Jakarta. Imprisoned terrorist convict Abu Bakar Ba’asyir has officially pledged his allegiance, or bai’at, to join the jihadist movement of a militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to an official, who says that the list of Indonesian Muslim supporters for the radical movement only continues to grow.
“We had already tightened prison security, but unfortunately they [met] in rooms we didn’t suspect [they would use],” said Handoyo Sudrajat, the penitentiary directorate general at the Ministry of Legal and Human Rights Affairs.
Ba’asyir, the spiritual leader of the Indonesian terror network Jamaah Islamiyah, made his bai’at to ISIS with 23 other prisoners in a praying room of what was supposed to be the highly secured Pasir Putih penitentiary on Nusakambangan Island off Cilacap, Central Java.
Meanwhile, Habib Rizieq Shihab of the Muslim hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) denied that his organization had denounced ISIS.
“The FPI has yet decide whether it will support or refuse the establishment of ISIS [in Indonesia],” he was quoted as saying by Kompas.com, adding that FPI leaders would assess the rapidly growing Iraqi movement to decide whether it has deviated from Islamic teachings.
As ISIS garners more support in various pockets of Indonesia, anxiety has also escalated among its citizens over the jihadist movement gaining strength within the archipelago.
The Central Java government recently discovered that a local branch of ISIS’s has been active in Sempu, Malang, for at least a month. Calling themselves Ansharul Khilafah, the cell have reportedly been using a village mosque as their headquarters.
“I was tagged about the establishment [of Ansharullah Khilafah] on Facebook, so my friends and I went [to the mosque]. There was a video screening and a sermon about ISIS. They handed out Al Mustaqbal magazines, brochures and vouchers for fried chicken,” Malang resident Aji Prase told the Jakarta Globe.
“We are worried about the [existence of ISIS], which is notorious for its brutal force and violence. They won’t hesitate to kill anyone who doesn’t fall in line with [their ideology]. We don’t want Malang to be its headquarters, because this would only bring violence here,” he added.
In a mere week the militant group’s influence has reportedly spread to several other areas of Central Java, particularly Solo. A number of media portals have reported scores of Surakarta Muslims pledging their oath to ISIS.
Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said the government would step up its efforts in both monitoring and limiting the organization’s movements.
“We will improve on our early warning system and remain on high alert, so we can say that Central Java is the bastion of the Pancasila,” he said on Monday as quoted by Kompas.com.
Meanwhile, the central government has officially banned ISIS and emphasized the importance of putting a stop to the militant outfit’s damaging influence.
“The government will not allow ISIS to develop in Indonesia, because it goes against the ideology of our Pancasila, which promotes pluralism,” said Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, during a press conference at the presidential palace in Jakarta on Monday.
“Every attempt to promote ISIS should be prevented. Indonesia should not be the place to spread [their ideology].”
The announcement came after a limited cabinet meeting on ISIS led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“The activities of ISIS and now IS [Islamic State] have been monitored by several ministries since the movement first showed signs of taking root in the country, [including] the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the National Police,” Djoko said.
The coordinating minister added that ISIS should not be considered a religious movement, but as an ideology that runs counter to that of Indonesia.
The National Police and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) have been appointed to lead a joint law enforcement effort against ISIS’s activities across the country, according to Djoko.
The government also said it would be monitoring Indonesians who plan to travel to countries in the Middle East and South Asia — areas known to have ongoing armed conflicts — to ensure they will not have any contact with ISIS.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry will take the lead [on the matter], while the National Police and the BNPT will monitor the movements of any Indonesian citizen who visits the Middle East as well as South Asia,” Djoko said.
With an increasing number of reports of citizens supporting the Iraqi-based movement, University of Indonesia law professor Hikmahanto Juwana urged the government to conduct a comprehensive campaign against the teachings of ISIS to inform the people of Indonesia of its dangers.
“Although the president has urged his people to be critical about this damaging jihadist movement, further preventive actions must be taken. Will they enforce the law or won’t they ? They need to act now,” Hikmahanto said.
Very Aziz, a political observer of the Middle East at Paramadina University, said that most of ISIS’s Indonesian supporters have been ensnared by false, religious rhetoric fed to them by recruiters with purely political agendas.
“The support for ISIS will remain small in Indonesia. However, the government must continue to keep a close eye on the outfit, so that it won’t escalate into an unruly minority group that manages to disturb the peace,” he said.