Indonesian jihad fails but terror remains: ICG

Bali bombing memorial

A new report by International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones says Islamic militancy in Indonesia, the country with the biggest Muslim population, is losing steam. In fact, she says: “The truth is that the jihadi project has failed in Indonesia”.

That’s a pretty big call, given the discovery only four months ago of a major terrorist training camp in Aceh province, led by some some of the country’s most wanted extremists including 2002 Bali bomber Dulmatin.

It’s also curious that this statement is buried in a report about Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical cleric seen as the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist outfit. After being cleared of a role in the 2002 Bali bombing and released from jail in 2006, Bashir set up a new group called Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) through which to advocate for an Islamic state. Jones says, essentially, that Bashir is still up to no good but his influence as a leader of Indonesian militancy is waning.

More interesting, it would seem, are the conclusions that the broader movement of Islamic jihad had “failed” in Indonesia:

The truth is that the jihadi project has failed in Indonesia. The rifts and shifting alignments so evident now in the jihadi community are a reaction to that failure. There is no indication that violent extremism is gaining ground. Instead, as with JAT’s formation, we are seeing the same old faces finding new packages for old goods. The far bigger challenge for Indonesia is to manage the aspirations of the thousands who join JAT rallies for its public message: that democracy is antithetical to Islam, that only an Islamic state can uphold the faith, and that Islamic law must be the source of all justice.

Jones adds that extremists would try to regroup and launch new attacks, but that these would pose no threat to Indonesian stability. Nevertheless, she says, “the saga of terrorism in Indonesia will continue”.

Reporters also seem confused about how to read the report. Some went with the Bashir angle – the entire thrust of the 14-page document – while others started from the bottom and led with the “jihad has failed” angle. Horses for courses, I suppose.

(As a footnote, Jones cites wordpress blogs http://sjihad.wordpress.com/ and http://elhakimi.wordpress.com as venues of Indonesian jihadist debate. Enjoy!)

(Photo courtesy of ivanlanin via flickr)

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