Indonesia: Islamic Vigilantes Fall On Hard Times


March 20, 2007: Islamic vigilante groups like FPI (Front Pembela Islam), which use violence to force people to behave in a proper Islamic way, are increasingly confronted by police. For example, in the last few weeks, FPI, and similar groups, have been trying to close a Christian seminary in the capital. Earlier in the month, 200 Islamic vigilantes surrounded the seminary, destroyed some smaller buildings, and were halted only by the arrival of several hundred police. Now the Islamic vigilantes are having second thoughts. A head-to-head confrontation with the police could be disastrous. For a long time, the police avoided cracking down on the Islamic vigilantes. But popular opinion has turned against Islamic radicalism. These guys are now seen as all pain, no gain. The police are looking for an opportunity to take down outfits like FPI. March 19, 2007: Leaders of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the Indonesian wing of al Qaeda, admit the organization has run out of popular support, and is condemning terror attacks. But the Islamic radicals warn that many smaller groups, who take orders from no one, use information obtained on the Internet to plan attacks. The JI attacks over the past few years, killed many Moslems. Thus, just like in Iraq and Afghanistan, public opinion of the Islamic terrorists sank sharply.

March 13, 2007: The government is installing an Internet monitoring system that will track where people are when they log on to the Internet, and which sites they visit. Over ten percent of the population uses the Internet, and that number is growing rapidly.

March 12, 2007: East Timor is still being ravaged by gang violence. The gangs are partly criminal, an opportunity for unemployed men to make a buck, but are also political. The country is still divided into "east" and "west" factions. UN peacekeepers have been unable to eliminate this aspect of Timorese culture, and the gang violence is preventing economic growth or, for many people, a return to normal life. About ten percent of the population is still in refugee camps, unable to return to their neighborhoods and villages because of the gang threat. The unemployment rate is over 50 percent, and most of the population avoids starvation only because of international food aid programs.


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