Friday, January 07, 2005
Seems that Aceh province, the home of the Muslim rebellion in Indonesia, has long been the most Saudi influenced part of the country, while in other areas Islam has been mixed with various native animist and pantheist traditions.
Aceh lies in the far northwest of Indonesia's mini-empire of 17,000 islands. Islam penetrated there six centuries ago, arriving with traders from the Arabian peninsula. Early ties with Mecca gave the faith of the Prophet deeper roots and stricter tenets in Aceh than elsewhere in Indonesia, where Islam came later and Muslim beliefs are wonderfully muddled with folk religion, Buddhist strains and even hints of Hinduism.The question is what effect will the tsunami have on the brand of Islam in Indonesia? Will it retrench further into Wahabism, or will the Wahabist influence wane?
As a result, Aceh has suffered under a long Islamic insurgency that means to establish an independent state closer in spirit to Riyadh than to Jakarta. Wandering through Indonesia, I was struck by the complexity and humanity of the many local variants of Islam — and by the lack of interest in the Aceh-style intolerance the Saudis were anxious to spread throughout the country.
Will the tsunami be perceived as a natural phenomenon with no moral meaning, as a punishment against the Aceh rebels' militancy, or as a warning for the rebels to redouble their efforts?