Islamic radical movements in Indonesia
By Azyumardi Azra
The root causes of radicalism among Muslims in modern times are very complex. This complexity has become even greater lately because of the numerous driving factors that are working to influence the socio-historical course of Muslim societies as a whole.
Looking at the whole history of radicalism among Muslims, I would argue that radicalism among Muslims is more political than religious. In some instances, the original motive may have been religious, but it soon became very political.
The idea of establishing an Islamic state (dawlah al-Islamiyyah) is one of the most crucial issues that is on and off among certain groups of Muslims in
It is important to point out that the attempts were carried out through legal and constitutional means, more precisely, through the legislature. But the idea failed to materialize, mainly because Islamic parties had been involved in quarrels and conflicts among themselves.
At the same time, however, there remain individuals and Muslim groups who are keeping alive the idea of establishing an Islamic state here. Depending on the political situation, these people can operate underground or openly in trying to achieve their goal. They may also collaborate with certain elements of unhappy military officers or even with other radical groups which, in terms of ideology, would seem to be incompatible; this awkward collaboration can be called a "marriage for convenience".
Therefore, one should be very careful in his/her analysis and perspective of radical groups; some of them could be genuine, motivated mostly by religious reasons, but some others could be "engineered" radicals sponsored by certain individuals and groups of people for their own political ends.
The fall of president Soeharto after more than three decades of power unleashed the then idle Muslim radicals. The euphoria of newly found democracy, and the lifting of the "anti-subversive law" by president BJ Habibie, provided very good ground for the radicals to express their extremism and radical ideas and activities in a more visible manner. The lack of law enforcement because of the demoralization of the National Police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) created a kind of legal vacuum that has been used by the radical groups to take the law into their own hands.
Some of the most important radical groups should be mentioned in this account. They are the Lasykar Jihad, formed by the Forum Komunikasi Ahlussunnah Wa al-Jamaah under the leadership of Ja`far Umar Thalib; the Front Pembela Islam (FPI/Islam Defenders Front) led by Habib Rizq Shihab; the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI/Council of Indonesian Jihad Fighters) led by Abu Bakar Baasyir; Jamaah Ikhwan al-Muslimin Indonesia (JAMI) led by Habib Husein al-Habsyi; and Hizb al-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI/Indonesian Party of Liberation).
It is important that some of these groups have been either disbanded by their own leaders -- like Lasykar Jihad -- or have been idle or have been lying low after the arrests and trials of a number of the perpetrators of the
It is important to make clear, however, that though these radical groups, to a certain degree, tend to be violent, there is no clear evidence that they have also been involved in terrorism. Most of -- if not all -- terrorist activities in Indonesia have been conducted by individuals or groups of individuals that in one way or another have a certain connection or links with Azahari and Noordin M. Top.
It is clear that all of these radical groups mentioned above are independent and have no connection with established organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and the like; nor are they affiliated with Islamic political parties. This indicates that the radical groups do not trust other established Muslim organizations, either socio-religious or political in nature.
There are at least two categories for these radical groups: the first is radical groups that are basically homegrown, including Lasykar Jihad, the FPI and some other smaller groups.
The second category is Middle Eastern-affiliated or oriented groups, like JAMI, which has its origin in al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Egypt, and Hibz al-Tahrir, which was initially founded in Jordan by Syaikh Taqi al-Din Nabhani in the 1950s.
Despite this distinction, all of these radical groups have a very strong Middle Eastern-oriented ideology, which they believe to be the most genuinely Islamic worldview.
A series of terrorist bombings in Indonesia, beginning in Legian, Bali, in October 2002, followed by the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003, the bombing near the Australian Embassy in Jakarta (Sept. 9, 2004), and most recently the second Bali bombings, is certainly a sad human tragedy in contemporary Indonesia. In fact, the bombings reflect a new phase of violence and terror in the country.
Worse is the fact that the perpetrators of the Australian Embassy and the second
But now, after intensive police investigation, the first Bali, Marriott Hotel, Australian Embassy and second Bali bombings, for several reasons, could be seen as a "blessing a disguise".
First, police have been able not only to catch the alleged perpetrators of the bombings, but also to uncover some fresh evidence on the networks of terrorists in
Second, the revelation of the terrorist networks by the police in so convincing a manner has silenced most of the skeptics, who from the first Bali blasts have maintained that the bombings were simply a Western plot to discredit Islam and destroy the image of Muslims in the country.
The disclosure of networks of radicals has apparently showed people that this "conspiracy theory" does not ring true. The statements by Amrozi, Imam Samudra and their accomplices, involved in the Bali and other bombings, make it clear that the bombings were motivated both by "genuine" radicalism and hatred against the
Third, the revelation of the terrorist networks points to the fact that there are indeed terrorists among Indonesians, who happen to be Muslims and who are more than happy to use violent means to achieve their ends. Before the police disclosure, there had been widespread reluctance among
The events following the second
Furthermore, Muslim leaders agreed to disseminate, on a large scale, the teachings of true jihad among Muslims across
There is no doubt now is the time for Muslim leaders in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, the majority of whom are moderate, to sincerely admit that there is a serious problem of radicalism, not to mention terrorism, among certain Muslim individuals and groups.
Therefore, it is time for moderate Muslim leaders to make more clear that a literal interpretation of Islam will only lead to extremism, which is unacceptable to Islam, and that Islam cannot condone, let alone justify, any kind of violent or terrorist act.
Furthermore, moderate Muslim leaders should not be misled by the claims and assertions of the radicals. The radicals are shrewd not only in abusing Islamic doctrines for their own ends, but also in manipulating Muslim sentiment through the abuse and manipulation of the media, particularly television. The claims that the arrests of certain radical leaders means the suppression of Islam and the "ulema" (Muslim religious scholars) are very misleading.
Similarly, the claims that police investigations in Indonesia of certain pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) in the search of the perpetrators of the bombings is the initial step toward hostility and suspicion of all pesantren are even more misleading.
I suggest that one of the most important root causes of violence and terrorism in present-day
Above all, the future of moderate and peaceful Indonesian Islam is dependent on the fair, objective, proactive attitude of the moderate majority to respond to any developments among Muslims in the region. A reactionary and defensive attitude is not going to help in the efforts to show to the world that Islam is a peaceful religion and that Muslims are peace loving people.
Again, it is time for the moderates to be more assertive and lead the way to reestablish the peaceful nature of Islam in