Hatred for other religions is a cornerstone of Islamic radicalism.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the city of Poso, on the Indonesian island
of Sulawesi. In the late 1990s, Islamic militants from other parts of Indonesia
flocked to Poso to take part in a jihad (war) against local Christians. This
actually began as a Moslem attempt to grab permanent control of the local
government. For decades, the Moslems and Christians had maintained the peace by
having politicians from the two faiths alternate as head of the local
government. Moslems in Sulawesi have long been hostile to the Christians, who
comprise about half the population. The Islamic extremists saw Poso as an
opportunity to recruit, and build a larger terrorist organization. Since the
late 1990s, over a thousand people have died in and around Poso, out of a
population of less than half a million. The government sent in thousands of
additional troops and police to restore peace.
the last year, the police believed that they had reduced the terrorists
to about twenty hard core members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the local al Qaeda
affiliate. On January 22nd, police tried to grab most of these men, after
months of detective work to find out where they were. But the terrorists knew
the police were closing in, and had assembled reinforcements. The subsequent
battle left one policemen, and fifteen Islamic radicals, dead, and dozens more
wounded. Over twenty militants were arrested, but several of the leaders got
away. The Islamic militants are trying to spin this incident to their
advantage, by claiming that the police (who were largely Moslem) are
anti-Moslem. The dead militants are being portrayed as martyrs.
Islamiyah needs a boost, because over a dozen major terrorist attacks in the
last five years has horrified, rather than radicalized, most Indonesians.
The Islamic radicals have been on the run, and most have been arrested. Poso is
one of the few places where they can still operate openly without being quickly
rounded up. Even less violent Islamic radicals, who do little more than harass
women dressed in Western clothing, or men having a beer in a club, have become
increasingly unpopular throughout Indonesia. While Indonesians support Islam in
general, they are less enthusiastic in practice. But this has not prevented a
small number of radicals from using terrorism against non-Moslems in an attempt
to trigger an Islamic revolution. That has not worked, but it has left
thousands dead, and demonstrated a common tactic among Islamic radicals the
world over. In most countries where there are large Moslem and non-Moslem populations
living close together, there has been this kind of violence. It's not just a
pattern, it's a popular tactics. One that we will continue to see tried.