Wolfowitz: Indonesia Stands as Example to Muslim World
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 In the war on terror, the positive examples of successful Muslim democracies are as important as efforts to track down and eliminate terrorists, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Nov. 30.
Speaking to the United States-Indonesia Society in Washington, Wolfowitz praised Indonesia's religious and ethnic tolerance, which he said is allowing democracy to take root in the world's fourth-most-populated country and the largest in the Muslim world.
Wolfowitz said eliminating terrorists is critical to winning the war on terror globally. But examples like Indonesia, which show other Muslim societies the value of democracy, are another vital part of the long-term equation, he said.
The deputy secretary, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia for three years during the Reagan administration, said Indonesia has overcome obstacles and made strides toward democracy unforeseen 20 years ago. "Indonesia has assumed a critical role on the world stage," he said.
Wolfowitz attributed much of Indonesia's success to its willingness to put differences among its people aside and to work together toward common goals. The country has more than 300 ethnic groups spread across more than 17,000 islands. And, although 87 percent of its population is Muslim, Indonesia is not an Islamic state.
Indonesia recently held its first direct presidential elections, during which its people turned out in what has been described as the largest voter turnout day in the history of the world. After two rounds of elections, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was voted president and Jusuf Kalla as vice president on Sept. 20 by a 60-40 margin.
Wolfowitz acknowledged that Indonesia's democracy remains "fragile" and said the United States is committed to helping it succeed. "It is in our own self interest to see them succeed," he said.