Counter-Terrorism: Top At The Top Of His Game


September 4, 2009: The July 17 hotel bombings in Indonesia, it turned out, were organized by the most wanted Islamic terrorist in the region; Noordin Mohammed Top. Such an elaborate attack exposed Top's organization to momentary scrutiny. Dozens of people working for Top were detected and arrested, and much was discovered about what Top was up to.

This was embarrassing for the government, which had led everyone to believe that Top's organization was in disarray. But that was not the case, and the main reason was that Top was able to maintain a support network via Islamic conservative organizations and religious schools run by Islamic radicals. The government had tried to placate the Indonesian Islamic conservatives, who are a small (less than 20 percent of the population), by backing off on surveillance and roundups of suspected terrorists in religious schools and radical mosques. By doing this, the government thought it had an understanding, that Islamic conservative leaders and clerics would shun the Islamic terrorists. Such was not the case, and now the Islamic conservatives are again under fire, and on the defensive.

Investigators also discovered that Top had received some of his financing (even Islamic terrorists have expenses, and need cash) from Middle Eastern sources. If this can be proven, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Arab states will be forced to try a little harder to halt such "charity". Saudi Arabia, in particular, has cracked down in the last six years, after denying that there was a big problem with wealthy, and generous, Islamic conservatives in the kingdom.

Indonesian Islam was always one of the more mellow varieties, in part because many aspects of pre-Islamic religions were retained as people adopted Islam. This is common with new religions, but Islamic conservatives, especially those from Arabia, consider this heretical. Saudi Over the last three decades, Arabian religious charities (fueled by all that oil wealth) established religious schools, and sent Islamic conservative teachers and clerics to staff them. This established an Islamic conservative movement in Indonesia, and their holier-than-thou attitudes have been troublesome for the government (which fears being tagged as "un-Islamic), and a source of support for Islamic radicals and terrorists.

The latest terror attacks have again forced the government to confront the problems that Islamic conservatism brings with it. Most Indonesians want no part of the radicalism and terrorism, and, this time around, the government may decide to side more with the majority, and less with the troublesome minority.


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