Counter-Terrorism: Indonesia Shows The Way


December 21, 2012: Despite having the largest Moslem population of any country, Indonesia has managed to control attempts to introduce Islamic terrorism on a large scale. There have been some Islamic terrorist activity, but the government cracked down hard, especially after some attacks on Christians (both tourists and locals) a decade ago. This led to several years of vigorous counter-terrorism activity and sustained pressure ever since. The major (legal) Islamic conservative movements (which provide most of the recruits for the outlawed Islamic terror groups) have backed off when the government disapproves of some new form of Islamic intolerance. Thus there are fewer public calls for supporting Islamic terrorism or attacks on Indonesian Christians or Hindus. The Islamic conservatives then turned to using mobs to try and shut down “un-Islamic” (but legal) activities like bars, night clubs or Western style clothing for women. The government (and many Indonesians) pushed back on that. So now the Islamic conservatives are going after the Shia minority (1 million of the 242 million Indonesians) more vigorously. Shia have been under attack for over five years, but now the actions are more violent and there have been more deaths and destruction of property. Islamic conservatives demand that Shia convert to the Sunni form of Islam and there is violence when Shia refuse. Despite all this violence and demands for more laws forcing people to live strictly according to Islamic law, the radicals can never gain much traction. The new increased violence against Shia are not making the Islamic conservatives any more popular.

The main reason for this is the fact that Indonesians were never hard core Moslems. This deficiency was noted and attracted fundamentalist missionaries from Saudi Arabia (paid for by the Saudi government), and some Islamic conservative mosques and schools were established over the last few decades. But after an outbreak of organized Islamic terrorism in Indonesia in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the population largely turned against the Islamic conservatives. Most Islamic schools were forced to teach more tolerance of other religions. The conservative mosques and schools are still operating, but they are not turning out Islamic radicals like they used to. Islamic radicalism is on the defensive, and seeking opportunities to make a comeback. Islamic terrorism is not seen as a practical tactic for gaining support for Islamic conservatism. Thus the police are left to hunt down those individuals who have not picked up on the shift in the public mood.

Five years ago Islamic terrorists were largely shut down in Indonesia by a combination of good police work, and public opinion turning against the Islamic radicals. While a large minority of Indonesians favors Islamic radicalism, not enough of them are willing to back terrorism. There was a largely unseen (outside of Indonesia) civil war between the traditional Moslems (who incorporate many pre-Islamic religious customs and ideas) and the Islamic conservatives (heavily influenced by Wahhabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia.) Many of those Islamic radicals not killed or arrested, fled the country. Some ended up in the Philippines and Malaysia, where they continue to be pursued. There are still dozens of Islamic terrorists in Indonesia, but they spend most of their time avoiding arrest.




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