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.