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l Indonesia From Ethni~ Confti~t to lslami~ Terrorism? In the final decade of the twentieth century, Indonesia distinguished itself as a nation of what have been described as "deadly ethnic riots" and seemed a classic case of ethnic conflict in the early post-Cold War era.1 Beginning in Medan in 1994 and recurring in such provincial towns and cities as Pekalongan in 1995, Situbondo and Tasikmalaya in 1996, and Banjarmasin and Makassar in 1997, a certain pattern of disturbances (kerusuhan) seemed to crystallize in riot form. In episode after episode, crowds attacked, destroyed, and burned shops, supermarkets, department stores, goods, and other property owned by Chinese Indonesians; Catholic and Protestant churches and other houses of worship; and police stations and other government buildings. By early 1998 these so-called anti-Chinese disturbances (kerusuhan anti-Cina) had become a regular feature of the political landscape , with a familiar repertoire of commentary and investigation by government , military, civic, and religious figures played out after every incident of rioting. With the onset in 1998 of the economic crisis, local newspapers were filled with stories of riot simulation exercises by expectant police and military units, and foreign journalists and cameramen parachuted into the country by the dozen in anticipation that a wave of riots would hit such cities as Surabaya, the capital of East Java. In the event, January and February 1998 witnessed a series of minor riots along the north coast of Java that targeted shops, supermarkets, and department stores owned by Chinese Indonesians. In May of that year, simultaneous rioting in Jakarta and such cities as Solo, Medan, and Palembang led to the destruction of hundreds of Chinese business establishments, the rape of dozens of Chinese 1 2 Riots, Pogroms, Jihad women, and the deaths of more than one thousand people in Jakarta alone. These riots brought the country to a virtual standstill and helped to precipitate the resignation of the longtime Indonesian leader, President Suharto. The first three years of the post-Suharto era, moreover, saw a broad variety of forms of collective violence across the archipelago. So-called antiChinese riots occurred in the Central and West Javanese towns of Purworejo and Karawang in the months following the transfer of power in Jakarta. In villages in rural East Java, crowds attacked and killed suspected "sorcerers" (dukun santet) in an antiwitchcraft campaign lasting several months. In January 1999, moreover, mob killings in the religiously divided city of Ambon escalated into a broader pattern of communal violence, with armed groups of Christians and Muslims in villages scattered around Ambon and elsewhere in the province of Maluku engaging in sporadic attacks that left some 4,000 dead and countless others wounded, traumatized, and homeless over the next two years. Violence across the religious divide in the Central Sulawesi town of Paso during the same period produced similar results . Meanwhile, attacks by armed Dayak and Malay groups on Madurese communities in West Kalimantan in March 1999 and early 2001 (as well as earlier in 1996-97) and in localities in Central Kalimantan in FebruaryMarch 2001 likewise claimed hundreds of lives and created thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Unfolding against the backdrop of the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia , the genocide in Rwanda, recurring communal violence in India, and a resurgence and proliferation of separatist struggles in civil wars in Africa, Asia, and Europe, these disparate events in Indonesia in the middle to late 1990s were often cited as part of a global trend, variously identified with such terms as "ethnic conflict," "ethnic cleansing," and "ethno-nationalist revivalism." Whether cast as results of uncertainties accompanying market-driven globalization2 or the opportunities and imperatives created by a new wave of post-Cold War democratization,3 this turn to nasty forms of "identity politics" had its roots in developments of a selfevidently global nature.4 Through this lens, Indonesia appeared as merely one case among many, its riots and pogroms of a piece with those taking place, virtually simultaneously, elsewhere around the world. In the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon in Washington , D.C., however, the threat and practice of "ethnic conflict" rapidly receded from the academic, journalistic, and policy spotlight as the specter of "global Islamic terrorism" came into view, in Indonesia among a number of countries around the world. The involvement of armed paramilitary ., ... ~ .,- \, '· o kilometers soo ~ Contemporary Indonesia (Peter Loud) • 1.000 t' Maluku...


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