British PM: Indonesia a Model of Democracy and Islam

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday held up Indonesia as a model for nations in transition after the Arab Spring, praising its moderate Islam and its transformation from dictatorship.

He said democracy must not be undermined in the name of Islam in Egypt, and called on the world to oppose Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“If Indonesia can succeed, it can lead the world in showing how democracy can offer an alternative to the dead-end choice of dictatorship or extremism,” Cameron told students at Jakarta’s Al Azhar Islamic university.

He said extremists were trying to turn Islam into a “closed and warped ideology” opposed to democracy.

“What Indonesia shows is that in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, it is possible to reject this extremist threat and prove that democracy and Islam can flourish alongside each other.”

Cameron praised Indonesia’s success in cracking down on major terror networks in the past decade since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 claimed 202 lives, including 28 Britons.

While the country has struggled to quell attacks by Islamic extremists, the vast majority of Indonesia’s population of 240 million people practices a moderate form of Islam.

Indonesia embarked on democratic reforms in 1998 after the fall of 32-year Suharto dictatorship.

Cameron said Indonesia’s rapid transition “gives heart” to Islamic nations seeking democracy, such as Egypt.

He said the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s parliamentary elections must not risk undermining democracy.

“So the world will expect (the Egyptian government) to live up to the commitments they make to protect the rule of law for all citizens, to defend the rights of the Coptic Christians and minority groups,” he said, according to AFP.

“And to accept that democracy means they will be held accountable in the courts and that they should not pervert the democratic process to hold onto power should the will of the people change.”

Cameron also said that the world must oppose the Assad’s regime as a U.N.-backed ceasefire came into effect to end 13 months of bloodshed in Syria.

“The longer Assad stays the more dangerous things become for his people and the greater the likelihood of a bloody civil war,” Cameron warned.

In an interview with BBC radio Thursday, he urged Russia and China to join the international community and help “tighten the noose” on the Syrian regime over its deadly crackdown on protests.

Cameron was in Indonesia on a five-day tour of Asia, focused heavily on trade, and left for Malaysia late Thursday morning.

During his visit to Indonesia, European plane maker Airbus booked a $2.5 billion deal with national carrier Garuda International to supply 11 A330-300s to the airline.

Cameron is scheduled to visit Myanmar on Friday, marking the first visit by a top Western leader since decades of military rule ended last year.