THESIS: Although the UN could be developing into a stronger enforcer and promoter of anti-terrorist measures around the world; for many reasons, it is not really expanding its capabilities in this area.
INTRODUCTION TO A DILEMMA: UN seems to understand they must address terrorism, right now they “seem to wish it would go away or that someone else would take care of it”. UN did take steps post 9/11 to ratchet up opposition to terrorism but tangible measures seem to be stalled due to what is called a “persistent ambivalence”. Post 9/11 was a perfect opportunity for the UN to demonstrate leadership fighting what is arguably the most acute current threat to peace and security worldwide. A host of historical, conceptual, structural and political forces keep the UN from going beyond playing a limited role.
HISTORY, CONTEXT AND STANDARDS: League of nations addressed one of earliest forms of terrorism, political assassinations in 1930s by establishing conventions that were never ratified by enough governments to take effect. Although drafters in 1937 foresaw that terrorist violence could complicate relations among states, they could not get enough support to bring national laws into unison to “cope with the use of criminal violence for political ends.” The one thing the Terrorism Convention did do that the UN still can not is define terrorism as “ criminal acts directed against a state and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons, or a group of persons, or the general public”
Since inception, the UN has been focused mostly on cold war tensions and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Essentially it was a body setup to moderate the major powers and limit the chance to respond with violence. In 1990s UN rediscovered its enforcement provisions of Chapter VII when sanctions were imposed on Libya, Sudan, and Afghanistan to persuade them to forsake support of terrorist actions and groups. UN began undertaking measured response to suppressing terrorism. There have now been 10 conventions and 2 protocols outlawing various terrorist acts.
After 9/11 the General Assembly led by India drafted a comprehensive convention against all aspects of terrorism. At time of writing, the convention remained a draft but a Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) resolution was also established and rapidly approved 2 and a half weeks after 9/11. Resolution also called for all members to “refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts”. CTC is performing functions of helping to align nations against terrorism
CONCEPTUAL PUZZLES: UNs strongest public constituencies are distinctly uncomfortable with taking a more prominent place in the war on terrorism. Secretary General’s policy group working the issue “ does not believe the UN is well placed to play an active operational role in efforts to suppress terrorist groups, to preempt specific terrorist acts or to develop intelligence gathering capacities.” They see themselves in the limited role of working to affect the policy choices of member states.
STRUCTURAL AND INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRAINTS: Global nature of the problem provides a problem that the UN is not actually structured for. Department of Political Affairs (DPA) is the executive committee that has been given the mantle of serving as UNs focal point for dealing with terrorism.
This has three issues: 1) DPA is divided geographically into regions 2) No newstaffing or funds have been added to deal with issue 3) no specific office in DPA for addressing terrorism.
Terrorism Prevention Branch in Vienna is the existing part of system with terrorism in its title and actually funded to address problem. Staff here went from 2 to 5 after 9/11. CTC does not even really fit into the standing organization and is staffed by about a half dozen outside short term experts. Financed through a special fund for political missions and gets the money left over.
POLITICS, POLITICS, POLITICS After 9/11 there was a good opportunity to raise the UN measures against terrorism. This started working with regard to Afghainistan, however three factors are now getting in the way: American Power, Middle East Developments, and Institutional inertia.
A powerful America makes it a more attractive and vulnerable target with less empathy from rest of world. Alignment with Israel and Israeli use of military force to counter terrorism is classified as “state terrorism” by Arab diplomats. UN as an institution is focused on being the impartial mediator or “peace-keeper”. UN is seen as already making a unique contribution to the anti-terrorism effort by dealing with the “root causes” of terrorism.
The UN is now focused on the softer side of terrorism and reminding powerful states not to rely too heavily on military and coercive means. If the UN has been doing things correctly, why has there been a surge in global terrorism? More needs to be done by UN, but issues outlined in this article prevent it from rapidly moving in the right direction. Unfortunately the terrorists “hold the wildcards” and their actions in the future will affect the developing scenario and the UN’s continued evolution of involvement in this area.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority country. 200 Million Muslims (88% of a total population of 230 Million) There is a long held consensus that the vast majority of Indonesian Muslims are steadily moderate in their political views.
Indonesia became a sovereign nation following WWII. Following this they had a very brief democratic period with only one set of elections in 1955. From 1959 to 1999 they experienced authoritarian rule under Presidents Sukarno then Suharto after Sukarno and the army staged a coup in 1959. During the authoritarian regimes, political polling was outlawed.
In November 2002, the research Center for the Study of Islamconducted one of the first political polls ever in Indonesia. The comprehensive survey determined that only 14 % of the respondents could be classified as strong or even moderate Muslims. 67% are categorized as neutral, and 19% are opposed to Islamism.
Among Indonesian muslims nearly all are sunni but there are two distinct types that can be broken out, the Orthodox and the Syncretic. The Syncretic Muslims have allowed a significant influence from Hinduism and animism to creep into their religious beliefs and practices. Although there are no concrete figures it is believed that about 2/3s of Indonesia’s Muslims are Syncretic. This correlates well with the results of the polls that are detailed in the article.
Some good graphs and data on pages 114 and 120 that show how Indonesian Muslims break out on significant issues. Article goes into a lot of detail on the polling methods and the results but the graphs and data capture the picture pretty well.
Many Indonesian Muslims are content to define their beliefs quite narrowly in that they abide by the five pillars: Avowal of faith, five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, Giving alms, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The strongest Islamist blocks are associated with rural areas where the values have been less influenced by modern social change. Some observers see Islamism as a contemporary response by some Muslims to the strains and challenges of the modern world.
Conclusions: A large majority of Indonesians say they favor Islamic leadership and the government should rule with Sharia law, however the details of the polling data show that a consistent majority of Indonesians do not actually desire to be held to strict Sharia requirements and when they vote for political leaders only a very small amount (14%) actually vote for the Islamist parties.