(JG Graphics/Josep Tri Ronggo)

Commentary: On Islamic State, Indonesia Should Answer Jordan's Call


FEBRUARY 12, 2015

Last week Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziyad Karboli were executed by the Kingdom of Jordan. The executions were done as a response to brutal execution of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh that was captured after his F-16 crashed near Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State movement.

IS horrifyingly decided to burn the pilot alive in a cage in a professional looking video titled "Healing the Believers' Chest." Jordan was obviously angry and its reaction as a moderate Islamic country in the Middle East is worth considering and probably worth echoing.

Why? Because Jordan and Indonesia have a lot in common.

Both countries champion the principles of moderate Islam. Yet both countries' achievements and efforts in promoting those principles are diminishing due to the widespread terror and violence that continues to spawn resentment towards the religion. Both countries, like the rest of the world, now suffer the same terror at the hands of IS.

The difference is that Jordan has acted swiftly in the face of its current adversity with IS, admittedly at a level higher than Indonesia at the moment.

Jordan is considered to be an important country in the Middle East, not only because it borders Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. It is a key ally to the United States and is one of two Arab nations to have made peace with Israel — the other being Egypt.

More importantly, Jordan has a unique cultural position: it is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Abdullah II, a British educated leader who is a member of the Hashemite family — direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

Al-Rishawi and Karboli were symbols of IS in the country and in addition to executing them, the Jordanian government has also vowed further punishment and revenge. Of particular interest was his method of conveying his message to the people of Jordan: King Abdullah II wore a traditional Bedouin garb, an Arabic tribe that make up 40 percent of Jordanians, as if he were calling on the moderate Arabs to join in his strong denunciation of IS and whatever misguided ideology of Islam they represent.

Further, Jordan's Minister of Religious Affairs Hayel Dawood also sternly warned Muslim clerics in the country to preach moderate Islam — or else. For those still preaching violence and supporting IS, banishment from the pulpit would await.

Whereas in Indonesia, IS seemed to be roaming around quite freely. IS flags are freely flown in protests and gatherings, promotional videos are uploaded periodically and recruitment has been taking place since February last year. It is also reported that the number of IS recruits in Indonesia has tripled in late 2014.

While we must appreciate the government's official rejection of IS and regional regulations issued in East Java through Governor Regulation No. 51/2014 [on the prohibition of IS] and a planned similar mayoral decision in Bandung, these are scattered responses. There needs to be a regulation at the national level that has effective enforcement. The increasing influence and threat of IS continues to be real and the government must place fighting the radical group as a top priority in their security checklist.

Indonesia can also play a bigger part in the global stage. Indonesia, along with Jordan, can serve as ambassadors and the face of moderate Islam in the world.

We should treat King Abdullah II's announcement as a call for moderate Muslim countries like Indonesia to work together. Indonesia and Jordan can cooperate and have done so successfully before. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have progressed positively since 1950. Jordan is currently the 15th biggest investor in Indonesia.

But relations have not been based on pure economic interests alone. On the multilateral level, both countries have shown mutual support for each other's candidacy in international forums, such as Indonesia's candidacy in becoming a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and Jordan's candidacy as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

These positive relations should be carried on into efforts of overcoming the threat of IS and restoring Islam's reputation. The groundwork for these efforts have already been laid out. During a State visit in 1999, then-president Abdurrahman Wahid attended the Seventh World Assembly World on Religion and Peace.

During a State visit to Indonesia in 2014, King Abdullah II attended the Nahdathul Ulama Sufi Gathering and importantly welcomed the idea for both countries to increase inter-faith and intrafaith dialogue.

Indonesia's successful role in initiating the Asia-Pacific and Asia-Europe interfaith dialogue has created a potent tool in empowering the moderates and significantly reducing violent radicalism. A tool strengthened by Indonesia's initiative and establishment of the International Conference of Islamic Scholars in 2004 and its successful tenure as host of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization meeting last year.

Before the horrific act of IS burning its Jordanian captive alive was released to the world, Queen Rania of Jordan had already called for an immediate reaction towards the heinous images of rape, torture and beheadings broadcasted by IS.

"For the sake of each one of us... for Islam and the Muslim people... for the future of our young people, we must create a new narrative and broadcast it to the world. Because if we don't decide what our identity is and what our legacy will be, the extremists will do it for us. If we don't author our story, theirs will endure," she said.

Jordan's call for the unity of moderate Islamic countries is now beckoning again. It is time for Indonesia and Jordan to unite in the movement of moderate Islam against the loud minority that is IS and terrorists that use Islam as a tool.

Togi Pangaribuan is a lecturer at the University of Indonesia's School of Law. Maulana Kasetra is an official at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry. The views expressed here are their own.