not have close ties with Iraq. But it does have two provinces governed by Islamic parties and a lot of terrorists in hiding.

India has consistently opposed the war in Iraq, Swamy said. "India doesn't wish to be seen as towing the U.S. line." It also has close historic ties with Iraq, which was once one of India's main oil suppliers. On the other hand, India has been soft-pedaling its opposition in order to avoid jeopardizing its new improved ties with the United States.

For India as well as many countries in the region, the U.S. action against Iraq sets a worrisome precedent "that could one day be used against them."

Muhamad Ali can be reached at or (808) 944-7983.

Richard Baker can be reached at or (808) 944-7371 and cell phone (808) 291-5418.

Arun Swamy can be reached at or (808) 944-7542 or cell (808) 372-4295.
This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center