Jul 30, 2008

Radical Islam in Southeast Asia

By Chuck Missler

"But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." - Luke 6:27-28

When most Westerners think about Muslims, often the image that comes to mind is that of an Arab. However most don't realize that only about 15 percent of Muslims are Arab. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today, the majority of which actually live in Asia. Asia is home to the four nations with the largest Muslim populations: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In fact, approximately 60 percent of all Muslims live in Asia. In the July 15 issue of the eNews we profiled the rise of Radical Islam in China. Today we are going to examine spread of Islam in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia is home to almost one-third of the world's Muslims, making Islam its most widely practiced religion. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world; almost 90 percent of its people are Islamic. Islam is also the official religion of Malaysia and Brunei.

In recent years Islam has been undergoing a revival in Southeast Asia. It is a growing social and political force in the region. In Indonesia, for example, the political fallout from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 opened the door for Islamic leaders to rise in power. The enforcement of Sharia, Islamic religious law, has also become more widespread.

The spread of Islamic terrorism has also become a serious concern. Militant Islamic groups, some with links to al-Qaeda, have operated in the region for quite some time. However in recent years the violence seems to have grown more intense. One such group, called Jemaah Islamiyah, is known to have close ties to al-Qaeda. Many of its members have even received training in Afghanistan. Jemaah Islamiyah is responsible for multiple bombings, most directed at Western targets. On October 12, 2002, the second anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole, Jemaah Islamiyah orchestrated a bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. The massive car bomb killed more than 200 people and left at least 300 others injured. Most of the victims were Westerners on vacation at the popular tourist destination, about half were Australians. The goal of Jemaah Islamiyah is to create an independent Islamic state incorporating Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Singapore and Brunei.

Islam is by some estimates the world's fastest growing religion. Today Muslims make up about 20 percent of the world's population. Meanwhile, Christians make up about 30 percent of the population. If current trends continue, however, the world could be 25 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim by the year 2025.

Radical Islam is becoming an increasingly volatile catalyst in today's international scene. The problem is not confined to a few hot spots in the Middle East. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is a global phenomenon. To learn more about this topic, click on the links below.

Related Links:

Rise of Islam - Strategic Trends
Radical Islam in China - eNews Archive
Asian Militants Sought al-Qaida Funds - AP
Indonesian Pastor Battling Order to Demolish Home - CDN
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