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Cablegate: Asia Foundation Program Successfully Assists

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DE RUEHJA #1436/01 2070908
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250908Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9649
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5240
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2827
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1123
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0974
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 3891
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2282
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RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 2839
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 0991
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001436

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KISL EAID ID
SUBJECT: ASIA FOUNDATION PROGRAM SUCCESSFULLY ASSISTS
MODERATE MUSLIMS

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1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified -- Please
handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Mission has been funding and actively
working with The Asia Foundation (TAF) on its Islam and Civil
Society (ICS) program. The program--which recently
ended--was designed to strengthen key Islamic organizations
in their efforts to engage Indonesia's Muslim majority
population in the development of democracy and civil society
in Indonesia. Most observers believe the program has been a
great success in bolstering moderates and serving as a
counter to extremists. Though this particular USAID-funded
program has ended, TAF--and Mission--remain heavily engaged
in working with moderate Muslim groups. END SUMMARY.

A PROGRAM ASSISTING MODERATE MUSLIMS

3. (SBU) TAF program directors and other officers recently
outlined its ICS program to Mission. The just-completed ICS
program received nearly US $11 million administered by USAID
since its inception. The program, according to observers,
has been highly successful in strengthening the role of
moderate Muslim organizations in Indonesia, engaging civil
society and ultimately acting as a counter to extremist
groups.

4. (SBU) One aspect of TAF's success with the program was to
adapt quickly to local sentiment and conditions. The
program's original focus was to foster the spread of a
moderate form of Islam that worked with democracy. However,
after 9/11, TAF--which was taking a bit of a confrontational
approach to counter Islamists--came under fire from Islamic
groups who began to distrust its intentions. At around this
time, for example, TAF published a moderate Muslim magazine
meant to specifically counter the radical message being
spread in "Sabili"--a conservative Islamic magazine. TAF was
threatened by many hardline groups and eventually ceased
publication of the magazine.

5. (SBU) In consultation with Mission, TAF soon re-evaluated
its strategy and approach and began to center its efforts on
the promotion of democracy and good governance, through
poverty reduction, education, and women's empowerment. This
new strategy resulted in TAF being able to reach out and
partner with Islamic organizations in almost every area of
its programming. The link with these organizations provided
TAF local credibility, moral authority, and the nation-wide
structure of these well-established Islamic mass
organizations. TAF engaged in significant reform efforts
through bringing Muslim leaders together and mobilizing
Islamic boarding school (pesantren) networks. These networks
developed into avenues that allow Muslim leaders and Islamic
boarding schools to dialogue and share information.

KEY ASPECTS OF THE EFFORT

6. (U) As part of the program, TAF engaged in extensive
media outreach and training programs. The following are a
few recent examples of each:

--Production of a short film entitled "Islamic Philanthropy
and Social Development in Contemporary Indonesia." Purpose:
raise public understanding of Islamic philanthropy and its
use in the pursuit of social justice.

--Twice-monthly radio and television talk show. Purpose:
Discuss civic participation in conflict prevention. Partner:
Center for Religious and Cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada
University.

--Publishing a monthly supplement for a local magazine.
Purpose: Showcase themes associated with Islam and

JAKARTA 00001436 002.2 OF 002


development issues. Partner: The Wahid Institute.

--Training 60 Islamic school students on various issues
including regional legislation and conflict prevention.
Partner: International Center for Islam and Pluralism.

--Holding a national conference on Islam, good governance,
and poverty in Indonesia for more than 200 representatives
from Islamic organizations, local government, NGOs,
universities, and the media. Partner: Ma'arif Institute.

--Conducting public discussions on 38 campuses in major
cities throughout Indonesia meant to broaden student
perspectives on civic rights in contemporary Indonesia.

A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM

7. (SBU) Most observers believe the program has been a great
success in bolstering moderates and serving as a counter to
extremists. TAF's unconventional approach of spreading
moderate Islam indirectly through promoting economic
development and good governance was counter to methods used
by other groups. This approach, however, has successfully
gained the trust and support of the two largest Muslim
organizations in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama,
organizations whose joint membership exceeds 75 million
Muslims. Though this particular USAID-funded program has
ended, TAF--and Mission--remain heavily engaged in working
with moderate Muslim groups.

HUME

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