April 25, 2007:
One reason Indonesia has come down
hard, but carefully, on local Islamic radicals, is because the goal of the
radicals has some disturbing political implications. The main Islamic radical
group in Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiya, doesn't just want to turn Indonesia into
an Islamic religious dictatorship, but also wants to create a new nation that
grabs territory from neighbors (parts of the Philippines and Thailand, as well
as all of Malaysia). This bit of nationalism, for a "Greater Indonesia," has a
certain popular appeal, and the Indonesian government doesn't want to do
anything that would turn this fever dream into a widely publicized one.
The Indonesians are also moving carefully with the
increasing amount of evidence they have about the involvement of wealthy Saudi
Arabians and local Islamic terrorists. Much of the cash that Jemaah Islamiya
needs to keep its key people in action, comes from these Saudi Arabians, and
the Saudi government seems unable, or unwilling, to stop it. The Saudis don't
see it that way, and insist that they have persuaded the wealthy, pro-Islamic
radical Saudis to stop sending cash to killers. But the Saudis won't release
any details, and no one is releasing, or even has, reliable data on just how
much cash is coming out of Saudi Arabia, and headed for Islamic terrorists.
Indonesia, and its neighbors, have caught a few of the couriers, and the cash
they were carrying. Counter-terror experts in the region also note that, before
2001, this cash was moved via Pakistan and Afghanistan. Back when the Taliban
gave al Qaeda a home in Afghanistan, there was an effort to hide the origins of
the Saudi cash by moving it out using couriers moving via Pakistan.
Indonesian counter-terrorism efforts have kept the
local terrorists on the move, and unable to launch many attacks. Same deal in
Malaysia. But in the Philippines and south Thailand, the violence is growing.
What is unique in the Philippines and Thailand is the presence of non-Moslems.
This makes it easier for the Islamic terrorists to kill someone and not offend
the local Moslems so much. When terrorists kill people in Malaysia and
Indonesia, they can't easily avoid creating lots of Moslem victims. This is
very bad for their image, and recruiting prospects.
The Islamic radicals are quick to exploit the "them
versus us" angle. Islam makes much of that, which is something most Moslems
don't like to dwell on. The rest of the world has largely gotten beyond
religious wars. But not Islam, and the core beliefs of al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiya,
and similar organizations is the need to kill and oppress non-Moslems. You can
get away with this, up to a point. But in the end, you have to confront the
fact that the non-Moslems possess most of the military power, and nearly all