Noor Huda Ismail is currently Vice President of Sekurindo Global Consulting, a security consulting division of PT Sekurindo Gada Patria, which is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Previously he worked as special correspondent for the Washington Post's Jakarta bureau from 2003-2004. He was also a research analyst at the Institute of Defense and Security Studies Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in 2005. He holds a masters degree in International Security Studies from St. Andrews University, UK. The study was fully sponsored by the British Chevening Awards.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It’s the War on Ideology Stupid!

When I covered the trial of Imam Samudra in Bali court for the Washington Post three years ago, Samudra provoked his police accusers in court, and then welcomed his death sentence with the scream: “Infidel die”.

It was not surprising then when Samudra released a 280 page jailhouse autobiography titled “Me against the Terrorist” contains harsh justifications for Bali attacks that could inspire other militants.

This year, Nasir Abbas, a reformed Jamaah Islamiyah, member told me that one of the Kuningan bombers was inspired by Samudra’s book to join 'the Jihad'. On last August 2005 in Ambon police detention, Asep Djaja (31), one of KOMPAK members who were involved in the police attack in Seram Island expressed the same thing to me.

The book has been received highly response among militants. In my interview with Achmand Michdan, Samudra’s attorney who wrote the forward said that thousand copies have been issued in at least seven cities across island of Java and Sumatra. Michdan said that the publisher is considering translating the book into English, French and Arabic.

Last month, Indonesia's top clerics and Muslim intellectuals have formed a special taskforce, dubbed the "anti-terror team". Even though, according former head of Indonesian intelligent, A.M Hendripriono (the Jakarta Post 5/12/2005) this effort is ‘long overdue’ but it is still seen a tremendous progress and highly praised by many security analysts. It has been reported that Samudra’s book is on the top of the list of book to study. The team will face difficult work amid the fact that Indonesian public is skeptical about the existence of such a terrorist problem. Worse, I interviewed some of members of the team couple years ago and they viewed the whole war against terrorism as a plan to weaken Islam. Some even said:” The terrorist threat real of hocus pocus?” and “who’s the ‘real’ terrorist?”

“Conspiracy theory has been mushrooming as useful way to form the loyalty and commitment also to form and catalysts for action” Dr John Horgan, the writer of The Physiology of Terrorist explains. “Police’s respond or military respond is not enough to combat terrorism because terrorists operate in multi level ways. The government must win the moral authority”

To provide a discussion, thus I will adopt a broad definition of terrorism as: “the use or threat of use of violence as a means of attempting to achieve some sort of effect within a political context” where the political dimension separates it from regular violence.

Of course, Samudra is in one side's "terrorists" may well be another side's "freedom fighters".

Other examples, in this definition's sense, the Nazi occupiers of France rightly denounced the "subnational" and "clandestine" French Resistance fighters as terrorists. During the 1980s, the International Court of Justice used the U.S. Administration's own definition of terrorism to call for an end to U.S. support for "terrorism" on the part of Nicaraguan Contras opposing peace talks.

Once we agreed with the definition, we will not stumble in ‘semantics’ problem like Jama’ah Islamiyah or Al Jama’ah Al Islamiyah.

One may say that Samudra’s ideas in his book is just ‘non sense’ and ‘groundless’. But in fact his ideas can be traced back to the Egyptian radical Muhammad al-Faraj who was executed by Cairo in 1982 for his role in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

Faraj’s pamphlet, the Neglected Obligation, was influenced by works of al Banna, Maududi and Qutb that brought their incipient absolutizing ideas to their ultimate conclusion. Faraj asserted that the “Qur’an and Hadist were fundamentally warfare”. He also said that not just infidels but even Muslims who deviated from the moral and social dictates of shariah were legitimate targets for jihad”.

While on Samudra’s global awareness such as his statement: “Remember, the main duty of Muslims is Jihad in the name of God, to raise arms against the infidels, especially now the United States and its allies” had been inspired by the teaching of charismatic Palestinian Abdullah Azzam, a key mentor of Osama bin Laden. Azam met the family of Qutb and was friendly with the “blind sheikh” Omar Abdur Rahman who would later be implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

After the Soviet withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, Azam, who recruited non-Afghan Mujahidin, including Southeast Asian like Samudra, began to set his sight further. He argued that the struggle to expel Soviet from Afghan was in fact “the prelude to liberation of Palestine and other “lost” territories.

To prevent the spread of Samudra’s ideas is to delegitimaze- do not just arrest or kill him. Samudra’s ideas occupy an enormous influential and important symbolic position that often inextricably connected to the organization’s very existence. Therefore, the public diplomacy campaign to discredit his ideas is as or even more important that actual arrest or death.

However I would like to assure myself that Islam is a peaceful religion (what it is) the mere possibility of a multi interpretable concept of holy war as a way of defending the ummah under attack and the strong religious-political desire to found a caliphate on strict shariah principles is in my opinion the main factor of to-day's exclusive radicalism and terrorism coming from Islamic circles.

“As long as within Islam itself a fundamental process of rethinking of and public debate on ancient values (and especially the concept of jihad) in a modern, highly technological and globalized cultural environment, its exclusive religious and political aspirations and above all its too literal interpretation of the surah of the Qur'an Islam itself will remain a breeding ground for violent and undemocratic movements” explains Frans G. de Kuijer, a western social researcher who lives in Jogjakarta and married with a Javanese Moslem.

Mind: in a democracy like to-day in Indonesia political Islam have the best chances to reach above mentioned goals within the existing political-legal structure. A lot of "injustice" towards non-Muslims today can be explained by the fear of the democratic chosen government to openly criticize or to strongly oppose "unlawful" behavior of hardliners.

My fear for the longer run is that the above mentioned Islamists can reach no other conclusion than that, once in power, democracy, freedom of thought, individual (religious) choice and protection of minorities can no longer be automatically guaranteed or stronger stated: will be not in line with their exclusive political goals.

With a full of hope, de Kuijer also says that on the shorter run that within Indonesian Islam the more tolerant, inclusive and less radical political teachings will overcome the present trends towards radicalization. “I hope it also for my yet unborn child that will be raised as an Indonesian and for whom Indonesia will be its tanah air.”

Thus, to halt bombing we need also a research to understand the dynamic of the ideas of the group together with its arrangement of psychological and cultural relationships that are attracting and forging dozens, possibly hundred, of mostly ordinary people into the terrorist organization.

This call for research demands more patience and there is no magic bullet to solve this problem. The awareness should be built because the cost of ignorance is severe to consider.


Post a Comment

<< Home