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July 17, 2009

The Hotel Bombings in Indonesia

Dinda_Indonesia_dt
Deputy Editor Dinda Elliott on assignment in Indonesia for Newsweek, 1998.

by Dinda Elliott

The bombings at the Jakarta JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels are a heartbreaking reminder of the damage terrorists can do. Eight innocent people were killed, and at least 50 more were wounded. My heart breaks for the victims and their families--but also more broadly for Indonesia. The consequences of these suicide bomber attacks come just as the country was finally getting its props.

In recent months, Western leaders have praised Indonesia as one of Asia's brightest success stories. The economy is one of the fastest growing in the region, and the country just held a fair democratic election in which the incumbent, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his running mate, the pro-Western former central bank governor, won in a landslide--underscoring the country's successful transition to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. Jakarta had successfully cracked down on Jemayah Islamiyah, the Muslim terrorist group that carried out a nightclub bombing in Bali in 2002, killing 202 people, and bombed the Marriott and the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004. Prospects for tourism were looking up again.

It's important to remember that Islamic extremists are in the extreme minority in Indonesia, where a syncretic form of Islam--combining aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, and mysticism--has seemingly modern politicians going to mountaintops to meditate and villagers worshiping volcano spirits even as they pray at the mosque.

It's also worth remembering that Indonesia is a beautiful, exotic, and peaceful country with fabulous beaches, romantic Dutch colonial hotels, great food, rain forests and orangutans, luxurious spas, and a fascinating mix of modernity and tradition. (I'll never forget the young hipster at a club in Jakarta who, a few years back, told me that she has to approach her grandmother in Yokjakarta as a supplicant, walking in a traditional squat like a duck.) This is a fascinating, vibrant country that is fighting off the vicious extremist forces as hard as it can.

Comments

I, too, love Inonesia and hope one day that most westerners will appreciate all it has to offer. Terrorists can strike anywhere - it's a crapshoot.

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