For Indonesia’s President, Standing Up to Islamists Would Be a Political Winner

For Indonesia’s President, Standing Up to Islamists Would Be a Political Winner

DENPASAR, Indonesia -- Opinion polls indicate that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains Indonesia's most popular politician. This is not little comfort for the man who has helmed the country for the last four years and is set to contest for a second term in 2009.

But it is not all good news for the former four-star general. Accusations of religious intolerance have continued to gain ground in Indonesia and, in the next few days, Yudhoyono is expected to make two potentially contentious rulings on religious matters.

Yudhoyono has been called on to decide whether to ban Ahmadiyah, a religious sect declared by conservative Islam as heretical because it does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet. Another group, Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which was responsible for an attack on a peaceful interfaith rally in Jakarta early this month, is also a candidate for a government ban.

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