Headlines

US focuses ‘more attention’
on Islamic radicalism in
RI

The US is reportedly increasingly concerned about rising Islamic radicalism in Indonesia amid prediction that the Indonesian government is likely unable to stop it, with wide coverage, for example, of the Cikeusik incident in US media.

The New York Times published a report on Tuesday on a member of Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect perceived to have deviated from Islam, who was sentenced to six months in prison the day earlier
by a district court in Banten province after he was found to have disobeyed a police instruction to leave the scene in February in Cikeusik.

Three Ahmadis were killed during the attack, which saw a 1,000-strong mob rampage a house where 21 Ahmadis were living.

Video footage recording the attack indicates police did not help protect the citizens.

The same court sentenced 12 villagers, including a 17-year-old seen in the video bashing a man’s skull with a rock, to three to six months in jail for their involvement in the attack.

Prosecutors did not seek charges of murder or manslaughter.

While quoting Northwestern University political economy scholar Jeffrey Winters, University of Indonesia international relations expert Mahmud Syaltout said almost every US media outlet discussed the Cikeusik incident, even several local papers circulating within just one city.

“Those involved in the Cikeusik incident were charged three to six months [in prison] only. Winters said it concerned [the US] that they only got three months [imprisonment],” he told The Jakarta Post
on Friday.

The Indonesian government also tended to be cowardly in dealing with radical movements, he said, quoting Winters.

“Many political analysts in the US, including Winters, say the development of radical Islamic groups, or moderate but likely to become radical Islamic groups, are believed to have a big mission to convert [Indonesia] into an Islamic state,” said Mahmud.

The presence of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS, formerly the Justice Party), which said it was an Islamic party, initially did not concern the US because it was deemed an “urban party”.

He said, however, it had now become a concern after the party began work in rural areas to achieve its political mission.

Visiting US Senator Jim Webb, chairman of the East Asia and Pacific affairs subcommittee at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, dismissed that allegation.

“I see no indication of [Indonesia] becoming a fundamentalist Islamic state,” he told Indonesian journalists in a limited press briefing at US Ambassador Scot Marciel’s residence on Friday during his three-day trip to
Indonesia.

He visited Thailand and Myanmar before arriving in Indonesia and is scheduled to leave for Vietnam on Saturday.

“Your country in our perspective has a very reasonable leader in terms of getting the message out to the rest of the world that Muslims and the Muslim faith are not the same as terrorists and terrorism activities.”

University of Indonesia international relations expert Syamsul Hadi said the US should not be concerned on the development of Islamic fundamentalism, if that apprehension was based only on the Cikeusik incident, because that was different from Jamaah Islamiyah movements.

University of Indonesia security expert Andi Widjajanto said the US had become increasingly concerned about acts of terrorism against it since the Sept. 11, 2001, incident, and now was trying to prevent the establishment of another al-Qaeda front in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand’s Pattani, the Philippines’ Mindanao and in Indonesia.

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