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Moderates may not yearn for the imposition of Islamic law, as all Islamists do, they share the dualistic conviction that the Koran is the irrefutable word of God, making for a sometimes blurry and tenuous divide that has abetted extremists around the world in their pursuit of power. As [Sadanand] Dhume notes, "One couldn't escape the irony that on the whole the deepening of democracy [in Indonesia] had gone hand in hand with a darkening intolerance." The author does not hold all Muslims accountable for the mess in which Indonesia finds itself.... But he is not so naive or politically correct to give Islam a free pass. Moderation in religion can be a slippery slope; moderates are the well from which extremists draw. And, as Dhume implies, Islam, demanding total submission to God and a literal interpretation of the Koran, is arguably more susceptible to extremism than the world's other major faiths. He knows that insofar as the cliché that Islam has been "hijacked" by extremists is true, their swift advance in Indonesia could not occur without indifference, if not ambivalence, among moderates....

The same question needs to be asked in neighbouring Malaysia, where a Muslim woman was recently sentenced to caning for drinking a beer. Rather than appeal, she has requested that the caning be done in public, to instil in others the importance of being a "good" Muslim... -- Ioannis Gatsiounis

Photo: Sadanand Dhume