Al Jazeera is promoting a special program called “Hearts and Minds: the struggle for Indonesia’s soul” ahead of nation’s presidential election in July.
The show is off to a bad start in its promos, calling Indonesia “the world’s largest Muslim country.” Indonesia is not a “Muslim country” – it is a secular nation with the world’s largest Muslim population. An estimated 85-90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims. But there are more Christians, Hindus and other non-Muslims in Indonesia than there are people in Australia, Sri Lanka, Scandinavia, or Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories combined.
Recognizing that significant minority, Indonesia’s founders made a conscious decision not to declare their nation a Muslim state, and voters have affirmed that decision in every election the country has held. Indonesia’s motto remains Unity in Diversity, not Allah Akbar.
Beginning with its misinformed “Muslim country” premise – whether due to poor preparation or ideological predisposition – Al Jazeerah’s special seems unlikely to shed useful light. Instead it will help Indonesia remain the greatest story never told.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.