Introspection in Indonesia

US President Barack Obama’s visit to the world’s largest Islamic democracy, Indonesia, is poignantly significant. Here is a president, who on assuming office made it a point to reiterate his commitment to repairing ties with the Muslim world.

Published: Thu 11 Nov 2010, 8:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

The highly optimistic mood and goodwill for the president initially generated within the Muslim world has now visibly settled down in the murky depths of scepticism and disbelief. It is something Obama is probably aware of. That is why his visit to Indonesia is being viewed as a calculated effort to reiterate past commitments. A point he raised himself when addressing a 6,000 strong audience at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.

Obama’s hailing of Indonesia as an exemplary Muslim state, which has embraced both diversity and democracy while adhering to religious values, is not hyperbole. Indonesia’s standing in the Muslim world is high, given how the country has managed to make strides not only economically but also in education and socio-culture sectors. What is commendable is that it has done all this without having to compromise on its religious values.

Having spent four years in Indonesia as a child, Obama’s return to the country generated special interest. His insistence on mending ties with the Muslim world must be taken with a grain of salt. There is no doubt about his sincerity and intent that were even visible when he initially turned attention towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, but does he possess the resolve to implement that intent? Was it not his reneging on the issue of Israeli settlements the start of the unravelling process? Not only is the failure to resolve the Palestine conflict the defining moment of Obama’s fall from grace, there are other issues such as the war in Afghanistan.

A key lesson for Obama at this juncture would be to exercise damage control and use his remaining time at the White House to actually implement his roadmap for peace. Unless these key issues that are viewed as integral to the spawning of terrorism are not dealt with in a just and equitable manner, nothing will come out of the war against terror.

Obama’s drive to boost the US economy by embarking on a world visit to procure jobs and businesses from Asian giants is all good but should he not indulge in some introspection on why he has lost credibility and goodwill in the Muslim world?

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