President Barack Obama was scheduled to spend his Wednesday in Indonesia visiting Jakarta's massive Istiqlal Mosque and then giving a speech on the "pluralism and tolerance" of his host country at the University of Indonesia.
It is both ironic and instructive that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only made the same stops on a trip to Indonesia four years ago, but was greeted, according to press reports, as a "rock star."
At the university, Ahmadinejad gave a speech that cast doubt on the holocaust, predicted the destruction of Israel and yearned aloud for a day when the entire world would submit to Shariah law.
Later, he told a group of Indonesia's top clerics that every young Muslim man was an "atomic bomb." When Ahmadinejad attended the Friday prayer service at the Istiqlal Mosque, the congregation greeted him with a chant of "God is great" and a crowd gathered outside sent him off with a lusty cheer of "Fight America, fight Israel."
In an Oct. 28 White House briefing, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes set the stage for Obama's Indonesian trip by announcing that the president would first visit the Istiqlal Mosque and follow that visit with a speech to the Indonesian people that would "talk about some of the themes of democracy and development and our outreach to Muslim communities around the world, while also speaking of Indonesia's pluralism and tolerance, as well."
Pluralism and tolerance, to put it mildly, were not the themes Ahmadinejad developed in Indonesia. What Ahmadinejad did say -- and the wildly enthusiastic reception he received from at least some Indonesians -- ought to give prudential pause to those who believe the ultimate answer to Islamist terrorism is the sort Wilsonian foreign policy vision that has been embraced by both Obama and George W. Bush.
Ahamdinejad spent three days in and around Jakarta in May 2006. He first met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and then went on what amounted to an Islamist publicity tour in the capital environs of a country that with 240 million people -- 86 percent of whom are Muslims -- is the world's largest Islamic nation.
Ahmadinejad spoke not only at the University of Indonesia, but also at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, with a group of local editors and with some of the nation's leading Muslim clerics. On his third day in town, he attended Friday prayers at Indonesia's largest mosque.
At the University of Indonesia, according to The Associated Press, Ahmadinejad called Israel a "regime based on evil" and declared that it "cannot continue and one day will vanish."
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