The National Police’s counter terrorism squad, Detachment 88, otherwise known as Densus 88, arrested six suspected terrorist over the weekend in West Java, Central Java and East Java. The group are reportedly affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). The National Police (POLRI) Chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti told the press that the group had prepared a bomb attack for this upcoming end of the year holidays. [Continue reading]
Last week, Indonesians were shocked by the revelation that several public school textbooks contain hardline religious teachings. We obtained a copy of “Pendidikan Agama Islam dan Budi Pekerti” and noticed the second paragraph of page 170 stating, “Yang boleh disembah hanyalah Allah SWT dan orang yang menyembah selain Allah Swt telah menjadi musyrik dan boleh dibunuh”, which in English means, “Only Allah SWT should be worshiped and those worshiping Allah SWT perform idolatry and can therefore be killed.” [Continue reading]
The head of the hard-line group Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) Chep Hermawan made a revelatory statement last week. He claimed that he’s the financiers behind Indonesians joining the State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Indonesian National Police (POLRI), however, believe that Chep was lying and that he had simply sought to create a media sensation. POLRI said that they had investigated Chep and found no proof supporting his claim. [Continue reading]
“There is freedom of religion in this country, but unfortunately religious freedom tends to be a source of conflict among Indonesia’s religious groups,” Dawam Rahardjo says.
Scholar Dawam Rahardjo won the 2013 Yap Thiam Hien Award for championing the rights of Indonesia’s religious minorities. An economist by training, Dawam headed the All-Indonesia Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) from 1995 to 2000, and currently leads the Institute of Religious and Philosophical Studies (LSAF).
In an interview with Khabar Southeast Asia, Dawam recalls challenges he has faced as an advocate of tolerance, and shares his thoughts about religious freedom.
Khabar: What does freedom of religion mean to you?
Dawam: Equality and tolerance are two main keys to religious freedom. Indonesia is more than 80% Muslim but it has diverse religions and beliefs. This is captured in its constitution, “believe in the divinity of God”.
There is freedom of religion in this country, but unfortunately religious freedom tends to be a source of conflict among Indonesia’s religious groups.
Khabar: If freedom of religion exists in Indonesia, why is there religious conflict?
Dawam: It is because of the lack of communication between the religious groups.
There is a separation between them that often leads to misunderstandings, so it is important to build an open, respectful dialogue. That is what I have been fighting for all this time, by myself or through my organisation.
However … my outspoken approach has drawn threats and intimidation. I was fired from Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organisation, for defending the Ahmadiyah group, whose practices were denounced in 2006 as deviant from Islam.
Khabar: Recently, religious conflict tends to happen in Java. Why?
Dawam: Religious conflict in West Java targeted the Ahmadiyah group while the religious conflict in East Java has targeted the Shia group the past few years. Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by Sunni Islam, is funding a number of local organisations to influence the Muslim community and limit the ability of both Shia and Ahmadiyah to grow.
The Indonesian government is not brave enough to stop those interventions because Indonesia is dependent upon Saudi Arabia for the Hajj to Mecca and the employment of Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
Khabar: What does the world need to know about Islam in Indonesia?
Dawam: There are many interpretations of Islam, ranging from fundamentalism and conservatism to liberal and traditional. Islam in Indonesia is not radical.
The fundamentalist group is in the minority, but they are brazen enough to speak out with their actions. However, sometimes we have to wonder whether they understand what they are doing, because some of them are being paid to join demonstrations, and they do not understand why they are there.
Khabar: What is the root of Indonesian radicalism?
Dawam: Radicalism is triggered by poverty. Fundamentalist groups allegedly pay poor people to perpetrate religious attacks to alter public perception.
Those poor people do not support the issue being protested; they just care about being paid. If the economic problem were fixed, the growth of radicalism would slow down or even stop. But that is a big homework assignment for the government.
For terror groups, the Internet has become a useful tool to recruit would-be jihadists. The Indonesian authorities are doing their best to keep pace.
Technological advancements have enabled terrorists to wage online propaganda campaigns through “hundreds” of jihad-themed websites, experts warn.
Terrorists’ use of the Internet to spread their messages began in 2002 when Imam Samudra claimed responsibility for the Bali bombings via istimata.com, according to Noor Huda Ismail, executive director of the International Institute for Peace Building.
Ten years later, “there are hundreds of Internet sites” used to spread jihadist propaganda in Indonesia, run by groups and individuals, Noor Huda told Khabar Southeast Asia.
“There are also some individuals who manage several websites at one time,” he said. “They usually use social media and/or free blog hosting such as Facebook or Blogpot to post information or ideas about jihad.”
He said the Internet is one of the most effective ways for extremists to deliver their messages and find like-minded people.
Jakarta-based journalist Solahudin told Khabar that those websites contain information about jihad and Islam in general, and therefore tend to be attractive to their readers and followers.
One of the most popular topics on such sites, he said, is how to make a bomb from regular kitchen items.
“They can easily find out how to make bombs cheaply. They can purchase the ingredients such as match powder and also sugar without being noticed,” he said. “That was actually what happened in Umar Bin Khattab boarding school in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara. They assembled a bomb with knowledge gained from the Internet.”
The principal of the school was sentenced to 17 years in jail for preaching militant jihad and teaching his students to make bombs after a bomb exploded at the school on July 11, 2011, killing one person.
A Tangerang-based Islamic news portal, arrahmah.com, which provides information about jihad, published a letter on October 15th challenging Detachment 88 to an open fight.
According to the website, the letter was written by Abu Wardah, alias Santoso, the self-styled “Commander of Mujahideen in Eastern Indonesia,” who is on the police most wanted list.
The letter, written in Indonesian, Arabic and English, was first released by al-busyro.org, a site which also contains updates on jihad preparation in Poso and can only be accessed by members.
“In order to be a member with those kinds of websites, a person will need a recommendation from another member. Other than that, the website opens registration during certain periods of time,” Noor Huda said. “They do not want the information to be accessed freely.”
In 2006, Detachment 88 arrested three men for helping create and maintain anshar.net on the order of Noordin M. Top, a bomb-maker killed in 2009, with the purpose of spreading jihad propaganda.
Abdul Aziz, a high school computer teacher who designed the site, was sentenced to 10 years in prison that same year. Agung Prabowo was given three years in 2007 for purchasing the domain name anshar.net and a hosting account, while Agung Setyadi was sentenced to six years for sending a laptop to Imam Samudra, who was jailed in Bali at the time.
The Ministry of Communication and Information claims it has been blocking many websites since electronic transaction and information regulations were set up in 2008.
“Unlike before, when we only blocked websites on request, we now have a system which automatically blocks any website that contains negative stuff, including pornography and radicalism,” Gatot Dewa Broto, a spokesman for the ministry, told Khabar.
However, Gatot said, the ministry faces several obstacles in its efforts to block such websites, including limited bandwidth and human resources.
“If we block all the websites, it would hamper the public’s Internet access and we’d rather avoid that,” he said. “Secondly, we lack enough people who can keep monitoring the websites which contain negative material. It needs to be understood that we cannot just block any website based on like and dislike; it requires verification.”
Indonesia has 220 Internet service providers, he said; monitoring them is a big job.
“With all of these problems, we keep trying to improve,” he said.
Terrorism remains a real threat in Indonesia, and militants are becoming more sophisticated at bomb-making, Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Khabar Southeast Asia in an exclusive interview Thursday (October 4th).
“With this latest case, the terrorism threat is still real,” Ansyaad said, referring to a string of arrests in September of suspects who claim they belong to Al-Qaeda Indonesia.
No evidence has been found of links to international terrorists. “We have found no evidence of that. But they did indeed plan to form a network called Al-Qaeda Indonesia,” he said.
Suspects picked up in a series of incidents in late September in Solo, Central Java and Depok, West Java appear to have been more creative and sophisticated than other terror groups in assembling bombs, employing, among other items, plastic food containers and rice cookers.
Police seized liquid nitroglycerin bombs packed in plastic bags, four pipe bombs, two bottle bombs, 4kg of sulphur, 5kg of gunpowder and several mobile phones.
“They have become more sophisticated. It can be seen from the latest evidence which was found: they have prepared the liquid bomb. In fact, our explosive experts considered that the bomb has higher capacity than the previous homemade bomb.” Ansyaad said.
Old group, new name
In a series of raids starting on September 22nd, police detained nine terrorist suspects: Badri Hartono, Rudi Kurnia Putra, Khumaidi, Fajar Novianto, Barkah Nawah Saputra, Triyatno, Arif Pamungkas, Joko Priyanto alias Joko Jihad, and Wendy Febriangga alias Hasan.
Other suspects are still being sought by police, he said, stressing, however, that they do not represent a new group.
Some of the detainees are former members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), a hardline Islamic group once led by cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.
“So it’s not new at all. There are even some who have served prison time,” he said.
“Since the 2002 Bali bombings, Jemaah Islamiyah has been broken down into numbers of small groups or cells, but the cells are still in touch with one another. Later, when the name changed to Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid, their leader is still Abu Bakar Bashir,” he explained.
“Therefore it needs to be understood that even though they have been changing their name many times, these actually are not new groups. Each group still has the old figures and recruits new members.”
“At a certain level, these groups can reunite to carry out another action. Like now, we can see each group has its plan and carries it out in several different places… So you can’t say it’s new or, as some say, fourth generation. It’s not relevant to classify it in that way,” he said.
Their goals remain the same, but their targets have shifted over the past decade.
“Before the emphasis was the West, the ‘far enemy.’ Now it’s more the ‘near enemy’. Why? Because they have experienced — over these more than ten years — that in fact what most obstructs their movement is the ‘near enemy’, and the enemy that is nearest to them is the police,” he said.
Their goal, he added, is to establish an Islamic state based on their version of Sharia Islam.
“Careful when you write Sharia Islam…it’s ‘their version of Sharia Islam’,” he said.
Authorities have found no evidence of foreign money flowing to radicals in Indonesia. But 2012 saw evidence of multiple approaches employed to raise money at home.
“It appears that their pattern now is to focus domestically, stealing over the Internet, or using the conventional way, which is by robbing banks or gold shops or whatever they can,” he said.
In May, authorities arrested alleged hackers Rizki Gunawan in Jakarta and Cahya Fitriyanta in Bandung, who managed to break into a multi-level marketing website and obtain almost 5,937 billion rupiah ($617,150) – money used, according to police, to fund terror activities including militant training in Poso and the bombing of a church in Solo last year.
On Monday (October 8th), Cahya Fitriyanta’s trial began in West Jakarta District Court. He faces multiple charges including hacking, money laundering and supporting terrorism.