The Rising Tide of Radicalism Threatening Indonesia

A member of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) takes a stroll during a violent protest outside the US Embassy in Jakarta in this file photo. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

By : Maulana Bachtiar - GIV | on 9:00 AM October 31, 2013
Category : Archive

A member of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) takes a stroll during a protest outside the US Embassy in Jakarta in this file photo. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya) A member of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) takes a stroll during a protest outside the US Embassy in Jakarta in this file photo. (JG Photo/Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)

Many countries today experience the menace of radicalism sweeping their society. Hard-line Muslims have been growing in worrisome numbers that violently challenge constitutional frameworks of countries, along with working aggressively to alter the basic societal fabrics.

The wave of radicalism has washed terror across multiple territorial boundaries. The issue that started off with capitalism and communism was confronted with Islamic radicalism concentrated in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which ultimately lead to the disintegration of the USSR.

The fires of radicalism led to the infamous 9/11 attacks, followed by ‘war on terror’ and continues to spread terror across several countries.

According to Silicon India News, top ten countries that are the worst hit by terrorism today are Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Thailand, Russia and Philippines.

Roots of radicalism in Indonesia

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority country comprising of about 200 million people, is known to be far more tolerant in terms of religious diversity as compared to counterparts in the Middle East.

Despite of being made up of Muslims majority, Indonesia is not governed by the Islamic law. In 1945, Indonesia opted out of having an Islamic constitution. A vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia practice a moderate form of religion. However, radicalism in Indonesia is on the rise with a small but vocal group posing a threat to peace, democracy and stability in Indonesia.

So how exactly did radicalism come to Indonesia?

Radicalism in Indonesia is not a new phenomenon. It is a part of Indonesia’s political history and has been present since the colonial era. Along with Muslim sentiments, coinciding with the feelings against Western domination over the Muslims, Indonesian radical movements have origin in the Middle Eastern reform movements which began in 1869 when the Suez Canal was opened.

Around 1800, Wahhabism was imported to Indonesia through Indonesian Muslims who had gone to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for pilgrimage. The Salafi movement from Indonesia gained much influence in the 19th century which led to the creation of two Salafi organizations in Indonesia including Al-Irsyad (Union for Reformation and Guidance) and Persatuan Islam (Islamic Union).

Two local political movements, namely Masyumi, which acted as an umbrella for all Islamic organizations during the Japanese invasion, and the Dar al-Islam movement, which started in 1948 as a separatist movement against the Republican government, are the roots movements for contemporary radical Islamist groups existing in Indonesia.

Post-Suharto Indonesia and radicalism

Suharto, the second President, was an autocratic leader who ruled for over 30 years. The post-Suharto period started in 1998. This period is known as the Reformasi, when it was time to give a new direction to Indonesia.

During this period, along with the several changes being pressed, radical Islam groups were seen riding along as they call for the implementation of the Shariah law and the jihad movement materialized strongly during this time through street politics being done by Islamist groups.

Popular radicals groups in Indonesia include:

- Majelis Mujahiden (Council of Indonesian Jihad Fighters), having roots with the Dar al-Islam movement - Lashkar Jihad (LJ), part of the Islamic student movement and linked to the Sunni Communication Forum - Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) - Hizbut Tahrir (HT) or Liberation party, part of the Middle Eastern movement - Hamas Indonesia - Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)

Some of these groups have acquired military training in Afghanistan and are part of the larger Islamic networks. Besides these prominent groups, there are other smaller clusters operating in Indonesia as well.

Events signifying growing radicalism

Different groups have executed many events that largely contribute to growing radicalism in Indonesia. These attacks have left the Ahmadi, Shiites and Christian populations feeling vulnerable.

The Bali Bombings of 2002 is the one major event that showcased the growth of radicalism in Indonesia. The attack by Jemaah Islamiyah killed about 200 people and injured hundreds, most of which were tourists.

JI replicated Bali bombing in 2005 and executed other attacks in Jakarta including attack at the Australian embassy in 2004, at the J.W. Marriott hotel in 2003 and 2009, and at the Ritz Carlton hotel in 2009.

The list of terrorism acts in Indonesia goes on with disturbing incidents that are a loud realization of growing radicalism movement. These incidents include homes being torched, protests, Ahmadis beaten to death, and Shiites killed.

Radicalism in Indonesia today

The term period of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has experienced a rise in radical Islam as stated by critics and admitted by the President himself, who realizes the danger of this ‘growing tide of radicalism’.

As the battle for Indonesian minds continues between pro-Sharia and secular Islam, there is a growing need to strictly act upon all radicals elements through bold measures and a strong political will in the Indonesian society in order to ensure a safe, progressive and tolerant Indonesia in times to come.

This article originally appeared in Global Indonesian Voices, an independent online media written by Indonesians abroad.

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