As Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Australia
draws closer, the ABC reports that the US Secretary of State has praised Indonesia
as an example of religious tolerance and democracy during a visit to Jakarta.

The United States is keen to use Indonesia
– the world’s most populous Muslim nation – as a conduit to Muslims in the Middle East.

Which raises an issue we don’t hear much
about – what could be described as “aspirational” Islamic states, nations with
largely Muslim populations, growing economies, burgeoning middle-classes,
increasingly skilled and educated populations and a sense of engagement with
the Western world.

Indonesia is our next door neighbour, but we tend not to go one step further
and discuss Malaysia, despite the improving relationship between our two countries and
the positive signs for its economy.

Australians have also ignored the obvious
state on the literal frontline between the Muslim world and the West, Turkey.
Can the nation that has bought us the T-Box thong fall prey to the mullahs? Allowing
its ascension to the European Union over the whining of Old Europe would create a model
demonstrating the material benefits of secular capitalist liberal democracy to
neighbouring states with majority Muslim populations.

If aspiration voters at home are the key to
political success, then surely appealing to aspirational Islam will assist our
security and should be a key goal of Australian diplomacy.

Peter Fray

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