Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A potential problem

A potential problem
Survey shows 10% Indonesians justify suicide bombing, 40% want sharia laws.
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Post.
Mar 18, 2006

Islamic conservatism is a growing force to be reckoned with across the country, with research indicating about 40 percent of citizens would support the replacement of state laws with sharia and one in 10 consider suicide bombings justified in some circumstances.

A survey conducted in late January by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) found 40 percent of respondents approved of adulterers being stoned to death, 34 percent did not want to see another female president and 40 percent accepted polygamy.

On a thief's hands being chopped off, 38 percent of respondents said the punishment fitted the crime.

The survey involved 2,000 respondents from different backgrounds nationwide.

In presenting the survey results on Thursday, a senior researcher at the LSI, Anis Baswedan, said it was clear that certain Muslim groups had already embraced sharia as a value system as evidenced by their support for conservative organisations, such as the Islam Defenders Front and the Indonesian Mujahidin Council.

On the whole, respondents were less acquainted with right- and left-wing extremist groups, such as the Eden sect, the Liberal Islam Network, Syiah, Hisbut Tahrir and Ahmadiyah.

Anis said, however, that despite the obvious support for conservative organisations, the majority of Muslims did not want to see the existing election system replaced, as was indicated by the results of the 2004 general election.

Muslim-based parties advocating the adoption of sharia did not fare well in the legislative election.

Likewise, the presidential candidates nominated by them did not get the support they were counting on from mainstream Muslim groups.

Yet, the majority of respondents saw eye to eye with the country's largest Muslim organisations -- Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

On the other hand, the survey also revealed that one in 10 people tolerate suicide bombing and other attacks on civilian targets in the name of Islam.

Anis said the strong support for conservatism and "radicalism" had much to do with what respondents called the negative influence of Western culture and the global injustice blamed on the US as a superpower representing the West.

Sixty two percent of respondents were of the opinion that Western influences had brought no good to Indonesian Muslims and between 22 and 49 percent held the US responsible for global injustice.

Amin Abdullah, rector of Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, said he was not surprised by the survey results as conservatism had long flourished in the country but, despite strong conservatism, Muslims did not want to replace the existing state ideology with an Islamic one.

"The majority of Muslims have been moderate and accepted pluralism because Indonesia - as the most populous Muslim nation - lies far from the centre of Islam, the Middle East, and this has made Islam in Indonesia rather different from that in Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said, adding that conservatism here had gotten stronger on the eve of the reform era in 1998.

Imam Prasodjo, a sociologist of the University of Indonesia, disagreed with the parameters the survey used to measure radicalism, saying they were relative.

"Women oppose polygamy, all communities dislike mixed marriages and all human beings are against terror acts," he said.

The two agreed that, despite the strong grip of conservatism, the "silent majority" supported the two largest Muslim organizations, which see themselves as tolerant of modern ways of thinking

Oh my, this is quite worrying especially for the SEA countries.

Looks like the US will have to work very hard to improve its image with the Muslims to pare the growing radicalism of Islam in Indonesia.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

'Singapore should speak out'

'Singapore should speak out'
It would be a mutual loss if other businesses would also be hurt, Thai academic.
The Nation.
Mar 11, 2006

Local economists on March 8 urged the Singaporean government and Temasek Holdings to break their silence before the simmering anti-Singaporean sentiment gets out of proportion, The Nation reports.

Sompop Manarungsan, an economics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, suggested that the Singaporean government and state-owned Temasek Holdings should end their silence over the controversial sale of Shin Corp to Temasek, the deal that sparked the current political turmoil.

Temasek has to provide more information to the Thai public about its investment intentions in Thailand and its broader business strategy.

He said Temasek should also to make clear the Singaporean government's role in Temasek Holdings.

"The Thai public has questions about the transparency of Temasek and the Singaporean government," Sompop said.

He warned that public resentment against the Shin Corp deal could lead to a boycott of Singapore's interests beyond the Shin Corp empire.

"It would be a great loss if other businesses - in which both sides mutually gain - would also be hurt," said Sompop.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said Temasek should consider selling off sensitive businesses such as iTV and other enterprises that use Thailand's limited resources New buyers have to be accepted by Thais, he suggested.

Somkiat agreed with protestors who are threatening to boycott products and services of Singaporean businesses to express their disapproval of the Shin Corp deal.

Aat Pisanwanich, economist at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Thais felt that Singapore was using its financial clout to take advantage of the weaker Thais.

"A threat of boycott could be real and it will hurt AIS, the operator of largest mobile phone system [in the country] and part of the Shin Corp empire.

"A large numbers of academics and students in Bangkok who have joined the rally against caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra are currently customers of AIS," said Aat.

Moreover, the campaign against Thaksin will not end soon, and therefore Temasek faces higher risk, he said. Aat surmised that Temasek wanted to pull out of the deal.

An investment analyst from a research institution in Singapore told The Nation:-

"I am also worried about the impact this might have on bilateral relations going forward. Even after the saga ends, there may be some negative attitudes towards Singapore . . I hope that bilateral relations will withstand this unpleasant period."

Senator Kraisak Choonhavan predicted that Temasek Holdings might find it difficult to unload two problematic subsidiaries - Shin Satellite Plc and iTV Plc - because the two are not a good buy.

Many Thais have expressed concerns over the sale of the two companies that are deemed part of the national security.

Kraisak said at a meeting with foreign chambers of commerce that eventually Temasek would have to sell the two companies because under the foreign business law, foreigners are not allowed to hold a major stake in them.

For instance, foreigners can own only up to 20 per cent in a broadcasting business, which will directly affect Temasek's acquisition of iTV.

"The only legal sale in this deal is Advanced Info Service Plc," he said.

However, the other two companies are not a "profitable buy" because of their financial burdens. For instance, iTV still has an overdue concession fee of Bt450 million on its books.

The People's Alliance for Democracy has threatened to launch a campaign against Singapore on March 9 if it does not drop the Shin Corp deal.

Meanwhile, Lim Hwee Hun, Singapore's minister of state for finance and transport, on Tuesday met with Finance Minister Thanong Bidaya, who refused to say if they had discussed the Shin Corp-Temasek deal.

Now not only Singaporeans are asking Temasek to be transparent! And if I don't remember wrongly, South Korea had also called for GIC to be transparent last year.