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Today (Friday), Bali will be hosting a number of VIPs from Jakarta and Australia for services to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2002 bombings in Kuta, Bali. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former prime minister John Howard and opposition leader Tony Abbott are slated to attend the commemoration, as is Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Ten years ago, the world witnessed one of the most horrifying terror attacks in Bali, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Bombs destroyed two Bali nightclubs, killing 202 people, mostly Australian nationals.
It was terrifying carnage, which no one had ever imagined. I had visited the island of paradise several weeks before the blasts, which the terrorists perpetrated in the name of jihad.
As a Muslim and government researcher at the Religious Affairs Ministry, I have focused on research into terrorism since then. In 2005, I managed to visit the Nusakambangan maximum security prison in Cilacap, Central Java, for a mission possible to meet Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Amrozi, the three main actors who masterminded the Bali bombings — who have since been executed. I conducted an in-depth interview with them about their basic motives behind this act of terrorism.
Samudra told me that his jihad concept derived from the Koranic verse Al-Anfal: 60, which he said justified the terrorizing (turhibuuna bihi) of unbelievers (kafir). He insisted that his concept of jihad simply meant terror (irhab) and, conversely, he branded Islamic clerics in Jakarta and elsewhere as kafir for disbelieving this meaning. Despite the fact that I graduated from the Islamic State University (IAIN), I find it hard to understand how one verse in the Koran has been abused through such a superficial interpretation.
After the interview, I came to realize that the idea of challenging terrorists’ radical conceptions of Koranic verses both in private and open discussions was not helpful enough to prevent them from their engagement in radicalism that led to acts of terrorism. The government’s deradicalization program is perhaps enough to some extent but it can be easily counterattacked by terrorist sympathizers. The program has in turn proved counterproductive as it has created resistance from the Islamic community particularly Islamic boarding schools, or pesantren, which the likes of Amrozi attended.
More importantly, strong reactions from militant Muslim individuals and organizations like Jamaah Anshoru Tauhid (JAT), a splinter group of Jamaah Islamiyah, have come to the fore as evinced in the publication of a book titled Menggetarkan Musuh-Musuh Islam (Terrorizing the Enemies of Islam), written by Syaikh Al-‘Alamah ‘Abdul Qodir Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (Senyum Media, 2007). The book proclaims that terrorizing America and its allies, like Australia, is obligatory (2007: 19).
Another book written by Abu Sulaiman Aman Abduraman (Ats-Tsughuur Media, 2010) titled Kalau Bukan Tauhid, Apa Lagi? (If There is no Monotheism, What is There?), classifies government institutions such as the police as part of Jamaah Anshoru Thagut, or a group of unbelievers.
Symbols of great Satan, which were previously associated with the United States and its allies, have now been pinned to Indonesia, in particular police officers (see The Jakarta Post, Aug. 10). In an interview over the killing of a policeman at the Umar Bin Khattab pesantren in Sonolo, Bima, terror suspect Abrori stated that the killing was a fair retaliation because Indonesian police had shot dead so many jihadists (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 14).
I was then invited by an Indonesian language instructor, Shinta Benilda, to visit the Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Dec. 15, 2010 to share my knowledge about the state of terrorism, the concept of jihad and, more particularly, the religious motivation behind the 2002 Bali bombings.
Frankly speaking, my pseudo-academic efforts with the AFP and my research on terrorism will not change the minds of terrorists; neither will the deradicalization program initiated by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT). The reason is simple, as some terror convicts say: “How can you change people’s minds when they distrust, and even disgrace, you?”, or as Samudra said: “Why should I believe you, since you are a kafir?”
Accusing Samudra and fellow convicted terrorists of sharing a wrong concept about Islamic jihad is fair, but it is not enough. Muslim clerics, be they ulema, ustadz, tuan guru or anegurutta, have to join forces in publicly condemning acts of terrorism, as they constitute crimes against humanity. Muslim leaders also need to seek forgiveness from the victims of terrorists.
Let us help the police to eradicate terrorism by remaining vigilant about the activities of militants that may potentially lead to acts of terrorism. Conversely, we may ask the police to be more transparent in carrying out their counterterrorism activities. Let us pray for the victims of the Bali bombings and their families. May they forgive us for this heinous crime against humanity.
The writer is pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology at the Australia National University College of Asia-Pacific Studies in Canberra.