Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Glass 90% empty or 10% full?

The Indonesian Survey Institute has released a study that provides the fodder news media and hysterical types need to get attention. The kind of attention that just seems to fan the flames.

The Murdoch Australian paper ran the story with the headline, "One in five back JI: survey". Not wanting to be accused of hyperbole, it backed off that one-in-five figure to say, in its lead line, "Almost 20 per cent of Indonesian Muslims support Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qa'ida-linked militant group blamed for the Bali bombings." It finally reports the facts, saying, "A survey carried out by the Jakarta-based Indonesian Survey Foundation revealed that 17.4 per cent of Indonesian Muslims agreed with JI fighting to implement Islamic sharia law in the country". Read carefully, it says a minority but significantly large one supports sharia law. Not unexpected, really, in the largest muslim populated country in the world.

Narrowing down the findings a bit more, the International Herald Tribune headlines, "Poll shows 9 percent of Indonesians support violence to defend Islam", but even qualifies that statement with its lead line, "About 9 percent of Indonesians support the use of violent attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 civilians if the attacks are aimed at defending Islam, a recent poll indicated."

You'd be hard pressed to suspect the real gist of the story from the headlines, but the IHT admits, almost as an aside given the rest of its coverage, "At the same time, the survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute released Sunday, found more than 80 percent of the Indonesian population strongly condemned violent tactics used by al-Qaida and affiliated Indonesian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah to establish a separate Islamic state, and favored peaceful democracy."

Even an Indonesian news source found the survey results to be alarming. TempoInteractive online carried the story headline, "Radical Islam Still Dangerous", probably to drive home to the 91% of Indonesians who do not support violent muslim actions that they collectively have a problem to reckon with:
The indication of the existence of radical Islam is shown in the poll of 1,092 Muslims throughout Indonesia.
As many as 8.4 percent (out of 100 percent) stated that democracy contradicts Islam.

Three and a half percent stated that Pancasila (the Indonesia way of life) and the 1945 Constitution contradict Islam.

According to Saiful Mujani, LSI's Executive Director, the number of radical Islam followers is not significant in the interests of the general election.

“But the number is quite significant for a social movement,” he said yesterday (15/10).

Separately, the government has asked religious followers in Indonesia to fight radicalism.

Michelle Malkin took advantage of the survey to prove she knows her way around a calculator, but not much else:
"Now, some quick math:

220 million Indonesians.

85 percent of them Muslim.

1 in 10 of those Muslims support suicide bombings

So, that's 19 million Muslims for violent jihad in "moderate" Indonesia alone."
She then goes on to reference a Washington Post editorial, a Times of London poll, and a Pew survey (that actually shows - if she looked at her data -the Indonesian support for violence against civilians in defence of islam has impressively dropped from 27% in 2002 to 15% in 2005) to make the impression that there are massive hoardes of Indonesians and muslims taking up violent jihad against the West. Her ilk thrives in the realm of fear and alarm.

Others have a more informed assesment. Counterterrorism Blog headlines its report, "New Polling Data in Indonesia Shows "Significant" Support for Terrorists". It's sober assessment is:
What is most troubling is not that JI is still around or able to perpetrate attacks, but that they have an uncomfortable amount of support in society. These numbers are also discouraging because of some positive improvements in public opinions about violence in 2005.

The Pew Center for People and the Press’ polling data also sheds some light on this issue. In their 2005 poll, support for violent jihad had fallen from 27 percent in August to 15 percent, while those who said violence can never be justified grew from 54 percent to 66 percent. These numbers appear to be rising again.

But the Pew survey had one fascinating number that few analysts have latched onto: the number of Indonesians who believed their religion is “under attack” grew from 15 percent to over 80 percent. This is the key figure. Dr. Christine Fair and Hussain Haqqani have done the regression analysis of the pew data and found that the single greatest indicator as to why people support suicide terrorism is the degree to which people believe their religion is under attack.

In the past few years, the Indonesia Survey Institute, has tried to assuage concerns that Islamists are gaining a foothold. Previous surveys have put support for Islamists at 15%.

Other survey work that is touted by Indonesian-ists suggests that high rates of support for sharia are really qualified and not as strong as they actually appear. Yet the support for Islamists is clearly growing.

The Indonesia Survey Institute concluded by saying the percentage of such support "is very significant": ''For support of extreme actions like in the Bali bombings, 9 per cent is not insignificant. It's very significant.”
Australia's ABC radio carried the following report, inspired by the same survey:
LEIGH SALES: The vast majority of Indonesians are moderate Muslims.

After the Bali terrorist attacks, the Indonesian police, with help from Australian colleagues did huge damage to JI arresting around four hundred members. That coincided with an increase in public opposition to Islamic extremism.

In its 2005 survey of global attitudes the Pew Research Centre for People and the Press found a 10 per cent increase in the number of Indonesians who said violence could never be justified.

But despite that, there has always been a solid extremist fringe in Indonesia.

Dr Rodd McGibbon is an Indonesia expert who works with the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the ANU.

ROD MCGIBBON: Political Islam and the demand for an Islamic state go back over 50 years to the formation of the Indonesian state. There’s nothing new here and so when you look at some of these trends in the longer term they don’t really indicate a sudden rise in political Islam or in extremist Islam.

I think what we have is a very small fringe still that have obviously still adopted certain political strategies here in the form of terrorism. That’s what’s new about the current environment.

The Jakarta Post sees the story from the perspective of the average Indonesian:
Gloomy outlook for Islamist parties

The future of political Islam remains bleak in Indonesia, with fewer than one in 10 Muslims saying they would still vote for Islamic parties in the next election, a survey revealed Sunday.

But the polling conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) shows religious radicalism and extremism remain strong in the nation with the world's largest Muslim population.

The survey showed that 43 percent of Muslims here preferred to support secular parties, such as Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Democrat Party rather than Islamic parties such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Only 5 percent said they were "close" to Islamic parties.

The survey, which was conducted across the country from September to mid-October, concluded that the political leanings of Indonesian Muslims are basically liberal and pluralistic.

Most respondents also believed that democracy was compatible with Islam and the state ideology of Pancasila.

The poll revealed that 82 percent of the respondents believed in democracy and only 5 percent disagreed with the concept.

"Mainstream Muslims here think that the public sphere should not be regulated by Islamic sharia," said LSI executive director Saiful Mujani.

Political analyst and Muslim scholar Bachtiar Effendy said Islamic parties would never see real success. "They are often too busy with their own issues, such as an Islamic state and sharia," Bachtiar said, adding that the issues had been brought up in academic discourse since the 1960s.

"Nothing is new in LSI's findings. Islamic parties have never won elections," he said, also citing the work of noted American anthropologist Clifford Geertz.

Despite the apparent weakness of political Islam, the poll found that religious radicalism and extremism quietly have a strong grip on Indonesia.

The survey found significant numbers of Indonesian Muslims agreed with the violent approach used by the Al-Qaeda-linked regional terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah, which has been fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

According to the survey, 9 percent felt the Bali bombings were justified as a form of "jihad to defend Islam". Another 80.7 percent explicitly condemned the Bali attacks.

"Nine percent is certainly a significant figure to represent people supporting such extreme acts as the Bali attacks," Saiful noted.

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