Indonesia: Down But Not Dead


October 29, 2010: Islamic terrorists have been very much on the defensive this year, while separatist and ethnic violence in Papua is increasing. The Islamic radicals suffered a major blow in March, when the much hunted leader of Jemaah Islamiyah Dulmatin, was killed in Indonesia. This guy has been very elusive. Three years ago, he was almost captured in the Philippines. He had a $10 million price on his head, had moved  his family  to the Philippines four years ago. His wife and kids were captured in the Philippines, and sent back to Indonesia. Islamic terrorists often flee with their families in tow, as it is a tradition in most Islamic countries for family members to be arrested to get someone to surrender. There's also the danger that families of victims of terrorist attacks might seek revenge by attacking the terrorist's family.

The death of Dulmatin marked the end of a phase in Indonesian Islamic terrorism. The month before, police had discovered, and raided, terrorist camps in Aceh (the western most part of the country, and long the most Islamic). This part of Indonesia is different in other ways, including its approach to terrorism. These raids killed or arrested over a hundred terrorism suspects, and exposed a new Islamic terrorism network that had been built on the rubble of older organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah.

Indonesia has long been hostile to Islamic terrorism, and radicalism of all sorts. For example, several years of Islamic terrorism in the country, after 2001, was followed by a backlash that has still not abated. Despite years of effort, only one (of 33) provinces (Aceh) has adopted Sharia (Islamic) law. This has resulted in teams of men acting as lifestyle police, and looking for couples displaying affection, or women who are not covered up. Sharia is more of a hassle for women than men, and was instituted mainly to deal with corruption. But the usual suspects were able to bribe the Sharia judges as easily as their predecessors. So the only victims are people caught kissing in public, or women wearing tight jeans, and no scarf on their heads. This has further discredited Islamic conservatives, and those who advocate Islamic terrorism as a tool for positive change.

Islamic radicals tried to gain public enthusiasm for Sharia by claiming that Islamic law would deal with corruption and the spread of AIDs. But most voters are not impressed, and still see Islamic radicals as, for the most part, a source of Islamic terrorism. This kind of violence is very unpopular with most Indonesians, and that makes it very difficult for Islamic terrorists to recruit, much less operate, in the country. Those who have fled to Malaysia and the Philippines have found equally toxic conditions.

This was demonstrated in August, when police arrested senior cleric Abu Bakar Basyir, long the spiritual leader of Islamic radicals in Indonesia. He, like other Islamic radical leaders, encouraged terrorism privately  while, publicly they promoted conspiracy theories. For example, Abu Bakar Bashir long insisted that the 2002 Bali bombing (that killed 202) was actually a CIA missile, fired from a ship off shore. Many of his followers believe this, but most Indonesians know exactly what happened. The police believe they have enough evidence of Bashir's involvement with the Aceh terror camps to put him in prison. Bashir has long insisted he was just a humble preacher, not an organizer of terrorist activities.

Bashir has been arrested before, and done some time in prison. But the government has been lenient with Islamic terrorists, and encouraged a rehabilitation program. This approach has now been abandoned, mainly because so many of the "rehabilitated" terrorists returned to their evil ways. Islamic conservatism in general is now under attack.

While the Islamic terrorists that kill are hunted down in Indonesia, the Islamic radicals that just hassle and injure non-Moslems, or lax Moslems, are often not shut down. These radicals often progress to lethal terrorism, but the government is reluctant to crack down for fear of being accused of being "un-Islamic." But that is changing, as several times a month these Islamic radicals turn into real terrorists and try to kill someone. Indonesians were never very receptive to the more strict forms of Islam (or any other religion). But the traditional Indonesian tolerance allowed Islamic conservatives to push their activities to fatal extremes. There is not much tolerance for that. So now the police and counter-terrorism forces are hunting down the remaining veterans of the Aceh terror camps. There are only believed to be a few dozen of these men at large, but they are all believed to be very dangerous.

Unrest continues to grow in Papua (the western half of New Guinea island). The reasons for the violence stem from the fact that, in the 1960s, Indonesia took control of the former Dutch colony (the western half of New Guinea) by force, despite the fact that the Dutch departed, leaving behind an elected Papuan government. Since then, the Indonesian government has used a combination of force, bribery and terror to maintain control. The Papuans are poor, and about 20 percent are illiterate. The Papuans are Melanesians and non-Moslem (most are Christian or Pagan), while most Indonesians are Malay and Moslem. The two groups do not get along. The Indonesians have more guns, and use them freely to push the Papuans around. For example, there are several large mining (copper and gold) operations in Papua. These are guarded by the police and army. The local Papuans receive little benefit from these mines, while the Indonesian government receives large tax revenues from the mine operators.

Recently, a video got out showing Indonesian soldiers torturing a Papuan they suspected of being a separatist. The government admitted that this went on, but made no move to curb the violent tactics of the police. Every month, there are a dozen of more casualties because of clashes between Papuans and police. There is similar violence between native Papuans and Malay migrants from other parts of Indonesia.

The government is also suspected of using Cyber War tactics to shut down the web sites of NGOs that support Papuan independence. Most Indonesians are behind government efforts to keep Papua part of Indonesia.





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