Indonesian ex-militant seeks to prompt dialogue on extremism

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesian ex-militant seeks to prompt dialogue on extremism

Khairul Ghazali, the author of Kabut Jihad, says he wrote the book to correct misperceptions about the nature of Jihad. He appeared at a book launch in Jakarta on June 20th. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

A book launching in Jakarta is the occasion for open discussion among moderates and militants concerning Islamic values and the nature of jihad.

Khairul Ghazali, also known as Abu Yasin, is a former member of the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) militant group. He was allegedly involved in a 2010 bank robbery at the CIMB Niaga branch in

Renouncing the path of violence, however, he has now written a new book aimed at showing the dangers of extremism. The 370-page work, “Kabut Jihad” (“The Cloud of Jihad”), has elicited strong reactions.

A book-launching event, held at the Hotel Borobudur in Jakarta on June 20th, drew not only representatives of the government and Islamic organisations, but also former jihadis and members of the Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), which the United States has designated a terrorist group. Its founder, hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, is behind bars after being convicted of supporting a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

The Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), a non-ministerial Indonesian government institution with a focus on counterterrorism, gave the green light for the book launch in the hope that Khairul, as former extremist himself, is well-positioned to explain why violence is the wrong direction for Muslims.

Khairul, who is serving a five-year prison term, arrived at the launch dressed in a batik and black skullcap. Guarding him at the public appearance was Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88), a special Indonesian counterterrorism squad.

“It needs to be understood that Indonesia is not a war zone because Muslim people are not attacking or fighting an enemy. Jihad must not threaten other people who lead peaceful lives,” he said, explaining that he wrote the book in order to counter mistaken perceptions among some Muslims.

Supporters say dialogue can combat violence

BNPT chairman Ansyaad Mbai said the book would promote a healthy dialogue about values, and in this way help the government reduce and eradicate the threat of terrorism.

“We want to motivate many prominent and influential anarchic ideologue terrorists and Islamic fundamentalist figures to write and publish more books on terrorism and radicalism in a fair kind of way,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“The BNPT will facilitate a public discussion and invite moderate and radical people to sit, discuss, and criticise the book together so they can share their views – especially on jihad,” he said. Such open dialogue, he said, is “better than having anarchic-ideological figures writing and publishing books secretly with the purpose of provoking people.”

A spokesman for Muhammadiyah, the nation’s second-largest Islamic organisation, agreed that a former terrorist writing a book could help minimise the spread of violent ideology.

“I would say that this is a cultural and persuasive way to prevent the growth of terrorism. However, it must be done naturally where individuals truly regret committing acts of terrorism,” the spokesman, Abdul Mukti, told Khabar.

He warned that the Indonesian government must provide extra protection for Khairul and his family because fundamentalist organisations disagreed with Khairul’s decision to share his experience and regret.

“For sure, they will be hated by his former group because he had changed his view and has opposed acts of terrorism through his writing,” Mukti said.

Militant group takes a dim view

The JAT organisation has already criticised the book, with spokesman Son Hadi bin Muhadjir attributing the book to the author’s “confusion”.

“He is under physical and psychological pressure as a convicted terrorist,” the JAT spokesman said.

Abdul Munir Mulkhan, an activist and professor at Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University, offered a contrasting perspective. In his view, the book does not go far enough in opposing violent jihad,

Even so, he said, it can help prevent the growth of terrorism and radicalism in Indonesia.

“I think the most important thing from Khairul’s book launch was the discussion where BNPT gave space for the radical and moderate Muslims to gather and share their views about jihad,” he said.

Judge: Patek can help deter youth from radical extremism

Khabar Southeast Asia

Judge: Patek can help deter youth from radical extremism

While some criticise the sentence as too light, others say Umar Patek has shown sincere remorse and can help persuade others from making the mistake that he did

The 20-year jail sentence handed down to Bali bomber Umar Patek on Thursday (June 21st) has elicited mixed reactions in Indonesia. Some say his sentence is an adequate warning to terrorists, while others insist he deserved to die for his role in ending so many lives.

“We all hoped that Patek would be given a death sentence because he helped to take hundreds of people’s lives by committing acts of terrorism, and the 2002 Bali bomb was the biggest terrorism attack in Indonesia,” Tony Soemarno of the Association of Bomb Victims in Indonesia (ASKOBI), told Khabar Southeast Asia.

But Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert and founder of the Institute for International Peace Building, said the sentence was appropriate because Patek is a valuable source of intelligence and can help teach youth not to follow the path of extremist violence.

“I think that 20 years in prison is the correct sentence for Patek. He has given a lot of information to the police, especially about terrorist networks sending members to Mindanao, Pakistan and also Afghanistan,” he told Khabar.

“His information will be very useful for the police in tracking down terrorist networks in Indonesia,” Noor said of the one-time leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to al-Qaeda.

Patek’s public acknowledgement of regret for the terrorist acts in which he participated will help discourage young people from turning to extremism, Noor said.

“Patek has told the public that he did not agree with the 2000 church attack or the 2002 Bali bombing,” he said. “And he has expressed his regret over his involvement.”

The 45-year-old terrorist was convicted on six charges, including premeditated murder of the Bali victims and for bombings at six Jakarta churches on Christmas Eve in 2000, as well as identification fraud and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

According to the indictment against him, Patek was responsible for assembling the bombs that killed 202 people, most of them foreigners, at a nightclub in Kuta, Bali in October 2002. During his trial, however, he claimed he had only a minor role in the Bali attacks, was against them “from the start” and tried to stop them at the 11th hour.

He also apologised to victims and their families, the Indonesian government and the international community.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence because he showed remorse during the four-month trial, while Patek’s attorneys asked for less than 15 years.

Encep Yuliardi, presiding judge of the five-member panel that handed down the sentence at West Jakarta District Court, said Patek had to be held accountable for his actions.

“He should know that no matter how small his role, the result was loss of lives,” Encep said at the sentencing. “He says he disagreed with it, but he could have rejected it and could have considered not following the orders of his seniors, or at least reporting [the plot] to the authorities.”

The bombings not only took a devastating human toll but also damaged Indonesia’s economy, the judge said. However, he added, Patek’s expressions of remorse and his public rejection of extremist violence were considered mitigating factors. Encep said he considered Patek’s statements to be sincere.

Patek’s sentence will deter others who might consider following the path of terrorism, while his example serves to show that misinterpretation of jihad creates a bad image for Islam, Encep said.


Indonesia: Sharia law pushes limits of local authority

Khabar Southeast Asia
The home ministry says it will call Tasikmalaya leaders for a meeting about their plans to impose Islamic law, including a requirement for women to wear headscarves in public.
A West Java municipality’s plans to implement Sharia-based laws and set up a police force to enforce them is testing the limits of regional autonomy in Indonesia, encroaching into areas that are typically the domain of the central government.
If enacted, the law in the town of Tasikmalaya would be the first of its kind in Indonesia outside the deeply conservative province of Aceh, where Sharia law was imposed in 2001.
According to Moenek Reydonnyzar, spokesman for Indonesia’s home ministry, Tasikmalaya city leaders would be overstepping their authority if they move ahead.
“Tasikmalaya cannot establish a Sharia police because the regional government does not have the authority to handle religious, legal and defense issues, as stipulated in the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law,” Reydonnyzar told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Indonesia implemented wide-ranging decentralisation in 1999, ending decades of authoritarian control under the Suharto regime. Regional autonomy has since been renewed and refined in subsequent legislation. Several areas remain under the domain of the central government, however, including defence, justice, legal, monetary, national fiscal and religious affairs.
Reydonnyzar said the home ministry will study the Tasikmalaya law – dubbed the “Regulation on Islamic-based Community Life Values” – and convene a meeting with local leaders to examine whether it is aligned with national laws.
“As soon as we study the regulation, the Minister of Home Affairs will invite the chairman of Tasikmalaya Council of Regional Representatives and the mayor to discuss it, especially how the regional regulation can be synchronised with the central government regulation,” he explained.
Aceh a model for Tasikmalaya?
Nasir Djamil, deputy chairman of the committee for the oversight of legal affairs in the Indonesian House of Representatives, said he would support the proposed laws in Tasikmalaya as long as they do not contradict national laws.
“As long as the purpose of establishing the Sharia police is to bring order to society and to protect society from ‘social disease’, I think it is all right and appropriate,” Djamil, a Prosperous Justice Party [PKS] lawmaker, told Khabar.
Aceh also has Sharia law and a Sharia police force, he added.
However, Aceh is one of five special regions that enjoy a greater degree of autonomy due to historic and cultural factors. Tasikmalaya is not among them.
The Sharia-based law was originally approved by Tasikmalaya Mayor Syarif Hidayat on September 24th, 2009 and is slated for enactment this year. It would require women to wear headscarves in public. In addition, it sets forth a list of 15 punishable offenses, including corruption, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, drugs use and trafficking, consumption of alcoholic beverages, looking at pornography, thuggery, promoting cults, and abortion.
Andri Kurniadi, 31, a Tasikmalayan Muslim, told Khabar that implementing Islamic values in daily life is good, but the government does not need to establish a Sharia police to enforce them.
“Despite the fact that a majority of Tasikmalaya society is Muslim, the idea of establishing Sharia police would create pro and contra [factions] in society,” he said.
“The Sharia police would force people to implement the regulation, and it would just create pressure among us. Even worse, the hardline groups would also force society to implement it,” he added.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, believes Tasikmalaya’s efforts to establish a Sharia police are inconsistent with the Indonesian constitution, which guarantees religious freedom. The city government, he said, should differentiate between private and social issues.
The idea of establishing a Sharia police is “odd”, Bonar told Khabar. “Before the regulation is adopted, it must be brought to the Supreme Court to be reviewed.”
He urged the Tasikmalayan leaders to collect input about the law from a variety of perspectives, including from women and others whose lives will be most directly impacted by it.