Indonesia: The Islamic Hard Core


October 11, 2011: The government is under growing pressure to ban Hizbut Tahrir, a half century old organization dedicated to creating a global Islamic dictatorship. Banned in most Middle Eastern countries, Hizbut Tahrir has avoided that in most other countries by avoiding violence. Instead, Hizbut Tahrir concentrates on recruiting and demonstrations. But Hizbut Tahrir believes in terrorism and armed rebellion eventually, and that's what got Indonesian officials concerned.

Hizbut Tahrir is but one of the largest of several Islamic groups resisting change. There are growing demonstrations against shopping malls (in part because these put existing merchants out of business) and karaoke bars (because men and women party together.) This sort of thing is worst in Aceh. 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, or men who are drinking or gambling in Aceh. 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. But as part of the peace deal with determined Aceh rebels, Sharia is the law in Aceh, and Islamic conservatives are becoming more active enforcing the rules on Moslems and non-Moslems (who are not supposed to be subject to these rules.)

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. But the core Islamic radicals will not stop. Islam has long tolerated these radicals, and that's part of the problem.

An example of this can be seen in the Maluku Islands. The government is being criticized for doing nothing about police reluctance to crack down on Islamic militant violence in the Malukus. Violence here is not just religious, but also ethnic. The Melanesians of Maluku are largely Christian, while the Malay migrants from other parts of Indonesians are Moslem. Islamic radicals gain a little more traction in the Maluku islands, because it gives the local Malays another weapon in their efforts to dominate the Melanesians (who the Malays tend to look down on as a bunch of savages). Religious violence is often not just about religion. The police are mainly Malay and Moslem, and they tend to take sides.

October 10, 2011: In Papua, hundreds of local mine employees clashed with police. One of the miners was shot dead and five others wounded. The strikers are local Melanesians (culturally very different from the Malays who comprise most of the country's population). The gold/copper mine is the largest in the country and the single largest source of revenue for the government. The miners want a large (ten times or more) wage increase (to $17.50-$43 an hour). But most of the miners also want independence for Papua (the western half of New Guinea Island.) About 90 percent of the 12,000 miners are on strike and the violence was mainly about strikers preventing management from bringing in new workers.

October 8, 2011: Police announced the arrest of five men responsible for an April 15 suicide bombing of a mosque used by police and a September 25 attack on a church. Those arrested are members of JAT (Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid) an Islamic radical group founded three years ago by jailed (for terrorism) cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Those arrested are accused of planning new attacks.

October 3, 2011: Police arrested a suspected Islamic terrorist, and accused him of participating in the bombing of a church last month.

September 29, 2011: The Islamic suicide bomber who attacked a church on the 25th, belonged to JAT.





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