This week in Geneva, the United Nations is reviewing Indonesia’s human rights record. It should call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to crack down on extremists and protect minorities. While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia’s Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith — a Muslim sect declared to be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities’ rights.
The United Nations Development Programme’s 2002 Arab Human Development Report stated that “deeply rooted shortcomings” existed in Arab countries. In other other words, Arab societies were sick. According to the report, this sickness was reflected in the lack of “respect for human rights and freedoms,” the status of Arab women, and the poor state of “knowledge acquisition and its effective utilization.”
The follow-up report in 2003 stated: “True democracy is absent and desperately needed. The educational system is severely retarded; schools produce ignorant young men and women. Most of the [Arab] intellectuals] realize, even if they deny it, that most of what was said in the most recent Arab Human Development Report is true.”
So if you were thinking that the so-called Arab Spring was going to fix all that, well, you’d better think again. It looks like the Arab Spring will be followed by an Arab Winter. On second thought, this is a development that was entirely predictable: The Islamists are going to inherit the mantle of the dictators.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya were corrupt dictators who outlived their days. They all suppressed the Islamic movements in their respective countries, and were all thus on the side of the seculars in their own perverse way. The same holds true for Syria’s Bashar Assad, whose father, Hafez, killed some 20,000 people in the city of Hama in 1982, quelling a rebellion by the Moslem Brothers. Now, his son, Bashar, no less ruthless, seems to be about to go the way of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gadhafi.