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Indonesia: Spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) gets reduced sentence

Indonesia: Spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) gets reduced sentence

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

The radical Sunni Islamic cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, who is the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, will feel relieved after his sentence was reduced from 15 years to 9 years. Ba’asyir will be hoping that a further appeal will also work in his favor and this crafty spiritual leader is not one to underestimate because in the past he overcame many obstacles.

In March this year he received a 15 year sentence for allegedly supporting radical Sunni Islamists in Aceh. According to the court decision Islamists in Aceh were intent on spreading a violent campaign in order to see the implementation of Sharia Islamic law. However, just like in the past, Ba’asyir denies all charges of inciting hatred and encouraging Sunni Islamic terrorism.

Indonesia is the largest mainly Muslim nation in the world in terms of population but not everything is what it appears.  This applies to the rapid growth of Christianity which is between 10% and 13% of the population according to various statistics. The official line was that Christianity was just below 10% over a decade ago but more “closet Christians” are coming out because of the growing strength of Christianity in many parts of Indonesia.

Ba’asyir and many conservative and radical Muslims are concerned about this. Therefore, one way to stem the tide and to clampdown on the Christian faith is to introduce Islamic Sharia law and then Muslim apostates would face the death penalty.

However, mainstream Islam in Indonesia is more moderate and many Muslims support a secular notion and that all Indonesians are equal. Yet, in recent times money from nations like Saudi Arabia began to spread the message of conservative Islam and you have had many attacks against Christians and Ahmaddiya Muslims.

Ba’asyir was born in 1938 and during his lifetime you have had many political changes and the gradual growth of conservative Islam meant that more people were open to his thinking. Also, Sunni Islamic funding from conservative nations in the Gulf meant that new opportunities and funding became available for religious leaders, individuals, and radical organizations.

Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar opened a boarding school in 1972 in order to preach to the next generation about the need to implement Islamic Sharia law in Indonesia. In time both individuals would flee to Malaysia because the Suharto regime was in no mood to bow down to Islamists.

In 1999 Ba’asyir returned to Indonesia and clearly he and Sungkar had gained from their exile in Malaysia. This applies to meeting leading Islamists and learning a more composed way of spreading radical Sunni Islam.

Ba’asyir and Sungkar both became involved (some say founded but Ba’asyir plays with words) with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which was a lose patchwork of various radical Islamic organizations. The main goal was to create a super-Islamic state which would incorporate Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Brunei, and Singapore (some Islamists would also include southern Thailand and Cambodia).

The vastness of this region and the mass complexity is a wonder to behold, however, in the wrong hands it could become a nightmare.  After all, you have a very diverse mix of ethnic and religious groups and you already have religious bouts of violence between Christians and Muslims in parts of Indonesia and the southern Philippines. More recently, tensions have erupted between Muslims and Buddhists in southern Thailand. Also, passions often run high in Malaysia which is the most diverse nation in the region when it comes to religion and the Shia faith is illegal in so-called moderate Malaysia.

Ba’asyir can’t be ignored or brushed aside so easily because JI have been involved in many terrorist attacks and have embroiled themselves in communal violence against Christians. Also, when tensions were at their highest many years ago between Christians and Muslims, you had many Sunni Islamic organizations like JI and Laskar Jihad who supported jihad. More alarming, he often plays around with words and distances himself when needed. Therefore, Ba’asyir and terrorist organizations like Laskar Jihad (Laskar Jihad disbanded but was used by elements of the military in West Papua and can be formed easily via many fronts) can melt away from the scene and then come back either through a new organization or during times of severe tensions.

Walid Phares, author of “The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy” and other books, stated “We all know that the process to become a Jihadist, is long and tenuous. It needs a Salafi-Wahabi environment to be produced. The question in Indonesia is this: Who is producing the “ideological culture” out of which Jama’ah Islamiah came from? What are the structural webs that produced Laskar Mujahidin (or Laskar e Jihad), or Laskar Jundullah or even the Sulawesi-based Mujahedeen KOMPAK?”

Walid Phares sums up this complexity by stating that “…the Jihadi “Laskars” around the archipelago are projecting themselves as the “protectors” of the territorial unity of “Muslim Indonesia.” Hence their action against non-Muslims, including in Poso, the Celebes, etc is projected as “in the interest of the nation.” They are trying to emulate Hassan Turabi’s strategy in Sudan: the defense of Islam’s lands.”

These comments by Walid Phares were stated several years ago and many radical Sunni Islamic organizations change their operational styles or disband and then come back under a different name.  This game is also part and parcel of Ba’asyir

Given this, JI moved easily between supporting Muslims during communal violence against Christians in Maluku and Poso in Indonesia; and then to targeting economic and Western interests throughout the region. At the same time you had inter-links between JI, Al-Qaeda, MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), Abu Sayyaf and other Islamic organizations.

However, it must be stated that JI isn’t on the same wavelength when it applies to Abu Sayyaf and what is termed Al-Qaeda. Also, MILF in the Philippines is much more moderate, despite being deadly, than Al-Qaeda/Abu Sayyaf and clearly their focus is on their homeland and powerbase.  International Sunni Islamic jihad is not on the agenda of all Islamists and JI works within “a means to an end” but not on the inter-Muslim bloodletting of Al-Qaeda.

This is not meant to downplay JI because they have been responsible for many deadly deeds and this applies to killing 15 people in 2000 after an attack against the Jakarta Stock Exchange. Also, in the same year many Christians were killed during Christmas Eve bombing in Indonesia. They have also spread their terror to the Philippines with several attacks and an attack was thwarted in Singapore by intelligence agents. Other notable attacks apply to the 2002 Bali bombings and two hotels were attacked in Jakarta in 2009.

Returning back to Ba’asyir he stated in 2002 that “If non-believers have weapons capacity, the funding, then they will go to war against Islam. In the Koran Allah has said they will always wage war against you, they will always attack you as long as they have the capacity.” He further stated that “The government of Indonesia right now is being directed by America to service its needs and the primary need of America is to bury Islam particularly in Indonesia.”

Ba’asyir also stated “…Hence our religion Islam, our nation and our country is currently being threatened by foreign races with all manner of libels, with the bombings in Bali, with explosions everywhere, all of those are the plots of non-believers whose aims are to weaken and profane the believers of Islam.”

Therefore, Ba’asyir is somehow trying to claim that the Bali bombings were done by non-Muslims and this is similar to the September 11th conspiracy theory. However, this is clearly ridiculous and Osama Bin Laden and other brutal killers don’t play the “conspiracy game” when it comes to denial.  In many ways JI is much more dangerous than Al-Qaeda when it comes to a lasting legacy, ideology, and patience.

Irrespective if the organization JI exists in name isn’t important because the ideology will remain within another organization. Also, Indonesia is a very powerful nation when it comes to geopolitics and the future of this nation will influence the religious pluralism of the entire region.  

On page 166 and 167 of Zachary Abuza’s book called Militant Islam in Southeast Asia, Crucible of Terror. Zachary Abuza comments that “Although Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was named by both Malaysia and Singapore as a prime suspect and a leader of Jemaah Islamiya network, he continued to live and preach openly until October 2002.” He also told Zachary Abuza personally that “I am not a member of Al-Qaida, but I really respect the struggle of Osama Bin Laden, who has bravely represented the world’s Muslims in their fight against the arrogant United States of America and their allies.”

Yet what logic can be found in these words by Ba’asyir? After all, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were involved in the massacres of thousands of Shia Muslims in Afghanistan. This was followed by countless numbers of terrorist attacks against Shia Muslims and other non-Sunni’s in Iraq; and of course innocent Sunni Muslims have been killed by radical Sunni Islamists in many nations.

Islamic radicalism is a serious threat in Indonesia and in many other nations. However, Ba’asyir is not your usual radical Sunni Islamist leader because he is cunning and manipulates language when it suits. Therefore, it is very difficult for the authorities in Indonesia to pin Ba’asyir and not only this, he does have connections even if the trail leads to dust.

The saga will go on and Ba’asyir will continue to be loved by his supporters and hated by individuals who support religious pluralism. Whatever happens, it is doubtful that Ba’asyir will settle for his reduced sentence and it is also doubtful that he will reject Islamic jihad and terrorism within his heart.

However, the Aceh affair does remain open to interpretation because Ba’asyir isn’t foolish nor naïve and if he believed that he would be held accountable – then the Ba’asyir that most people know, is an individual who likes to cover his angles.

http://www.meforum.org/2044/jemaah-islamiyah-adopts-the-hezbollah-model

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
 
 

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Southern Thailand and Islamization

Southern Thailand and Islamization

 

By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent  – THE SEOUL TIMES  

 

 THE MODERN TOKYO TIMES

Students salute Islamic teacher in Thailand.

Thailand is faced with many internal problems and the political and economic situation remains fragile because of the ongoing political turmoil. At the same time, it is abundantly clear that the Muslim uprising in the southern provinces is a major concern for not only Thailand but for the wider community throughout the region. After all, the global jihadist network is always looking for new opportunities to spread more mayhem and to maintain military and economic functions.

Therefore, you have two important dimensions in southern Thailand. One, and of course the most important component at the moment, is the ongoing anti-Buddhist campaign whereby Islamists desire a pure Islamic state. The other important component is that if the Thai military loses control and if Buddhists continue to flee southern parts of Thailand, then the Islamic internationalization of southern Thailand will become a regional issue and this notably applies to Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

It must be stated that in parts of Indonesia and the Philippines you already have Christian and Muslim tensions and you have several radical Islamic networks in both nations. The most notorious Islamic terrorist networks apply to Jemaah Islamiya (JI) in Indonesia; the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which seeks an Islamic state in the southern Philippines; the Abu Sayyaf Group which is also based in the southern Philippines; and you have other networks which have either lose ties or regional agendas and of course Al-Qaeda have links throughout the region.

In the past the conflict in southern Thailand was mainly an internal struggle between the majority Muslim community of three southern provinces (Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala) and the government of Thailand. Therefore, for many decades you had the desire for an Islamic state but nationalism was also a core base for demanding independence. However, in recent times it is clear that the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO); the Barisan Revolusi Nasional-Coordinate (BRN-C); Bersatu; Gerakan Mujahadeen Islam Pattani (GMIP); and others, desire an Islamic state and they have a jihadist agenda.

Therefore, in the past the Muslim insurgency was aimed at the government and military of Thailand but times have changed. Therefore, since 2001 it is clear that you now have an overwhelming Islamic jihadist agenda and this is aimed at forcing the Buddhists to flee and moderate Muslims are also being killed because they are deemed to be traitors.

Sunai Phasuk, a political analyst at Human Rights Watch, commented that “Buddhist monks have been hacked to death, clubbed to death, bombed and burned to death.” Therefore, the Sunni Islamic insurgency is just like radical Islam in Afghanistan and Somalia, to name only a few places in the world.

After all, in Somalia it is clear that Sunni Islamists are intent on killing every last Christian in this nation and in Afghanistan the followers of radical Islam are even intent on wiping out every trace of Buddhism in this land. Therefore, the past Islamic jihads which destroyed Buddhism in Afghanistan weren’t good enough because under the rule of The Taliban they even began to destroy all traces of Buddhism during their year zero campaign.

Therefore, the Sunni Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand is following a familiar path and this applies to the destruction of all non-Muslim elements within society or the complete dhimmitude of all non-Muslims by the rule of fear.

In truth, this is a continuation of what the prophet Mohammed did because he also began the annihilation of Judaism and Paganism in Arabia and on his deathbed he then called for all non-Muslims to share the same fate in Arabia.

Mohammed stated “No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir” (infidel). Vol. 9:50 and his dying words were “Turn the pagans (non-Muslims) out of the Arabian Peninsula.” Vol. 5:716

Therefore, the hatred which is ongoing in southern Thailand is directly inspired by Mohammed because he stated to “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” Koran 9:29

Zachary Abuza, author of Militant Islam in Southeast Asia (Crucible of Terror) and Conspiracy of Silence (The insurgency in Southern Thailand), and a host of other written materials, highlighted the role of the madrasas (Islamic schools).

Zachary Abuza states that “In their pursuit of the creation of Islamic states, many Southeast Asian jihadis established Islamic schools to indoctrinate, propagate, and recruit. The leaders of many militant groups in Southeast Asia, including the Laskar Jihad, Kampulan Mujahidin Malaysia, and Jemaah Islamiya, returned from Afghanistan and established a network of madrasas as the base of their operations and recruitment.”

Therefore, while past insurgencies fused the Islamic faith with nationalism, it is clear that this is no longer the case and instead southern Thailand is faced by the forces of radical Islam. This new pattern is intolerant towards any diversity and Buddhists are deemed to be subhuman and compromise is not on the agenda.

In the book by Zachary Abuza called Conspiracy of Silence he states that “Execution-style killings have demonstrated a ruthlessness that has never before been seen in southern Thailand. Women, children, monks, and clergy, who in previous iterations of the insurgency would never have been routinely targeted, are now dying in appalling numbers.” (Page 141)

Zachary Abuza also states that “The Thai government has always played down the role of the jihadists. It argues that their numbers are very small and their doctrinaire Salafism/Wahhabism makes them ill-suited to the Malay community. A similar refrain was heard in Indonesia, when officials did not want to confront the growing specter of JI. In reality, Thia security forces are unwilling to acknowledge the role of groups with more international aspirations and contacts. A homegrown, localized insurgency that does not threaten the tourism industry or the national economy is somewhat tolerable. A group with ties to al-Qaeda – a group that cares little about equity or social justice and a lot about eliminating the enemies of Islam (especially allies of the United States) through indiscriminate violence – is altogether a different thing: it is dangerous and threatening.” (Pages 143-144)

B. Raman (Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi) states in the South Asia Analysis Group, Paper No. 1501, that “The external inspiration has so far been mainly from Bangladesh and Pakistan, the main motivating organizations being the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which has a presence both in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which has a presence only in Pakistan and not in Bangladesh. The extensive media reporting in Pakistan on the presence of foreign students in Pakistani madrasas, which followed the reports of the involvement of three British citizens of Pakistani origin in the London explosions of July 7,2005, has revealed the presence of nearly a thousand Pattanis in the Pakistani madrasas.”

”This has been a surprisingly large number. Till the Pakistani media gave an estimate of the number of Thai students in their madrasas, one was under the impression that the flow of Thai Muslims to the madrasas in Pakistan had considerably declined after the arrest of the brother of Hambali, the operational chief of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and some other Indonesians and Malaysians from madrasas in Karachi controlled by the LET and their deportation to their respective countries in 2003. Instructions had gone to the Thai Muslims after their deportation to go to Bangladesh thereafter for studies in the madrasas there since the Pakistani jihadi organisations, which are members of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF), were afraid that the Americans might be keeping a watch on the madrasas in Pakistan.”

In my article which was published in The Seoul Times called Islamic Militants Target Buddhists in Thailand, I comment that “The ongoing Islamic jihad in Southern Thailand could draw in other regional and global jihadists, and this could have dire consequences because you have Christian-Muslim tensions in parts of Indonesia and the Philippines. Also, if the Thai army is forced to retreat or adopt a containment policy then clearly Islamic jihadists will gain because they will have free areas in order to spread their dangerous ideology and cause further mayhem throughout the region.”

“At the same time the current Sunni Islamic insurgency hopes to cleanse the region of all Buddhists and to destroy Buddhist temples and architecture in yet another re-run of Afghanistan. Therefore, it is clear that the minority Buddhist community in Southern Thailand needs greater protection from radical Islamists.”

“If political leaders in Thailand betray the Buddhist minority then the consequences will be severe. Also, this part of Thailand could become yet another museum where Buddhism is eradicated by Islam?”

Another important factor is that Islamists are always looking for a fresh opportunity to spread their hatred and ideology. Therefore, if America and other allies begin to contain radical Islamic forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, then just like the past they will look for new ventures and areas to cause chaos.

This factor alone means that southern Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines could witness further infiltration of international jihadist movements in the future. Added to this is the geopolitical and geographic reality which holds many opportunities for the international Islamic terrorist movement.

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and JI have a goal and this is to create a super-Islamic state which would incorporate Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Brunei, and Singapore (some would also include southern Thailand). This may seem impossible to most people or an illusion, but an illusion in the eyes of radical Islamists does not hinder insurgencies or international Islamic jihadist movements which enter conflicts when the time is right.

International Islamists have moved freely between Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq and a host of other countries. Therefore, failed states, narcotic wars, chaos, ethnic divisions, and other dark forces are grounds for Islamists to create more chaos and often with Saudi Arabian funding.

Denis D. Gray and Vijay Joshi, Associated Press, March 10, 2007, state that “Between 1999 and 2003, Thai students held regular paramilitary sessions in Bandung, Indonesia, with the top “one or two” then sent to Mindanao in the southern Philippines, another region wracked by Islamic rebellion, for more combat training, said Col. Wichai Chucherd, Defense Attache at the Thai embassy in Indonesia.”

“An Indonesian military intelligence report seen by The AP on the Bandung training says the presence of Thai separatists on Indonesian soil is worrying because they could form links with Jemaah Islamiyah members who are now in Indonesia.”

“Thai insurgents provided support for frequent visits by Jemaah Islamiyah’s alleged operations chief Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, who was captured in Thailand in 2003 and is now in U.S. custody.”

Turning back to Zachary Abuza he highlights some Islamic leaflets in his book called the Conspiracy of Silence. These leaflets are aimed to intimidate the local community and many are directed towards the Buddhists.

For example Document 22 states “Dear every Siamese Buddhist Thai who lives near the police stations……..I’ll give you three days for you to leave my land. Otherwise, I will kill, burn, destroy all Buddhist Thai property………The Buddhist Thai will never live in peace. If you leave the house, travel or go to work, you will die violently. I will wait for you for 24 hours, in every direction.” (Page 241)

Document 23 states “The Islamic warriors of Pattani announce the purpose that we will never stop killing the Siamese kafir (infidel) and will never stop destroying army weapons, the economy, politics, education and the Siamese kafir society until we regain the land of Pattani and establish the state of Pattani Darulslam. I ask for Muslim Malays to be the witnesses.” (PAGE 242)

Therefore, the ongoing insurgency is southern Thailand may be viewed to be isolated but clearly this area could be used by international Islamists to further their power base and the importance of the Malacca Straits must not be overlooked for international Islamic terrorists. After all, the region is of major strategic significance and terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda desire to cause economic mayhem where possible.

Overall, it appears that Thailand is going from one political crisis to another in Bangkok but for the Buddhists of southern Thailand and moderate Muslims it is one long nightmare. A major Islamic insurgency is ongoing and given the complexities of the region, then links with JI and other Islamic terrorist networks is clearly a cause for major concern.

If the current situation prevails and Buddhists continue to flee because of countless massacres by Islamists then the central government in Thailand will have little power to control southern Thailand in the future. If this happens, then this area will be cleansed of Buddhists and the next fear is that this region will be utilized by international Islamists.

LEE JAY WALKER

https://leejaywalker.wordpress.com

http://themoderntokyotimes.wordpress.com

leejayteach@hotmail.com

www.theseoultimes.com

 

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