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Worrying signs in South East Asia

Protestant church in Malacca

An endangered building in Malacca? (Christopher Chan, Flickr, CC)

Is it just a coincidence, a sign of growing frustration because of economic hard-times or a signal that South East Asia’s two main Muslim countries are following a dangerous path? In Indonesia, four women were arrested because of “sexy dancing“ in a bar in Jakarta. They could be the first people to go to court with charges concerning the controversial “anti-pornography-law“ that was introduced more than a year ago.

In neighbouring Malaysia, fanatics, presumably Muslims, vandalised and firebombed Christian churches. The reason: A High Court had ruled Christians are allowed to call god “Allah“ in their prayers.

Malaysia worries me more in this case: You have a shaky economic structure which still depends on   a cheap workforce and foreign investment, you have ethical tensions between the Muslim majority and the Indian and Chinese minority, and you have a disintegrating leading party (United Malaysia National Organisation) with a leader who might be tempted to play the race card to keep his base supporting him. In Indonesia, even though there are some strange court rulings and horrible regional laws (stoning!), you will find that most people are fed up with Islamic fundamentalism, even in rural areas. The country is more vulnerable by terror attacks than by political fundamentalism.

Still, South East Asia is a place to watch: The region is still comparatively volatile and will continue to depend a lot on the economic climate in China and the West.

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