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Jakarta Post

A complex tapestry of terror

  • Mark Wilson

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 27, 2014   /  11:19 am
A complex tapestry of terror

My brother, fill your life with the murder of the unbelievers. Has not Allah ordered you to kill them all, as they have killed our fellow Muslims?'€

These words of Imam Samudera, one of planners of the attacks in Bali in 2002 '€” open a new book on terrorism in Indonesia by journalist Solahudin translated into English by the Australian-based Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Solahudin '€” a journalist since 1995 '€” began researching the book in 2002 to understand why the attacks occurred. It took him five years to complete.

The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jema'€™ah Islamiyah is not an in-depth study of that day in Bali, when 202 civilians were killed and 300 injured in suicide attacks perpetrated by members of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) '€” a Southeast Asian Islamic militant group with ties to Al-Qaeda.

It is, however, a study of how we got there, and, according to former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, is '€œthe first serious history of jihadi ideology in Indonesia'€.

 Solahudin weaves together ideas, personalities, actions and events, showing how they came together and influenced each other, culminating in the most lethal terror attacks in Indonesian history.

He shines a light on what he describes as a '€œdark and undocumented period of Indonesian history'€, between the fall of Darul Islam in 1962 and the formation of JI in 1993.

The author begins at the end, delving into the ideas of those behind the 2002 attacks '€” the ideology of Salafi Jihadism.

He starts with Salafism, an ideology rooted in 13th-century Syria and 17th-century Saudi Arabia, which emphasizes the purity of Islam and its contamination with idolatry and modernity.

The author differentiates this from Salafi Jihadism, which also draws upon the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Solahudin, however, is concerned with showing the existence of jihad and Salafi ideas in Indonesia before the Bali attacks. Salafi ideas first found their way here, he says, via three Mingkabau haj pilgrims in 1803 who formed a group known as Padri and began to apply a strict version of Islam,
waging jihad on those who rejected their teachings.

But it is the emergence of Darul Islam in 1948, aiming to create an Islamic state during the nation'€™s independence struggle, where ideas of armed jihad begin to focus on the state.

The book tells of how Darul Islam'€™s leader, Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo, launched armed rebellion against the government after it ceded West Java to the Dutch in 1948 and how his ideas would have found favor with modern-day Salafi Jihadists.

Kartosuwirjo was executed in 1962, but his ideas lived, as Darul Islam members regrouped in the 1970s, organizing uprisings known as Komando Jihad.

Of note here too are government efforts to bring Darul Islam into the mainstream.

Today'€™s efforts to '€œderadicalize'€ terrorists appear less innovative than some would believe, as Solahudin speaks of government efforts to reeducate Darul Islam commanders and give them jobs and start-up capital in the 1960s. The book then describes how the movement regenerated itself in the 1980s '€” this time via Aceng Kurnia, a former aid of Darul Islam founder Kartosuwirjo.

Solahudin also discusses how, influenced by the 1979 Iranian revolution, Darul Islam attempted to foment revolution in Indonesia in the 1980s, plotting with Shia groups to assassinate Soeharto and attack tourists in Bali. Such an alliance would be unthinkable today, given Sunni-Shia tensions.

The book moves on to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which attracted myriad foreign fighters in the 1980s.

Solahudin sheds light on how Darul Islam sent members to Afghanistan not to help Muslim brothers against the Soviets, but to gain skills to wage jihad against the New Order.

The final chapters focus on what Darul Islam recruits did after Afghanistan, most notably forming Islamiyah (JI), aimed at overthrowing the government and establishing Islamic law.

The author shows how JI lost direction after the death of Abdullah Sungkar, with a faction opting to attack churches and '€” inspired by 9/11 '€” the lethal attacks in Bali in 2002, which provoked the crackdown that led to JI'€™s demise.

Solahudin interviewed around 40 members of Darul Islam, JI and other Indonesians who fought in Afghanistan. His sources include Gaos Taufik (a key figure in attempts to revive Darul Islam in the 1970s), Abdullah Sonata (currently serving 10 years in prison for training terrorists in Aceh in 2010) and Ali Imron (the only surviving 2002 Bali bomber, serving a life sentence).

Avoiding proscriptions, Solahudin highlights themes that could be of use to policymakers. The book also stresses the '€œimpressive esilience'€ of jihadism.

Despite crackdowns, Darul Islam has regenerated itself.

After the 2002 Bali bombings, elements of the group '€” Noordin M. Top and Azahari Husein '€” continued to wage jihad, such as the 2003 car bomb attack at the Marriot Hotel and the 2004 car bomb attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

Even after the pair were killed by police, jihadism lived on, with smaller groups attempting to plant bombs, rob banks and attack police officers as recently as 2012.

Solahudin says new jihadi groups exist because the idea of upholding Islamic law remains attractive.

We also see how Islamic extremism in Indonesia is one of government repression and of the state repeatedly (if inadvertently) giving oxygen to armed jihad.

Under Soeharto, for example, Muslims were not allowed a credible outlet for political grievances, which led Darul Islam and then Jemaah Islamiyah to turn to violence.

The same could be said today, with the Densus 88 counterterrorism unit inadvertently fanning Islamic militancy via heavy-handed tactics when pursuing suspected terrorists.

That said, Solahudin shows how Islamic extremism in Indonesia is a story of repeated failure.

While resilient, Jihadist ideas have failed to win over the majority of Muslims and, ultimately, to lead to an Islamic state.

Solahudin paints a picture of a movement that has not learned from its mistakes and is destined to struggle, because it has always appeared out of touch with its wider constituency.

The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jema'€™ah Islamiyah

Solahudin, translated by Dave McRae

NUS Press, 2013, pp.236

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