JAKARTA - While observers bemoaned US President Barack Obama's decision to cancel his visit to Asia, at least one group was happy - hardline Muslims protesting against him in the Indonesian capital Friday.
The president's change of plans "is a victory for the Muslim community and it was surely with the help of God that Obama cancelled his trip," said Khoirul Amri, one of more than 500 Muslim radicals demonstrating outside the US embassy in Jakarta.
Obama had been due to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali next week, but cancelled his trip late Thursday due to the US government shutdown.
A White House statement also announced that he would miss the East Asia summit in Brunei afterwards, a decision that came after he had also cancelled plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines due to the budget impasse. Analysts have warned the decision could dent the US "pivot" to Asia - Obama's effort to redirect US military and diplomatic muscle towards the fast-rising region.
But the Muslim radicals from group Hizbut Tahrir welcomed the move at their anti-Obama protest, which was planned before the president changed his schedule. They learned of Obama's decision beforehand, but decided to press ahead with their protest to show opposition to the president and his policies, and APEC itself.
"His capitalist government will continue to steal Indonesian natural resources through their investment projects," the group's spokesman Ismail Yusanto told AFP after the protest.
"APEC is an American tool to strengthen its economic colonisation of Indonesia," one protester shouted to the crowd, who brandished banners that read: "Reject Obama, the destroyer of Muslim nations".
"APEC will pave the way for the American government to steal our rich natural resources."
The APEC leaders' summit begins on Monday, with US efforts to shape far-reaching new trade rules for the Asia-Pacific region set to dominate.