Indonesia becomes a radical Muslim nation

Islamism and Violence in Indonesia

When, after the US attacks on Afghanistan, a small group of demonstrators burned George W. Bush dolls in front of the American embassy in Jakarta and loudly called for a jihad against America, the world looked very attentively to Indonesia for a short time. Would the country with the largest Islamic population in the world become radicalized? - With a few exceptions, the complicated island state has since proven to be immune to the "jihad" calls of Islamist fighters. Because Indonesia has to fight on other fronts, in the still desolate economic situation and for progress towards democratization. The attack on the discotheque in Kuta opened up a new front for the country and its weak president Megawati Sukarnoputri: terrorism. The president was repeatedly accused of doing too little against radical Islamists in her own country. Indonesian journalist Akuat Supriyanto of the Indonesian Independent Journalists Association ADJ explains:

Megawati only became president with the help of the Islamic parties. So it is difficult for them to arrest Abu Bakhar Baaysir or other leaders of Islamist groups. It would lose their support in parliament and its power would be jeopardized.

What kind of Islam is it whose political arm is so powerful today? 90 percent of the 230 million people in the vast island kingdom are nominally Muslims. But the religion has taken many forms since it came to Indonesia by sea in the 14th century. It was almost always amalgamated with already existing beliefs and thereby watered down or liberalized; The fundamentalists in Indonesia are also difficult to compare with Arab Islamists. Their voices can simply be heard louder than before, it is said, because after Suharto's fall in 1996, after 40 years of dictatorship, there was relative freedom of expression for the first time. In any case, the picture that intellectuals draw of Islam has nothing to do with the grimace of terror:

Islam in Indonesia is moderate; he is tolerant and peaceful. Yes, there are a few radical groups, but they are small and actually insignificant. Most of us are peaceful, tolerant, cosmopolitan Muslims.

emphasizes the prominent leader of the liberal-Muslim "Muhammadiyah", Samsul Maarif. Within the hopelessly divided Indonesian Muslim parties or brotherhoods, the Muhammadiyah takes a modern, rationalist position: for the religiously based, democratic state, the Koran and capitalism not necessarily In the run-up to the big annual parliamentary debate in August, the organization, with at least 30 million supporters, spoke out against the implementation of Sharia in the Indonesian constitution. However, Maarif also regards the appearance of the International Monetary Fund as "neo-economic imperialism In this way, Indonesia should be made dependent. The country is economically under great pressure; the state has barely made any headway with economic and democratic renewal since the end of the Suharto era; and the repeatedly called for strong leader, corruption b There is no sign of the fight against the military, the poor ties between the military and the economy and the restoration of a stable country to foreign investors. The world power America is for the time being connected in an honest love-hate relationship in almost every area. Riefqi Muna is director of RIDEP, the Research Institute for Democracy and Peace in Jakarta, an institute for peace and conflict research that primarily deals with the situation of human rights, democratization and other current political issues. He says:

There are two attitudes towards the United States in Indonesia. There is growing anti-Americanism, especially among the Islamic hardliners. They demand that economic ties with America be severed - which is impossible. When Nike closed its Bandung office, 5,000 people who had lost their jobs demonstrated. That would be extremely negligent. I always say: do you want to live without a computer and without a plane? We got all of that from there! That's the one growing group. And the other - well, who actually supports America? To be honest, some here even believe in a conspiracy theory that the US and the West want to destroy Indonesia in order to better handle it. I do not believe that. Why? Conspiracy theories crop up whenever the "grapes hang too high". I call the easiest way to such theories "Conspiranoya".

Exactly that, the relaxed approach to the achievements of the West on the one hand and the anti-American mood on the other, characterize a widespread attitude in Indonesia.

The almost blind ex-President Wahid, known as Gus Dur, who enjoyed more popular support than in parliament during his tenure and prefers to see himself as an essayist rather than a politician, confirms this. He tells about anti-Americanism what he did five years ago speaking to Samuel Huntington in a discussion in Tokyo:

I said to him at the time: Professor, you forget that hundreds of thousands of Muslims go abroad every year to learn from Western civilization; there are of course influences, and vice versa, so that it is more about mutual learning than fighting. And Huntington also measures with different moral standards: If an Orthodox Jew throws stones at passing cars on the Sabbath, he is still a child of the West who breaks the frame a bit. When a Muslim does that, it is said that he is against the Western system. This is wrong.

A Koran school, pesantren, in solo, exuberant mood after the evening prayer. In addition to the normal school material, the teaching of the Koran is taught here - for example, that you cannot be a good Muslim without Islamic law, without Sharia law. Many Muslim brotherhoods maintain such Koran schools, which in the Suharto era were said to have a certain distance from the state and which offer classes primarily for the socially disadvantaged. But here in Solo lives the man whom the West has identified as the "bad Muslim" of Indonesia. In Indonesia, too, it is an open secret that Abu Bhakar Baaysir has contacts with Al Qaeda. Years ago he is said to have founded a radical Islamic group in Malaysia. The US would like to see him in jail, but so far there has been insufficient evidence to support his arrest. Abu Bakhar Baaysir appeared friendly, almost reserved, to the German journalists who visited him in August this year. With his long white robe and white cap - hallmarks of the "Dawa", the religious teacher and Mecca pilgrim - he looks more like a spiritual leader than the top Indonesian terrorist. He feels ideologically connected to Osama bin Laden; but he had never met him personally. He considers Osama bin Laden to be the real advocate of Islam, the attack of September 11th as an act of self-defense and Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban to be the real Islamic state - until the USA destroyed it. Does he know whether Osama bin Laden is still alive?

God willing, he still lives and continues the fight. Because if he were dead, the USA would not only trumpet it all over the world, but also to the next planet (laughs). - As for terror, I don't like the word "terror" because in reality it is a case of self-defense against the Jews and the Americans. September 11th caused a lot of suffering. But whether Osama bin Laden did that is still questionable. Because to this day the United States has provided the world with no evidence that it was him. And while there is no evidence, the US is attacking Afghanistan. And you support Israel in attacking the Palestinians. This is the real terrorism, not 9/11.

According to Abu Bakhar Baaysir, there can be no peace as long as America invades other countries or helps Israel bomb Palestinian civilians without sufficient evidence:

Jews and Christians still want to oppress the Muslims. Because the Taliban implemented Sharia, they were fought as terrorists. For a peaceful world, the West would have to respect Islam and the Muslims more. Let the Muslims live according to Sharia and everything would be fine.

The feeling that is widespread in the huge Muslim island state that we are being kept small as a nation, as Muslims and as residents of an emerging country, must be taken seriously. The American "war on terror" strengthens the radical forces in Indonesia, which have gained popularity in recent years precisely because the "American model" of economic growth and liberality after the collapse of the tiger states seemed rather one-sided: for the big corporations. Sri Nuryanti from the RIDEP Institute names numbers of members of radical Islamic groups whom he prefers to describe as "militant" rather than "radical" Islamists; and the difficulties of collecting them:

According to my research, we don't have more than 50,000 such followers. That is little compared to the general population. But even the few often move in several radical groups, for example are members of Laskar Tulula and Laskar Jihad - sometimes there even seem to be more groups than members! And even 50 people when they get into the spotlight of the world public can look pretty scary.

Sri Nuriyanti alludes to the problem of mediating Islam in the West: a small group of demonstrators, a burning American flag, a thick headline - and Indonesia mutates into a terrifying Muslim state. Here, too, differentiation is necessary:

It is undeniable that some were trained in Afghanistan; they took part in the Afghan fight against the Russians, and back then they were still friends of the United States. A big question for us too is why they suddenly became America's enemies now. - Usually we are very different from Arab Islam or Hezbollah. But some have a similar ideology, want to introduce Sharia law or holy war. But here, too, the following applies: Most people in Indonesia have a different idea of ​​"jihad", that means not only war, but the fight for a good life, against vice, against improper behavior, all of this also means "jihad" in Islam - "Jihad" means war only for the radicals. So if the fight against terror could also be "jihad", then we have to properly define terror before we fight it. (is meant ironically!)

The more you scrutinize it, the more Indonesian Islamism seems to dissolve into a diffuse way. Above all, there are good reasons to look for the terror potential in Indonesia in a completely different place. Riefqi Muna from "Ridep" again:

We really have a lot of bombings in this country. But nobody is responsible for it, and the attempt to find out the origin of the material, which in theory would not be difficult, also fails because the police do not have the courage to investigate this. Normally, violence works in exactly the same way: once it starts and economic difficulties arise, frustrations arise. We say: the grass is already dry. If you put a match on it, everything will burn up. And once it starts, you can't stop it. That's the situation here.

Even in the case of the bomb attacks on Bali, quick assignments of blame do not help. While US President George W. Bush "strongly assumes" that the terrorists are Indonesian terrorists who are in contact with the Al Qaeda network, the Indonesian intelligence chief gives an interesting hint: C4 plastic explosives were used in the attack. He is contradicted by the Indonesian police, who claim to have found out that the explosives consisted of TNT. What does this mean? The Indonesian military has TNT but no C4 explosives. C 4 should primarily be used by US or German armed forces. The journalist Akuat Supryanto from the Association of Journalists interprets the information as follows:

There are three scenarios. In the first, the perpetrators come from outside, that would be Al Qaeda; the second, they come from outside too, that would affect the secret services of other countries - some Muslim brotherhoods believe that it could have been the CIA -; and the third would be a group in the country like the Indonesian military. It is difficult to imagine that radical Islamic groups were responsible for the attack on Bali. With that they would have dug their own grave. The anti-terror law is about to be passed in parliament, and it will come as soon as possible after the tragedy in Bali. This is how the radical Islamists cut their own flesh. The only group to benefit from the attack is the military. The military occupies a very special place in the history of Indonesia. Its members helped build the nation as freedom fighters; under Suharto, however, they no longer really became a controllable economic and military power in the state. The military has always been closely intertwined with the country's economy; because only 30 percent of the military budget is covered by the government. For the army, the process of democratization and the increasing rule of law in the country are about preserving existential benefices. What sounds like a conspiracy theory is a painful everyday experience in Indonesia.

It is based simply on the facts of the past that over 200 bombings can be linked to the military; but which are not investigated. It is quite normal for Indonesians to assume that the military is behind it this time too.

It was only a few days ago that democratic forces and most of the non-governmental organizations warned against the introduction of the anti-terror law, which is being voted on in parliament. Critics fear that it strengthens the very forces that have run down the country together with the corrupt Suharto family, and that it ultimately looks like a blank check for the military. Riefqi Muna even expects the human rights situation in Indonesia to deteriorate:

Because of September 11th there may be a backlash within the democratic development in the country, especially with regard to the armed forces. The military feels legitimized in its role again. The government has now signed the counter-terrorism agreement [ASEAN with the US]. I am against this agreement. Not because we don't need it, but because it is too poorly defined. An authoritarian regime could use it to suppress anyone. There is no mention of political or ideological motives. With this anti-terror agreement, when it becomes law, you can arrest and jail anyone except the terrorists!

The power vacuum following the departure of President Suharto caused many conflicts in Indonesia that had been smoldering for decades to boil up violently. The political stability of the country is currently being kept in a fragile balance with financial help from the West. The road to a functioning democratic state may have become even further afield after the attack on Bali.