Indonesia and Egypt separated at birth? No, just completely separate.
Indonesia and Egypt are large. They're Muslim. They've thrown off long-standing dictators. These similarities aren't particularly meaningful.
(Page 3 of 3)
The mercurial Habibie defied the military and set the stage for the independence of tiny East Timor. By June of 1999 the country had held its first free legislative elections since 1955. The result? The dominance of secular parties in the new legislature (among them Soeharto's Golkar, which unlike Mubarak's NDP was not outlawed). Islamist parties took about 35 percent of the vote (compared to the over 70 percent Islamist groups won in Egypt's just completed parliamentary election.)Skip to next paragraph
The recidivism rate of former Guantánamo prisoners is really low – and falling (+video)
Liz Wahl: Russia Today anchor quits on air as cold war rhetoric heats up (+video)
A look at Ukraine's economic hole
'Ukraine is game to you?' It shouldn't be.
A piece of news that should have Vladimir Putin grinning
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Indonesia did experience years of upheaval, with some horrific religious wars in Maluku and parts of Sulawesi. Egypt, too, could face religious conflict as Sidel suggests. But Sidel is wrong to see "many parallels" between the war in Maluku, which was as much about cultural clashes between economic migrants and longstanding residents as it was about faith, and the recent killing of Coptic protesters by Egypt's military during a protest outside the state TV building in Cairo.
The nature of communal religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in Egypt is far different from those in Indonesia, which is also a dramatically more religious and culturally diverse place. Exhibit A might be Abdurrahman Wahid, Habibie's successor. Mr. Wahid was the hereditary head of a mass organization called the Nahdlatul Ulama, or roughly "The Revival of Muslim scholars." His National Awakening Party won 12.5 percent of the vote in the first post-Soeharto elections, making it the biggest "Islamist" party in Parliament (compare that to Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is the single largest party in Parliament, with about 48 percent of the seats).
But Sidel suggests that Wahid's success parallels the Egyptian experience so far. But Mr. Wahid is a brand of "Islamist" that almost no one in Egypt would recognize. He was a long term defender of religious pluralism, the right of Muslims to convert to other faiths (most Brotherhood members would be uncomfortable with this). He made a habit of meditating and communing with the Javanese spirits for guidance (the average Brother's discomfort would shoot to horror at this point) and he once told eminent Indonesianist William Liddle that his favorite book was My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok's allegory about a descendant of a long line of rabbis struggling to reconcile modernity and faith. Potok is not generally found on Brotherhood reading lists.
Sidel concludes his piece by suggesting that Egypt could very well follow the footsteps of Indonesia, which has prospered mightily since the fall of Soeharto, and forged a much more open and responsive political culture than had ever been possible there. Let's hope he's right. But Indonesia, with its dramatically different culture, economic standing, and results in early elections, teaches us nothing about what's coming next in Egypt.