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Bilveer Singh

Asian Research Center for International Development (ARCID) School of Social Innovation Mae Fah Luang University Thailand


OCCASIONAL PAPER SERIES In September 2017, the first of the series of occasional papers of the Asian Research Center for International Development (ARCID), School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University, was produced. The main purpose of the series is to provide a channel for the distribution of preliminary research results of the academic and scholarly community. The occasional papers could cover a variety of fields in social sciences. The main regions of emphasis are basically East Asia (China, Japan and Korea) and ASEAN. This series should be of interest to policy makers, scholars, students and the general public.

© All Rights Reserved Published in 2017 by ASIAN RESEARCH CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (ARCID) School of Social Innovation, Mae Fah Luang University

333 Moo1, Thasud, Muang, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand Tel : +66 5391 7137 Fax : +66 5391 6685 Email : Website :



Occasional Paper No. 1

About the Author: Bilveer Singh, Ph.D., Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore and Adjunct Senior Fellow, Centre of Excellence for National Security, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The Threat of Terrorism in ASEAN – Focus on Indonesia Bilveer Singh

Introduction Even though Indonesia has experienced the threat of both secular and religious terrorism for a long time, its encounter with radical Islam dates back to 1803. This was when Indonesian pilgrims to Mecca were influenced by extreme Wahhabi thought that was then in vogue in Saudi Arabia. On returning to Indonesia, these pilgrims, under the leadership of Imam Bonjol, tried to purify the practice of Islam in the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra, resulting in a protracted conflict, until it was brutally put down by the Dutch colonialists.1 This conflict, referred to as the Padri War or the Minangkabau War, is historically significant as it marked the inauguration of what has come to be known as the introduction of radical Islam into Indonesia.2 The Wahhabi-inspired Padris fought with the local Muslim clerics who were largely traditionalists and backed by the Minangkabau royalty and traditional chiefs. The conflict was narrativized as a dispute between reformists and conservatives. The Padris accused the local clerics, also referred to as „Adatists‟, of undertaking un-Islamic practices along the lines of local adats or customs, which were often fused with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism and even animism. The aim of the Padris was to impose Sharia Law into Indonesia based on Koran and abandon traditional practices such as superstitious and folk beliefs, cock fighting and even the matrilineal traditions of the Minangkabaus. The Dutch, with the support of the local nobility, succeeded in defeating the Padris in 1837 with the exile of the Padri leader, Tuanku Imam Bonjol.3 Since then, the threat posed by radical Islam in Indonesia has persisted, up to the present period, and in many ways, becoming worse, due to the rising nexus with transnational Islamist movements. However, what is happening in Indonesia is not a novel or particularistic phenomenon, as this is something that is also being experience in the 1 2 3

See Sjafnir Aboe Nain, Memorie Tuanku Imam Bonjol (MTIB), transl., (Padang, Sumatra: PPIM, 2004). M.C. Ricklefs, A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1300. 2d ed. (London: Macmillan, 1993). Tuanku Imam Bonjol, Sjafnir Aboe Nain and Naali Sutan Caniago, Naskah Tuanku Imam Bonjol, (Padang: Pusat Pengkajian Islam dan Minangkabau, 2004). 1

Sunni Islamic world. This is evident in the Middle East, various parts of Africa, and most poignantly, in Central, South and Southeast Asia. For our purposes, a brief description of the threat of terrorism and Islamist extremism in ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprising the ten states of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam) as a whole would be a useful precursor, before plunging into the illumination of the experience in Indonesia, the largest Muslim state in the world.

The Threat of Islamic Terrorism in ASEAN Demographically, Southeast Asia is strategically important, not only due to its position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and its control of key choke points in the region, but also due to its position as the strategic religious border between Islam and Buddhism (Malaysia and Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar) on the one hand, and between Islam and Christianity (Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia and the Philippines, and Indonesia and East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), on the other. This has led to the rise of serious Islamist-based extremist and terrorist groups in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines, with many groups also present in Malaysia. Despite the presence of non-Islamist terror groups such as the pro-Maoist New People‟s Army and the Alex Boncayao Brigade, it is the Islamist groups that posed the greatest danger to Catholic-dominant Philippines.4 These include the following: the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf Group and the BangsaMoro Islamist Freedom Fighters. Following the outbreak of the Afghan Mujahidin struggle in 1980, the Philippines jihadists played an important role in the struggle and later formed an important part of a new pro-Al Qaeda jihadi franchise in Southeast Asia called the Jemaah Islamiyah. There remains an important Jemaah Islamiyah fighter in the Mindanao region today. The surge of a breakaway faction from Al Qaeda called the Islamic State led to many groups in the Philippines changing allegiance 4

See Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Violent Extremism in the Southern Philippines: Emerging Trends and Continuing Challenges” (Research project commissioned by the Council for Asian Transnational Threats Research in 2012); Rommel C. Banlaoi, “Crime-Terrorism-Insurgency Nexus in the Philippines” (Paper delivered at the International Conference on National and Regional Security: Countering Organized Crime and Terrorism in the ASEAN Political Security and Community organized by the German-Southeast Asian Center of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance, Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand on 19-20 September 2012). 2

from the Al Qaeda to the Islamic State. Today, the Philippines is an important global node of the Islamic State with two leading groups that pose a serious threat to the Philippines and the wider region. The Wilayat Filipines is led by Isnon Hapilon and the East Asian Wilayat is led by Abu Abdillah. The outbreak of the violence in Marawi City in March 2017 and which continues to this day (October 2017) is indicative of the ferocity of this threat.5 Like the Philippines, southern Thailand is home to many Islamist terror groups and has witnessed continuous violence for many decades. Buddhist-dominated Thailand has faced an Islamist insurgency, with terror attacks taking place on a regular basis since the end of the Second World War.6 One of the key groups leading the struggle is the Pattani United Liberation Organisation. Thought suffering from various splits, it has continued to pose a serious threat to Thailand. Another leading terror group is the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), which is seen as the most important group that is leading the insurgency in the „Deep South‟. A group linked to the BRN is the Runda Kumpulan Kecil. It is believed to have undertaken severe brutal acts, including beheadings of Buddhist teachers and monks in the south. Following the Afghan War, an extreme Salafist group to emerge in southern Thailand was the Gerakan Mujahidin Islamic Pattani, which was proAl Qaeda and championing the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. In an attempt to unify the various insurgent groups, the Barisan Bersatu Mujahidin Pattani was established in 1985, with radical Islamist ideology as its distinguishing feature. Its impact, however, has been minimal. There are also Islamist groups in other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand. However, that impact and threat have been largely mitigated by various internal and external factors. Under these circumstances, it is Indonesia that has emerged as the centre of gravity of Islamist radicalism and terrorism, largely driven by a host of factors. The fact that Indonesia is a largely Sunni-based Muslim nation and the largest Muslim nation not just in Asia but also the world, the threat posed by Islamist radicalism and terrorism takes on special importance, as any success by the Islamists would have dire consequences for the whole of Southeast Asia. 5


See "Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia to kick off joint patrols off Mindanao to fight militants: Hisham". New Straits Times (Malaysia), 3 June 2017. See Duncan McCargo, Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand’s Southern Conflict, (The Hague, NIAS Press, 2012); and Rohan Gunaratna and Arabinda Acharya, Terrorist Threat from Thailand: Jihad or Quest for Justice, (Nebraska: Potomac Books, 2013).


The Rise and Threat of Radical Islam and Terrorism in Indonesia In 2017, Indonesia had a population of more than 260 million, of which 90 percent are Muslims. Due to its demography and religious character, there has always been a pressure to establish an Islamic state. Historically, two Jihadi-oriented movements have stood out, namely, the Darul Islam and the Aceh struggle.7 The predecessor of what was to emerge as the Darul Islam (DI) was the Hizbullah, the Army of Allah, which was created by the Japanese during the occupation of the country from 1942 to 1945. Following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the Hizbullah, fought a guerrilla war against the Dutch to win national independence. The Darul Islam challenge was a direct function of the Linggajati Agreement that was signed between the Dutch and the Indonesian Government on 15 November 1946. 8 By this agreement, both parties agreed to withdraw their troops to the established demarcation lines. This was opposed by the Deputy Defence Minister, Kartosuwiryo, a former leader of the Partai Syarikat Islam Indonesia (PSII) or Indonesian Syarikat Islam Party who viewed it as disadvantaging the Republic.9 The Republican Army was made up of mixed elements, including various laskars or militia groups. There were many Islamic-oriented laskars in West Java. Thus, when the Republican Army withdrew to Central Java, the Islamic-oriented laskars stayed on and continued fighting the Dutch. These laskars controlled vast territories in West Java, partly a consequence of the vacuum left by the withdrawal of the Siliwangi Division.


Solahudin, The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jem'ah Islamiyah, (Ithaca, US: Cornell University Press, 2013); Bilveer Singh, The Talibanization of Southeast Asia: Losing the War on Terror to Islamists Extremists, (Westport, Conn.: Praeger Security International, 2007). 8

Al Chaidar, however, has argued, “the origins of Darul Islam emerged firstly in the year 1905 with the appearance of the Sarikat Dagang Islam, the United Islamic Merchants, which was pioneered by H. Samahudi. Following this organization, came the birth of Sarikat Islam, United Islam, in the year 1912, which was pioneered by H.O.S. Cokrominoto, and during the development of this organization, there arose the PSII, the United Islamic Party of Indonesia. The movement was oriented towards the various aspects of life—political ideology, economy and social. By means of a long exhaustive process, in the year 1949, the Islamic State of Indonesia or Darul Islam/Tentara Islam Indonesia was formed under the leadership of Imam Sekarmadaji Maridjan Kartosuwiryo until he was arrested by the Soekarno regime of the Indonesian Republic”. See Al Chaidar, “Terrorism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Darul Islam’s Responses towards Indonesian Democracy, 1949–1982”. Paper presented at a Regional Workshop on Contemporary Islamic Movements in Southeast Asia: Militancy, Separatism, Terrorism and Democratisation Process, Bogor, 28–31 October 2002, organised by The RIDEP Institute and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Indonesia. 9 For a biographic reference, see Irfan S. Awwas, Menelusuri Perjalanan Jihad S.M. Kartosoewirjo, (Jogjakarta: Wihdah Press, 1999) and Al Chaidar, Pemikiran Politik Proklamator Negara Islam Indonesia S.M. Kartosoewirjo, (Jakarta: Darul Falah, 1999). 4

Following the signing of the Renville Agreement in January 1948, a ceasefire was declared between the Dutch and Republican Army. The agreement permitted the Siliwangi Division to return to West Java but was opposed by Kartosuwiryo and the Islamic laskars in West Java. This led to a clash between the two groups, leading eventually to the birth of Darul Islam (DI) and the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII) in July 1949. Sections of the Hizbullah established the DI or “House of Islam”, and created its armed faction called Tentara Islam Indonesia (TII) or Indonesian Islamic Army. As the DI was created to set up an Indonesian Islamic state (Negara Islam Indonesia, NII), it eventually established nine political and military commands in parts of Indonesia. 10 Even though the DI was militarily suppressed and Kartosuwiryo captured by the Siliwangi Division on 4 June 1962 (and later in September, he was sentenced to death), in all sense, the concept, roots, aspirations of the DI, TII and NII remained fresh in Indonesia‟s body politics. However, it was never allowed to surface and pose a challenge to the political order, especially under Suharto. The province of Aceh, located on the westernmost tip of Indonesia, was renowned for its prominent role during the Indonesian struggle for independence against Dutch colonial rule. In 1948, however, with the help of the Netherlands, the province was annexed by the newly-created Indonesian state. Since becoming part of the Republic of Indonesia, Aceh has revolted on two occasions against the state, namely in 1953 and 1976. In 1953, Aceh declared itself a part of DI‟s revolt. The rebellion was Islam-inspired with its leaders demanding greater autonomy regarding religion, adat (customary law) and education. The rebellion was eventually crushed and many of its leaders co-opted into the government. In 1959, Aceh was also granted the status of „Special Region‟ with autonomy in matters of religion, education and social customs. The economic exploitation, among others, made some Acehnese bent upon fighting for the independence of Aceh by joining the guerrilla movement led by the Free Aceh Movement or Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM. In October 1976, Acehnese revolted, declaring independence, marking the beginning of an era of oppression by the Indonesian


For details, see C. van Dijk, Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: the Darul Islam in Indonesia, (The Hague:

Martinus Nijhoff, 1981). 5

regime.11 GAM was to suffer internal splits and a splinter group, the MP-GAM (Majelis Pemerintahan—Gerakan Aceh Merdeka), emerged, led by GAM‟s former defence minister. From 2000 onwards, secret negotiations were being held between GAM and the Indonesian Government, through the mediation of Finland. In August 2005, a peace treaty was signed, signalling the end of the historical conflict between Aceh and the central government. While the military conflict seems to have ended, the radicalization of Acehnese society seems to be proceeding unabated with sharia law being applied locally. How this Acehnese radicalization in a peace setting will impact upon the Indonesian society remains to be seen.

Indonesia and the rise of New Jihadism Since the 1980s and 1990s, Southeast Asia as a whole and Indonesia in particular, has been riding the wave of new extremism, often referred to as the „new age of jihadism‟, with many new groups characterised by their intense militancy, extremism and increasing propensity to resort or condone violence to achieve their political goals. Similarly, more often than not, their national and regional objectives are synchronized with global jihadi objectives. In some ways, Islamist extremism and militancy have become part of the rise of global religious extremism. While the Western media has focused on Islamist extremism as the most dangerous threat to Western civilisation following the end of the Cold War, in actuality, religious extremism is not the sole monopoly of Islam. All religions have been experiencing revitalisation, revivalism and tendency towards greater extremism. The resurgence of religious extremism has enhanced inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, especially in the post-Cold War era, a notion best highlighted by Samuel Huntington‟s thesis of “The Clash of Civilizations”.12 Many factors have contributed to the rise of Islamist militancy. Politically, there is a sense of disillusionment with national politics and the political processes. In many Muslim societies, political repression, especially by secular regimes, has aggravated the 11

See Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, “Issues and Politics of Regionalism in Indonesia: Evaluating the Achenese Experience”, in Lim Joo-Jock and Vani S., (eds.), Armed Separatism in Southeast Asia, (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984), pp. 111–128. 12

See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations?”, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993; Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996).


situation. From the economic standpoint, there is disillusionment with economic programs of various states, especially the exploitation of the poor by the rich. The existence of unfair distribution of economic goods in spite of countries being well-endowed has also provided ready recruits for the extremist cause. The existence of a sense of injustice that the country is being exploited by „global capitalism‟ and the „capitalists‟, often through collusion with local elites, has merely widened the „us versus them‟ gap. As far as sociocultural factors are concerned, the poor and repressed have blamed the spread of „global [mainly Western] values‟ through a mass media that is allegedly often controlled by various Christian-Jewish groups. Added to these domestic considerations is the whole array of international factors. Many Muslims are disillusioned with the international system, mainly dominated by the West, and particularly the US that is often portrayed to be practicing double standards. Though viewed as a democracy and champion of human rights, its pro-Israel policies and sanction of Israeli repression of the Palestinians and Arabs as well as US‟s largely anti-Islamic policies, evident in its almost non-action when Muslims were being butchered in Bosnia have riled many into launching a Jihad against the US, Israel and their supporters. Also, international (read Western) support for repression of Muslims by various secular governments is also a source of anger and motivation. The lack of objection by the West to the repressive policies of Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan and Suharto‟s Indonesia against their Islamic militants has led to the burgeoning of Islamic militancy and extremism in these countries. The failure of „nationalist projects‟ to deliver political, economic and social goods has led to counter-actions, namely, the adoption of the „Islamic mode‟ of political, economic and social development (including the use of terrorism and violence), to remedy what is perceived as national, regional and global injustices. In this context, three important sources of Islamic extremism are worthy of note. One is the failure of secular governments to promote good governance and economic development in most Islamic countries. Many governments in the Muslim world have failed to address the challenges of development arising from rapid political, economic, social and demographic changes over the last century and particularly in the last 25 years. Governmental failures have led to the emergence of poor masses in large and medium-sized towns as well as in the rural areas and this have made them particularly susceptible to extremist appeals. As governments failed to deliver the „goods‟ or simply ignored a large section of the 7

populace, the extremist religious groups have gained dominance and tried to answer various material and psychological shortcomings through the resort of religious revivalism and extremism. This is because national and international injustices are usually blamed for the populace‟s backwardness, and violence (Jihad) is often recommended as the only alternative to overcome the national, as well as the ummat‟s (Islamic community) problems worldwide. Additionally, external forces have also played a major role in the rise of many extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Here, particularly important was the funding provided by the United States and the conservative regimes in the Middle East (especially Saudi Arabia), to prop up or create extremist groups, among others to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Israel‟s occupation of Palestine and its inhuman policies towards Palestinians and Arabs in general. The rise of extremist groups was also a function of the fact that the West, especially the US, was supporting various conservative, feudal and oppressive regimes in the Middle East, mainly for geo-political and geo-economic reasons, leading many to blame Washington and its allies for the rise of extremism in the region. A related factor is the rise of crisis within Islam. There has been a decline of the established tradition of ijtihad, interpretation of the Koran by Muslim clerics to apply Koranic laws to changing circumstances and dynamic developments that are confronting all societies, what more Islamic ones. One consequence of this has been the rise of rigid and narrow interpretations of various religious precepts, especially as governments have failed to deliver political and economic goods as well as failed to build institutions, what more democracy. While many factors have contributed to the rise of new radical jihadists in Southeast Asia, in the context of worldwide Islamic revival, the goals and character of „new Islam‟ have fundamentally altered the socio-political architecture of the region. The influx of funds and ideology from the Middle East and the trend toward Arabization of Islam as well as efforts to „purify‟ the religion, has accounted for this new phenomenon. Increasingly, unlike the past, concepts of an Islamic Caliphate and Muslim Brotherhood as well as calls for a more „assertive defense‟ against attacks by „kafirs‟ (infidels, usually described as Christians and Jews) have been more openly adopted. While the role of the Iranian Revolution and the Mujahidin struggle in Afghanistan had a definite impact in radicalizing Islam, Saudi-funded schools and charities, spreading Wahhabism, as well as


„spark plugs‟ such as Hizbul Tahrir and Jaamah Tarbiyah have played a key role in radicalising Islam in the region. While all, if not, most Islamist organizations have seen the intensification of radicalism, be it in Malaysia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines, it is in Indonesia that the process of Talibanization is most acute and apparent. This is a function of both internal and external developments. Many radical groups are essentially homegrown even though the influence of external developments is also important. There are also many groups that are closely affiliated with the Middle East. Whatever the origins and source of inspiration, the net effect has been the radicalization of Muslims in Indonesia and the region as a whole. A clear evidence of this is the efflorescence of radical and extremist groups in Indonesia. Some of these are operating as innocuous religious organisations even though they adhere to radical ideas and ideology. The Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia, DDII (Indonesian Islamic FaithStrengthening Body) was established in 1967 to continue the ideals of the Masjumi Party that believed in promoting Sharia and the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia. Even though Masjumi was banned by President Sukarno and implicated in the Americansponsored regional rebellions in 1958 in Sumatra and Sulawesi, President Suharto gave his blessings to DDII for assisting him in toppling Sukarno and the PKI.13 Under the leadership of Muhammad Natsir, a former prime minister and leader of Masjumi, the DDII send Indonesian students to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. Scholarships were provided by Saudi Arabia. The DDII even opened an office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Later, the Indonesian Government took over the program, with more than 500 Indonesians benefiting from the program. These graduates were later to play a leading role in Indonesia‟s radicalization, especially in spreading Wahhabism, becoming leaders of the Tarbiyah and Dakwah Salafi.14 Natsir and the DDII were also instrumental in the establishment of Lembaga Ilmu Islam dan Arab, LIPIA (the Institute for Islamic and Arab Studies), in Jakarta, which was in effect, a branch of the Muhammad Ibnu Saud Islamic University in Riyadh. LIPIA


See Audrey R. Kahin and George McT. Kahin, Subversion as Foreign Policy: The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia, (New York: The New Press, 1995).


See M. Imadadun Rahmat, Arus Baru Islam Radikal: Transmisi Revivalisme Islam Timur Tengah Ke Indonesia, (Jakarta: Penerbit Erlangga, 2005), p. 80.


was principally instrumental in producing thousands of graduates that later became key Salafi actors in the Tarbiyah. The DDII was also instrumental in establishing the roots of radicalism in Indonesian campuses through its Mujahid Training Program at the Salman Mosque at the Institute of Technology, Bandung. This movement eventually culminated in the establishment of the Campus Dakwah Institute. This movement provided the embryo for activists who later joined the Tarbiyah, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia and the various Salafism movements. In 1987, the DDII sponsored the establishment of Komite Indonesia Untuk Solidaritas Dengan Dunia Islam (KISDI) or the Indonesian Committee for Solidarity with the Islamic World. According to Martin van Bruinessen, even though KISDI “claims as its founding date 1987 but its first public appearance was in 1990, around the same time that ICMI was established”. Since its establishment, KISDI, even under the Suharto regime, had been, despite various constraints, been attempting to spearhead Islamization of Indonesia, especially at a time when Suharto had made his peace with political Islam. While spreading political Islam through various cultural programmes, at the same time, structurally, KISDI, was involved in politics.15 However, it was just prior and particularly, following the fall of Suharto that saw the proliferation of many radical Islamist organisations in Indonesia. One of the first to surface was the Forum Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Communication Forum of the Followers of the Sunna and the Community of the Prophet). This was established in February 1998. The paramilitary organisation, Laskar Jihad, was established by the Forum in January 2000 under the leadership of Jafar Umar Thalib, a charismatic preacher who fought with the Mujahidins in Afghanistan. This is a leading Salafi organisation. Another group, Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia, KAMMI or the Muslim Students‟ Action Union, which had clandestinely operated in the campuses since the 1980s, surfaced in early 1998. Greatly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood‟s Tarbiyah ideology, it became a leading radicalizing force in most Indonesian campuses. It later became the key recruiting ground for the Partai Keadilan, which renamed itself as Partai Keadilan Sejahtera. Another Islamist radical body, Himpunan Mahasiswa Muslim Antar Kampus (HAMMAS), Inter-University Muslim Student Association, also emerged and


See Martin van Bruinessen, “Genealogies of Islamic Radicalism in Post-Suharto Indonesia”. In 10

has been involved in a number of violent actions in support of various Islamic causes.16 The Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defence Front) led by Habib Rizq Shihab emerged on the Indonesian scene following the fall of the Suharto regime. It also has a paramilitary wing, the Laskar Pembela Islam, a group noted for its raids on brothels, bars and gambling joints. The Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, MMI (Council of Indonesian Jihad Fighters) under the leadership Abu Bakar Baasyir (as its Amir al-mujahidin, Supreme Leader) tried to induct under its umbrella most of the former DI members. The MMI has tried to promote Sharia and the Jakarta Charter. This group‟s importance lies in the fact that its leader, Abu Bakar Baasyir was alleged to be the spiritual leader of the most dangerous terrorist group threatening Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah. What is important is that all these groups were essentially home grown. There is also the Jamaah Ikhwan al-Muslimin Indonesia, a group that is closely affiliated with al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin in Egypt. This was led by Habib Husein al-Habsyi. There is also the Hizb al-Tharir Indonesia (Indonesian Party of Liberation), originally established in Jordan but with deep roots in Indonesia. There are also a number of other „militias‟ that gained notoriety in Indonesia in the postSuharto period. These include Laskar Mujahidin Indonesia (Indonesian Holy Warriors Force), Barisan Pemuda Ka’ba (Ka‟ba Youth Squad), Pam Swakarsa (Self-Service Security Force), Pendekar Banten (Banten Warriors), Gerakan Pemuda Islam (Muslim Youth Movement) and Front Hizbullah Bulan Bintang (God‟s Army Front of Crescent Moon Party). Even though there are many groups that subscribe to Islamic radicalism, what unites them is their adoption of Salafism as a religious ideology. Politically, they also adopt the ideology of khilafatism, supporting the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate for all Muslims. It is against this backdrop that the threat posed by Islamist extremism and terrorism in Indonesia should be understood, right up to the present era with the focus being on Jemaah Islamiyah and the Islamic State.

The Threat Posed by Jemaah Islamiyah and its Revival The Al Qaeda and its Southeast Asian affiliate, the Jemaah Islamiyah, dominated the regional terrorist threat landscape from 2000 to 2014. The last Jemaah Islamiyah‟s


Indonesia: Violence and Radical Muslims, (Jakarta/Brussels: International Crisis Group, 2001), p. 9. 11

bombing in Indonesia was in 2009. Jemaah Islamiyah-associated violence has, however, continued in the southern Philippines but on a much smaller scale. In December 2016, the Indonesian authorities arrested four Jemaah Islamiyah members who were in possession of weapons and explosives. Still, since June 2014, with the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, relatively little focus has been paid to Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia and the Jemaah Islamiyah in particular. It has somewhat disappeared from the regionâ€&#x;s security radar compared to the Islamic State even though its threat cannot be said to have disappeared.

Figure 1: Terrorist Attacks in Indonesia, 1998 – 2017 Dec 1998: bomb exploded at the Senen shopping centre, Jakarta Apr 1999: bomb exploded at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta Aug 2000: bomb exploded outside the residence of Philippines Ambassador in Jakarta, 2 killed Sept 2000: bomb exploded at the basement of Jakarta Stock Exchange Dec 2000: multiple Christmas Eve church bombings in 8 cities, 18 killed Oct 2002: Bali bombings, 202 killed Aug 2003: suicide bombing at J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, 12 killed Dec 2003: night market bombing in Aceh, 10 killed Sept 2004: car-bomb exploded outside Australian Embassy in Jakarta, 9 killed Nov 2004: IED bombing in Poso, 6 killed May 2005: 2 IEDs explode in Tentena, Sulawesi, 22 killed Oct 2005: suicide bombings in Bali, 20 killed Dec 2005: IED explodes in Palu, Sulawesi, 8 killed July 2009: suicide bombings at JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, 7 killed Mar 2011: explosives in book to a pro-Jaringan Islam Liberal activist; policeman injured April 2011: suicide bomb in a police mosque in Cirebon Sept 2011: suicide bomb in Solo church Apr 2012: an airplane shot by alleged OPM fighter during landing in Puncak Jaya, Papua 12

August 2012: 2 policemen shot by gunmen on motorcycle Oct 2012: 2 policemen murdered by MIT members in Poso Nov 2012: 3 policemen killed in Jayawiya, Papua, allegedly by OPM Jan 2016: 7 killed in first IS-linked attack in Jakarta May 2017: 2 suicide bombings in Jakarta killing 5 June 2017: knife attack in Medan, 2 killed Source: compiled by author

Despite being the leading and most dangerous transnational terrorist group in the region‟s history, most regional analysts and security planners believe that the Jemaah Islamiyah has been severely degraded with its leaders and members either killed or detained. The structure of the organisation is also believed to have been severely disrupted. Internationally, Al Qaeda is said to have been superseded by Baghdadi‟s Islamic State as the key security threat, with its iconic leader, Osama bin Laden killed in 2011. In Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, government counter-measures are believed to have made Jemaah Islamiyah, Southeast Asia‟s first regional terrorist group, largely irrelevant. In Indonesia alone, more than 110 and 1200 Jemaah Islamiyah members are believed to have been killed or detained respectively.17 Yet, with the eye taken off the Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist organisation with deep roots in Indonesia has been gradually reviving. The decision not to undertake any violence in Indonesia and Malaysia since 2009 was part of its strategy to preserve itself and move forward, largely having learnt the lessons of its past failures. This is especially at a time when security planners‟ attention is focussed on the all-looming Islamic State threat. It was also a strategic decision following a national Mujahidins Congress in Cipanas district, West Java in December 2010, under the leadership of Chep Hermawan, the leader of the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis). The Congress agreed to campaign for Sharia law and an Islamic State in Indonesia through peaceful means.18 There were to be no bombings in Indonesia as it was deemed to be counterproductive. Not only did the


Interview with Police General Tito Karnavian, Chief of Indonesian Police in Jakarta in July 2017.


“Chep Hermawan: Indonesia’s Islamist Power Player” ,, 1 November 2014; “Saya Juga Kandidat Berangkat ke ISIS”, Majalah Posmo, 1 April 2015). 13

bombings lead to the State‟s repression of „mujahidins‟, it also culminated in the deaths of many innocent Muslims, leading to the loss of public support for their Islamist cause. Jemaah Islamiyah was instead to focus on dakwah (proselytization) to win public support. Later, when many Jemaah Islamiyah members became attracted to the Islamic State, they decided to hidjrah to Syria and Iraq for violent jihad. The former Emir of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abu Rusydan, the charismatic former Mujahidin fighter from Afghanistan in the 1980s, stated in a recent interview with the author that „Jemaah Islamiyah is alive and well‟ even though it was not what it was in the past.19 Abu Rusydan argued that four factors accounted for the rise and sustenance of Jemaah Islamiyah in the past and at present. First, was the basic ideology of the organisation and this was clearly enunciated in PUPJI, the organisation‟s constitution, first drawn up in 1993. PUPJI was modelled on the Egyptian Jemaah Islamiyah. Second, was the organisational structure of Jemaah Islamiyah, structured hierarchically as a combat unit, in part, due to the fact that many of key ideas came from people who had combat experience in Afghanistan. The third element was the role of history is shaping the thinking of its members. The genesis of the struggle to establish an Islamic State in Indonesia had a long history even though Kartosuwiryo‟s Darul Islam struggle from 1948 to 1960 was crucial in this regard. The belief that great injustice had been done to Indonesian Muslims, including the betrayal of not including the Jakarta Charter in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution was critical in the strive for an Islamic State. The struggle was further enhanced with Indonesians‟ involvement in jihadi operations overseas, leading to the acceptance of the idea of establishing an Islamic Caliphate as the ultimate aim. Rusydan argued that through contacts with like-minded jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s, and through the teachings of ideologues such as Abdullah Azzam and Rasul Sayyaf, Indonesian fighters began supporting pan-Islamic causes. Indonesian fighters were transformed from national to international jihadists, something that continues to characterise them to this day. Finally, was the development of a sense of belonging, something nurtured over many years of struggle and buy-in into salafi-jihadi ideology and which remains as powerful today as it was in the past. There is a well-established body politic that believes 19

Author’s interview with Abu Rusydan in Kudus in March 2017. 14

in the ideals of Jemaah Islamiyah and these accounts for its continued existence in Indonesia to this day. In view of these four factors, the struggle of the Jemaah Islamiyah is said to be as relevant today as it was in the past. The only change that has taken place is that following the death of the founder of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abdullah Sungkar in October 1999, no new Emir was ever elected constitutionally according to the PUPJI or Syariat Islam. While there have been five recognised Emirs since 1993 [Abdullah Sungkar, Abu Bakar Bashyir, Abu Rusydan, Adung and Zarkasih) including the sixth, alleged to be Abu Rusydan, Abu Rusydan argued that these were elected not on the basis of consensus but by factions within Jemaah Islamiyah. Rusydan argued that these were „emergency Emirsâ€&#x; [amir darurat] rather than normal Emirs, even though Rusydan himself was involved in the elevation of Abu Bakar Bashyir as the second Emir. It is for this reason that strictly speaking, one could not speak of the existence of Jemaah Islamiyah since October 1999 but only of individuals and groups who professed to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah. While this was stretching the argument too far, especially since as an organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah and its members were active in undertaking violent operations right up to 2009, yet, this was a belief that continues to be held by many, including Rusydan. A number of developments have facilitated the revival of Jemaah Islamiyah, especially in Indonesia. According to Rusydan, even though no Emir has been elected or appointed according to the PUPJI or Syariat Islam since the death of Abdullah Sungkar, the operation of three other factors meant that there were sufficient individuals and groups (anasir] that were prepared to champion the causes of Jemaah Islamiyah. These factors include the history of injustice and support for an Islamic State, the belief in the ideology of salafiyah-jihadiyah, especially the ideas of iman, hijrah and jihad as well as the deep sense of belonging that exists among its members, especially for the creation of a state based on Islamic Sharia. Jemaah Islamiyah members, especially in Indonesia, have also benefitted from the fact that the national, regional and global attention has been focused on countering the Islamic State with little or no attempt being made to deal with Al Qaeda and its regional affiliates. This has provided them space, and even to some extent, legitimacy as they are


no longer viewed as a security threat. In fact, some security planners have even suggested using Jemaah Islamiyah to counter the Islamic State in Indonesia. In the main, ten factors have facilitated the continued rise and revival of Jemaah Islamiyah in general and in Indonesia in particular. These are: 1.

The fact that the Al Qaeda Central (under Ayman Zawahiri) leadership and organisation are alive, and even expanding with territorial gains in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and parts of Africa such as Libya and Somalia.


The fact that pro-Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah leaders continue to operate in Indonesia such as Abu Rusydan, Zarkasih, Abu Jibril, Abu Tholut, Irfan Awwas, Umar Patek, Abu Dujana, etc.


The continued existence of Jemaah Islamiyah members and networks in Indonesia, with most of Jemaah Islamiyah detainees scheduled to be released in the next few years.


The continued support for international jihad by Jemaah Islamiyah members, with many Indonesians fighting with Jabhat al-nusra, an Al Qaeda franchise, in Syria and Iraq. One of Abu Jibrilâ€&#x;s sons, Muhammad Ridwan, died in March 2015 fighting for Jabhat al-Nusra. Similarly, Umar Jundul Haq, the eldest son of Imam Samudra, a key Jemaah Islamiyah leader, also died in combat in Syria in October 2015. Abu Rusydan also admitted that his group was providing humanitarian assistance to people in Iraq and Syria.


Jemaah Islamiyah, through the Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia, continues to run many publishing houses in Indonesia, with magazines such as Risalah Mujahideen and since 2013, Syamina, being produced on a regular basis.


There are also many pro-Jemaah Islamiyah mosques in the country.


There are also many pro-Jemaah Islamiyah madrassahs, such as the one in Ngruki, which has continued to function and even expand.


Jemaah Islamiyah leaders have also spoken of having learnt from past failures, not just of the organisationâ€&#x;s failures but also of like-minded groups such as Darul Islam and Komando Jihad that were neutralised by the security apparatus.



There is also the belief that the raison d‟ etre of the organisation remains as there is a need to establish an Islamic State (Daulah Islamiyah) in Indonesia.

10. Jemaah Islamiyah is in a state of I’dad today, referring to the obligatory preparation for jihad, a battle that is to be undertaken in future when the circumstances are ripe. According to Nasir Abbas, the former Commander of Jemaah Islamiyah‟s Mantiqi 3, this was evident from its efforts to recruit members, collection of funds, enhancing knowledge, studying tactics and strategies, discussing sophisticated training, holding of gatherings on a regular basis in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, and planning on what needs to be done to ensure its success in future.20 For Jemaah Islamiyah, this is especially opportunistic as not only has a pool of experts in combat from the Afghan years, the security agencies at present are disproportionately distracted by the ISIS threat. After countering the threat posed by Jemaah Islamiyah since October 2002, following the first Bali bombing, the terrorist organisation remains relevant and active. While Indonesian counter-terrorism efforts have scored many successes, still, these have not been sufficient to terminate the jihadi threat. With hundreds of Indonesians fighting for the Islamic State [with Katibah Nusantara under Emir Bahrumsyah 21 and Jabhat alNusra in Iraq and Syria with Indonesian combatants operating in the Islamic State‟s Wilayah Philippines in Mindanao under Emir Hapilon and a few hundred returnees and many thousands more inspired by the Islamic State, the threat is far from being managed.22 Many of those fighting for the Islamic State were Jemaah Islamiyah members, including detained leaders such as Abu Bakar Bashyir, Aman Abdurrahman and Abdullah Sunata. If anything, the lack of success in de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation were largely responsible for the continued threat of terrorism in Indonesia, including its role in facilitating the revival of Jemaah Islamiyah. Indonesia has not only to combat the existence of physical operatives working on behalf of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, it also has to counter the shadowy jihadi world in cyber space with online radicalisation


“Jemaah Islamiyah Active Again”, The Straits Times, 15 February 2016 and Author’s interview with Nasir Abbas in Jakarta in January 2017. 21 Jasminder Singh, “Katibah Nusantara”, RSIS Commentaries, 26 May 2015. 22

Bilveer Singh and Kumar Ramakrishan, “Islamic State’s Wilayah Philippines”, RSIS Commentaries, 21 July 2016. 17

being a key gamechanger in this regard. Indonesia‟s counter-terrorism laws are also weak. This would indicate that the threat of radicalisation and terrorism remains a serious one and will be on the horizon for many years to come. Indonesia‟s geographical size, its majority Muslim population, the existence of many Islamic political parties that tend to oppose measures that would constrain the teaching and propagation of Islam, even though it may facilitate radicalisation, availability of funds, existence of many radical ideologues, madrassahs and publications are some of the reasons for the continued spread of extremism in Indonesia. This is further aggravated by the continuous dissemination of Wahhabi-Salafi doctrine through Saudi and UAEsponsored educational institutions, madrassahs and mosques in the country. Poverty and allegation of state repression of Muslims have also accounted for the continuous support for groups such as the Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia. While being an anti-thesis to the Islamic State has been helpful, most critical in the survival, longevity and revival of the Jemaah Islamiyah has been the very characteristic and nature of the organisation. It has weathered many security challenges, traces its roots to more than 70 years of struggle for an Islamic State and most importantly, believes that it has a role to play in the largest Islamic nation in the world. Hence, the very essence of the Jemaah Islamiyah as a salafi-jihadi organisation with a long legacy largely explains its staying power even though the concentration on the Islamic State by security agencies has also helped in its rise and revival. While the competition and of being an anti-thesis to the Islamic State may be a factor, even more important has been its past track record and deep roots in the country, the presence of powerful ideologues and the fact that it is seen as a largely peaceful group that accounts for the resurgence of the Jemaah Islamiyah at present. According to Rusydan, Jemaah Islamiyah is no longer a regional grouping but focussed on Indonesia. It hopes to achieve its goals through dakwah. He argued, “we must be peaceful up to a certain point” to win public support. 23 Rusydan warned that “as long as the Indonesian government can understand our message through words” then there would be no need to adopt violence as was undertaken in Bali and elsewhere in the past. 24


“Jemaah Islamiyyah Active Again”, The Straits Times, 15 February 2016.


“Jemaah Islamiyah Active Again”, The Straits Times, 15 February 2016 and Author’s interview with Abu Rusydan in Kudus in March 2017. 18

The Islamic State Threat to Indonesia and what its defeat will mean for Indonesia and Southeast Asia as a whole When the self-proclaimed Islamic State was declared in June 2014, the primary concern in Southeast Asia was the security implications such a wannabe proto-state would have on the region. Once it became apparent that Southeast Asian fighters, especially from Malaysia and Indonesia, were „migrating‟ [hijrah] to Syria and Iraq, the fear was that this could complicate domestic politics through sectarianism with divisions within the Muslim community and between Muslims and non-Muslims. The gross brutalities perpetrated by the ultra-violent IS worsened fears of what the existence of such a cruel „regime‟ would mean for national security, either through large scale or „lone wolf‟ attacks. For Indonesia, the ISIS threat is evident from a number of counts. First, there are many groups that are supportive of ISIS and its causes, and have pledged allegiance to it. Second, many Indonesians have „migrated‟ to Syria and Iraq since 2014, and compared to the Afghanistan saga in the 1980s, more Indonesians have experienced the Islamic State‟s politics, ideology and way of life, including women and children. Third, the Islamic State has set up a dedicated Malay-speaking combat unit, the Katibah Nusantara, led by Indonesians and which have gained immense combat experience. Fourth, Indonesia is being threatened by the Islamic State through the hundreds of „deportees‟, jihadists who were stopped at the Turkish border before they could make their way to Syria, by the thousands of Indonesians who are inspired by the causes of the Islamic State and finally, by the hundreds of returnees, having gained combat experience, developed an international jihadi network and most dangerous of all, being fortified by extreme ideology of the Islamic State. While the Islamic State is yet to order a direct attack on Indonesia, a number of Islamic State‟s inspired attacks have already taken place since January 2016. After more than three years of existence, IS‟s controlled territories and fighting forces have been severely degraded. With the loss of Mosul in Iraq, it is only a matter of time when Raqqa in Syria, the capital of the self-styled Islamic State would be recaptured. This would mean that the physical „caliphate‟ would disappear and be replaced by a „virtual caliphate‟. Instead of being euphoric about the disappearance of IS in Syria and Iraq, new fears have risen in the region. The defeat of IS in Syria and Iraq will not signal the end of the threat of terrorism from extremist Islam as new modalities of dangers will


arise. For Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, there are three key issues that needs addressing in the context of what the fall of IS would mean for the region.

Threat 1: Export of the IS Model to Southeast Asia IS represented a new type of terrorism. This was embodied by the appearance of a charismatic leader, al-Baghdadi, a multinational coalition of groups that pledged loyalty to the Caliph and the Caliphate, possession of a multinational military capability, control of large swathes of land, existence of an administration [government] and where the „enemyâ€&#x; was being attacked and defeated on a regular basis, both at home and abroad. This model survived for nearly three years and is about to be terminated. In place of the IS that was centred in Syria and Iraq, new bases of operation are likely to emerge. The export of the IS model is already evident in Libya and Yemen, and probably in parts of Asia. IS tried to transplant its model in Poso, Indonesia but his was neutralised by the Indonesian military. What is transpiring in Marawi City in the Philippines is symbolic of the IS model in operation in Southeast Asia. IS has already declared two wilayats (provinces) in south Philippines, one under Isnon Hapilon, Wilayat Filipines and another under Abu Abdillah, the East Asia Wilayat. Added to the leadership and government, there is the presence of a coalition of local and foreign groups and military forces that have been able to hold at bay Philippines troops for more than six months so far. Even if Marawi City is regained by the Philippines Government, a functioning and operating model have been exported to the region, and we can expect more Marawi City-type operations in Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. Southeast Asia would also learn to live with foreign fighters in future in support of jihadi causes.

Threat 2: Preparing for a Post-IS Scenario IS was born by splitting from Al Qaeda with the latter considered weak and lacking in a vision to establish an Islamic Caliphate. What IS demonstrated in the last 39 months is that there can be, not only an alternative to Al Qaeda but also to the Westphalian state system. While the IS model did not survive for too long in the Middle 20

East, there is every probability that an IS-plus model will surface in the near future. This could be through the existence of multiple Islamic States all over the world at the same time, only this time decentralised in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia and possibly in the Eurasian regions. The post-IS scenario should also not rule out a mega-merger of IS and Al Qaeda, especially as the aging Al Qaeda leaders leave the scene. Such a possibility cannot be dismissed, especially in the Southeast Asian region which has strong footprints of both Al Qaeda and IS. Even in the current security terrain, both pro-Al Qaeda and pro-IS groups are present in Southeast Asia with many Southeast Asians fighting for IS as well as Al Qaeda‟s military wing, Jabhat al-Nusra in the Middle East, and often fighting each other. The pro-Al Qaeda Jemaah Islamiyah, which was a major security threat in the region from 1999 to 2010, remains active to this day.

Threat 3: Managing Southeast Asian Returnees With the declaration of the Islamic State in 2014, many Southeast Asians travelled to Syria and Iraq, mainly to fight under the IS umbrella against Bashar Assad regime in Syria and Shias in general. Most of the Southeast Asians came from Indonesia and Malaysia. Southeast Asians were mostly supporting the Islamic State even though a smaller number fought for the pro-Al Qaeda group, Jabhat al-Nusra. While the exact numbers remain unknown, probably more than 1000 Southeast Asians, both fighters and their family members, supported and lived in the Islamic State. More than 100 Southeast Asians are also believed to have died fighting in the Middle East, especially from Indonesia. IS even established the Katibah Nusantara, a fighting unit dedicated for the Malay-speaking world of Southeast Asia under the leadership of Bahrumsyah. With IS Central likely to be defeated soon, there are a number of options opened to Southeast Asian IS fighters. First, they can continue to fight to death for IS Central, which some have openly declared to do. Second, they can migrate to other theatres of military operations, including to Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Nigeria or parts of Asia, including to Pakistan, Afghanistan and most probably, to the Philippines, the new regional centre of gravity for IS. Third, as they did following their „jihad‟ in Afghanistan, the jihadists can return home to their respective countries. 21

To be sure, Southeast Asia already has many returnees from Syria and Iraq. Some have returned following their deportation from Turkey, before being able to cross into Syria. Indonesia is believed to have about 400 such deportees. Others have returned due to injuries, disappointment with the IS cause or being strategically sent back to continue to the struggle in their respective homeland. A new dimension to the returnees‟ saga would be returnees from regional conflicts such as in Marawi City. As there are Southeast Asians fighters in Marawi City supporting their co-Filipino jihadists, including from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar, and elsewhere, these regional returnees would also need to be managed. Whether Southeast Asian authorities decide to detain and criminally deal with the returnees or rehabilitate them, the region has to be prepared for the „day-after IS‟ scenario. The security situation could worsen with the region being awash with IS and non-IS returnees who are skilled in combat operations, adept in the use of sophisticated military weapons and tactics, and most important of all, experienced in combat, ideologically fortified and strongly networked. These are serious challenges which the region has never confronted before. While the IS threat was largely distant since 2014, with IS‟s defeat in the Middle East, this is likely to become a direct regional problem, especially with many militant groups already operating in individual Southeast Asian states. With the conveyor belt of IS returnees coming to roost at home, mostly schooled in radical ideology, especially antiShia in orientation, inter-Islam relations could also worsen in Sunni Islam-dominant Southeast Asia.

Measures Indonesia Have Undertaken to Counter Extremism and Terrorism Indonesia has undertaken a number of steps to counter the threat posed by Islamist extremism and terrorism. In a way, it was somewhat slow and half-heated, partly stemming from the problem of the nation‟s politicians having to tread carefully for fear of being accused of undertaking anti-Islam policies and measures, something that can be fatal in the largest democracy in the Muslim world. Institutionally, from the establishment of a Combating Terrorism Coordinating Desk in the Coordinating Ministry of Politics and Security following the 2002 Bali bombings, the National Agency for Combating Terrorism was eventually established in 2012. Its head was directly responsible to the 22

President with a ministerial rank. The Special Detachment 88 or Densus 88 was also established as part of the Indonesian police force in June 2003 with the assistance of the United States and Australia. This force has been extremely successful in neutralising many terror threats as well as arresting and killing many terrorists in the country. In the main, Indonesia has adopted a series of measures to counter the threat of terrorism. To tackle the danger posed by radical ideology, counter-radicalisation and deradicalisation measures have been undertaken. Counter-radicalisation refers to the package of efforts to prevent and pre-empt the process of radicalisation by targeting societal elements that have not been exposed to radical ideology. On the other hand, deradicalisation refers to the package of efforts aimed at reversing an individual who has already been radicalised. This targets those who have already been exposed to radical ideology in the hoping of persuading the individual to renounce his faith in radicalism, or at least, in the use of violence to achieve his goals. At the practical level, two categories of measures have been implemented in Indonesia. The first are described as „hard measures‟. This includes the „fighting of fire with fire‟ through Densus 88. Thus far, more than 110 terrorists have been killed since 2002 and more than 1300 detained. Indonesia has also tried to pass tough laws to criminalise acts that can lead to support for extremism and terrorism such as undertaking actions against those publishing radical materials and websites. The cyber space is increasingly being monitored. Hard measures also include undertaking robust international cooperation, be it at the bilateral, trilateral and international level. This includes joint patrols in the Sulu Sea region, involving Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. Soft measures include a wide array of measures to change the public mindset about radical Islam and the danger it poses to society as a whole. In this connection, former terrorists have been recruited to share their experiences, mainly to highlight the wrongs they have undertaken, especially through the mis-representation of Islam by radical ideologues. The government has also partnered with leading Muslim social groups such as the two largest social organizations, Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, to promote tolerance, pluralism and counter radical discourses. The schools, both national and Islamic boarding schools, mosques and even the prisons have been engaged to highlight the danger of radicalism in the country. There is also the attempt to mobilise the


moderate Muslim majority to isolate the radical groups which generally remain in the minority. All in all, Indonesiaâ€&#x;s efforts have aimed at addressing the conditions that have made it conducive to radicalism and terrorism. It is also to build broad-based national capacities on the basis of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach. These involve the whole nation including military and police, schools and universities, mass media, legal measures, religious institutions and national politics with the aim of making radical discourses a taboo and that is anti-Indonesia and anti-nation building. Despite these measures, the success rate remains to be seen and the threat is likely to be enhanced with the return of Indonesian fighters based in Iraq and Syria. National politics, often concerned more with the vote bank than security have led to situation where most Islamic parties tend to be either soft or defensive of actions of radicals. Resources also tend to be limited, especially to implement soft measures. There is also an allergy to allow the military to play a bigger role in counter-terrorism, mainly due to the militaryâ€&#x;s dominance in politics under Suharto. Even though the police have been given the primary responsibility to counter terrorism, it is generally weak and afflicted with corruption, in turn, handicapping it with a poor image in society. All these factors have played a role in explaining the largely weak response to the threat of extremism and terrorism, and why Indonesia remains under threat from Islamist extremists and terrorists.

Conclusion Despite many decades of counter-terrorism measures in the Southeast Asian region, especially in since 2001, the threat of terrorism remains serious and in some ways, may have even been exacerbated. Despite the upsurge of many pro-IS groups in the region, the threat from pro-Al Qaeda groups remain, including the possible coalition of radical Sunni groups. Also, the threat posed by IS returnees, battle-hardened, ideologically fortified and strongly networked, is likely to detain security planners for many years to come. This is also not helped by the weakening sway of traditional Islamist groups in the region and problems of governance that continues to afflict the region.


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OCCASIONAL PAPER SERIES 1. Bilveer Singh, “The Threat of Terrorism in ASEAN – focus on Indonesia”

All enquiries for the Occasional Papers should be sent to the following address: ASIAN RESEARCH CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (ARCID) SCHOOL OF SOCIAL INNOVATION MAE FAH LUANG UNIVERSITY 333 MOO 1, THASUD, MUANG, CHIANG RAI 57100 Tel: +66 5391 7137 Fax : +66 5391 6685 Website :



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