Jakarta

Barack Obama reasserted command in the final debate -- so much so that one might've assumed he was breezing to reelection. Which he's not.

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In the April 5 edition of The New Republic I published an essay called “The Thought Police” on Islamist campaigns to suppress independent thinking, as described in a Hudson Institute human rights report by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea. My essay listed a great number of reformers from Muslim backgrounds who have come under threat or have actually been attacked, with the names drawn largely from Marshall and Shea’s study. I mentioned in passing that Irshad Manji, a Muslim writer from Vancouver, Canada, had been threatened.

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Jakarta—Despite the boom of recent years, Indonesia is still the sort of place from which young people seek to escape. Nearly all Indonesians who can afford it send their children to study in universities abroad, and my parents were no different. But where many of my former classmates have since become Canadians and Australians, I am again in Jakarta. Like most of the Indonesians I know who studied in the United States, I had trouble staying there after graduating. Many of these would-be Americans are now doing exceptional things elsewhere.

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Compared to most of its Asian neighbors, Japan seems like a very different society. Unlike in Bangkok or Rangoon or Jakarta, schedules run on time in Japanese cities, and essential services, from street cleaning to tax collection, work effectively. Though it slipped this year from the second largest to the third largest economy in the world, Japan remains, on a per capita basis, far wealthier than China, and, despite years of economic stagnation, its manufacturing firms remain among the best in the world.

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There is no mystery as to why President Obama went half away around the globe shortly after the election. Actually, I suspect that he and his folks scheduled the trip precisely to free him from the inevitable (and certainly annoying) queries about his responsibility for the Democratic disaster. There is another reason, however, why he leapt into the arms of foreign leaders (even those who don’t especially like him).

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Maybe you missed it. But, earlier this week, President Obama signed into law the Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act, a piece of legislation that will do nothing for anyone. And certainly not for freedom of the press. In his tiny talk, Obama said almost nothing. “Obviously, the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is.” Pabulum. Actually, the murder of Pearl did not remind me at all of the value of a free press. It reminded me of the precarious places in which Jews find themselves around the world.

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Proxy War

When President Obama launched a massive humanitarian-aid response to Haiti's earthquake last month, not everyone took his magnanimity at face value. Hugo Chavez, for example, accused him of "occupying Haiti undercover" and then upped the ante by saying the earthquake had been caused by an American "tectonic weapon." A minister from France, Haiti's former colonial ruler, complained that the U.S.

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Seeing and Believing

Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.

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Jakarta's Toll

At least eight people were killed in two nearly simultaneous bombings early today in Jakarta, Indonesia--one at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, the other at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. More than 50 injured were carted away to hospitals. Maybe the casualties will go up. They certainly won't go down.Who are the guilty? We all know. But we can't say.Many of the victims are foreigners. Still, the target was a moderate and relatively democratic Muslim polity.It's too bad that the Israelis hadn't agreed to stop building in the settlements. That's the only way to peace everywhere.

The New Hegemon

Vali Nasr on life under a nuclear Iran.

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