Indonesia: Co-Existing Dangerously

Last weekend, a series of suicide bombings claimed by ISIS ripped through Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, hitting churches, police outposts, and other government buildings. At least 26 people, including the Indonesian perpetrators and several of their children, died in the country’s worst attacks in over a decade.


It’s too soon to say whether there is a direct ISIS link, but as Alex explains, the bombings are a reminder that since coming to power in 2014, Indonesia’s youthful and reform-oriented president Joko Widodo (pictured above) has had to deal with growing sectarian and ethnic tensions in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country (and biggest democracy in Southeast Asia).

Last year, the popular governor of Jakarta, an ethnic Chinese Christian ally of Widodo’s known as Ahok, lost a bitterly fought election after he was accused of blasphemy against Islam. The accusations prompted huge protests organized both by Islamist groups and former military men who opposed him. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Polls show that the appeal of conservative and nationalistic interpretations of Islam is rising in Indonesia, a trend that will shape upcoming regional elections in June, as well as the presidential election next year.

At the same time, the threat of terrorism is growing. ISIS first claimed an attack in Southeast Asia in 2016, when it sent gunmen into a Jakarta shopping mall. Roughly 600 Indonesians are currently fighting under the ISIS banner in the Middle East, according to the Soufan Group. If and when they return home, they will bring the specter of further violence.

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Read more on the Official Microsoft Blog.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.