Indonesia as an Analogue for Egypt

by Mark Woodward

More than a decade ago hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, most of them young people, came to the streets demanding the end to a dictatorial regime that had lasted for more than three decades. Today we see much the same in Egypt. We see also see the same reaction in Western media, the fear that protests may lead to the rise of an Islamist regime.

There are few signs that this may happen in Egypt just as there were few signs that the so called New Order would lead to an Islamist “take over” in Indonesia. The implication seems clear. When long term and apparently stable dictatorships in majority Muslim countries start to collapse, the western press and governments begin to fear that Islamists will come to power. This is what Islamists hope for.

I was in the streets of Jakarta shortly after the old regime there collapsed. People there were thrilled that the dictatorship was gone. A decade later Indonesia is a flawed but consolidated democracy. We can only hope that a similar transition will occur in Egypt.

Are Islam and democracy possible? Of course they are. It is time that the US wakes up to this and stops fearing that the fall of secular dictatorships necessarily leads to the rise of Islamist dictatorships.