I finally had time to read Brett Stephen's profile of Indonesian Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, in Saturday's OpinionJournal. You should check it out yourself but to give you a taste, this Stephens' opening:
Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters.This 66-year-old nearly blind cleric and former president of Indonesia and the spiritual head of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a 40-million-member Islamic organization, told Stephens that the "only solution" to deal with Islamic radicalization in Indonesia is democracy.
"The problem is not personalities, it is institutions," he says. "For the past 250 years the Americans have had not just Jefferson's concept of the rights of the individual but also Alexander Hamilton's belief in a strong state." In order to function properly, democracy requires competent government that can effectively uphold the rule of law. It also requires a broadly understood concept of self-rule, which is missing in too much of the developing world: "Here, ordinary citizens expect the government to do everything for them."So how to change this attitude? "We need to [nurture] the emergence of a new kind of people who think in terms of being modern but still relate to the past."
The good news is, he's optimistic: "Right now, the fundamentalists think they're winning," he once told a friend. "But they're going to wake up one day and realize we beat them."