Counter-Terrorism: The Chilling Effect


April 25, 2011: Indonesia has largely shut down local Islamic terrorist activity. The police and academics have also studied known or suspected Islamic radicals and found a pattern of activity similar to what is encountered in other parts of the world suffering from Islamic terrorism.

It works like this (for Indonesia). Once the large terrorist organizations and networks were defeated, hard core terrorist-minded individuals became the nexus for continued terrorist activity. It was found that Islamic terrorists released from prison (after serving their terms, or because of amnesty) often served as ringleaders for small terror cells (small groups of 3-6 men). Another source of these cells was Islamic study groups found in some mosques. Not all released prisoners or Islamic study groups resulted in terrorist cells, but these were the two most common sources of such violent militants. As a result, the police and intelligence services are keeping an eye on these two groups, and developing methods to predict where new cells are most likely to show up.

Earlier this year, Indonesian counter-terror experts revealed that they believed there were still about 40 known Islamic terrorists loose in Indonesia. Most of the key leaders have been killed or captured in the past year. And there is still some popular support for the Islamic radicals. A lot of this comes from young men attracted by the use of violence against Christians, women wearing Western clothing (and not being submissive to men) and Moslem men enjoying themselves in nightclubs and bars. These guys also tend to be unemployed, or working a low-paying jobs they feel are beneath them. The young men are also upset that the girls tend to do better at school (girls study harder) and have an easier time getting jobs (women are seen as more productive employees). Islamic conservatism stresses less education for women and not allowing women to work outside the home. There is also a lot of anger at the corruption in the government and throughout society. But the angry young men have more immediate things to be upset about, and Islamic terrorism is a way of confronting those personal and cultural problems.

As of last year, the Philippines was the scene of more Islamic terrorism than Indonesia. That status is not expected to last, because there are so many young Moslem men attracted to Islamic conservatism in Indonesia. But Indonesian counter-terror officials believe they can contain the Islamic radicals, and continue to reduce Islamic terrorist activity.

One thing discouraging Islamic radicalism is the constant media coverage of Islamic militants being prosecuted. Even people who help the terrorists are being caught and punished. For example, last year, two policemen were sent to jail for ten years for selling weapons and ammo to an Islamic terror group in Aceh (western Indonesia). But most of the trials are of men accused of Islamic terrorism, and most are convicted and sent to prison. This has a chilling effect on terrorist wannabes and their supporters.


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