Islamist terrorism may have its roots in the Middle East, but it has long since expanded globally. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, is no exception. Jemaah Islamiyah has for more than fifteen years fought to transform Indonesia into an Islamist state. In recent years, its terrorist campaign has suffered setbacks. As Jemaah Islamiyah regroups, it builds upon the experience of Middle East terrorist groups. From Al-Qaeda, it adopts philosophical underpinnings that guide its dual strategy. From Hamas and Hezbollah, it borrows an "inverse triangle model" in which a broad network of social services supports a smaller jihadist core, and from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates it adopts a model of charities and NGOs that help Jemaah Islamiyah advance its jihadist goals.
What Is Jemaah Islamiyah?
Jemaah Islamiyah sought advantage from the collapse of Suharto's authoritarian rule and Indonesia's descent into a chaotic decentralized democracy. Beginning in 1998, Jemaah Islamiyah launched the "uhud project," whose goal was ridding regions of the country of both Christians and Hindus in order to establish pure Muslim enclaves, governed by Shari‘a (Islamic law). Its two paramilitaries, Laskar Mujahidin in the Moluccas and Laskar Jundullah in Central Sulawesi, engaged in sectarian bloodletting against Christians and Hindus until, in 2002, the government was able to broker the Malino accords, enabling a fragile truce. Meanwhile, Jemaah Islamiyah began a bombing campaign in 2000, killing several hundred people, including 202 in one attack in October 2002 at a Bali disco.
Indonesian authorities fought back. Security forces arrested more than 450 Jemaah Islamiyah members, prosecuted over 250 terrorists, and eviscerated the organization's regional cell system. Victory was not complete, however. More than a dozen hardened Jemaah Islamiyah leaders remain at large; some, such as Noordin Muhammad Top, have significant organizational skills. Others, such as Zulkarnaen and Dulmatin, have technical and military capabilities. As recently as June 2008, police raids have netted large caches of bombs and bomb-making material, suggesting that Jemaah Islamiyah's commitment to terrorism remains high.
Justifying a Soft Power Strategy
With the exception of Ali Ghufreon (known also as Mukhlas), awaiting execution for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing, Southeast Asian jihadists have no important homegrown theoreticians. Jemaah Islamiyah has filled the gap by drawing upon the works of Al-Qaeda's three most important thinkers—Abu Musab as-Suri, whose main work is the 2002 tract "Call to Worldwide Islamic Resistance"; Abu Bakr Naji, who wrote the 2004 document "The Management of Savagery"; and Abdul Qadir (Dr. Fadl), who, in November 2007, penned "Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World."
Together, these authors provide theoretical sustenance to Jemaah Islamiyah's revitalization of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, a civil society organization affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, and other overt organizations. Suri, for example, argued that Al-Qaeda's blanket opposition to democracy was counterproductive and that jihadists should instead work with Islamist political leaders and parties. Naji concurred. "If we meditate on the factor common to the movements which have remained, we find there is political action in addition to military action," he explained. "We urge that the leaders work to master political science just as they would to master military science." Naji's specific recommendations that jihadists be able to justify their actions in Islamic law and reach the people directly without reliance on state media parallel the strategy implemented in Egypt by Sayyid Qutb who, in the Muslim Brotherhood, combined a mass-based movement and a network of covert cells. Jemaah Islamiyah has also adopted the substance of Qadir's tract which argued that most terrorism is illegal by Islamic law, that violent jihad should only be waged in defense, and that fighting Muslim leaders, even those decried as apostates, is illegal unless rebellion would lead to tangible improvement in Muslims' lives.
Today, Jemaah Islamiyah pursues a three-front strategy of recruitment and expansion of cells, religious indoctrination and training of its members, and instigation of sectarian conflict. Indeed, Noordin Mohammad Top wrote an 82-page tract about how to establish jihadi cells on a six-month timetable.
The PUPJI outlines the three phases of jihad: iman (faith of individuals), hijrah (building a base of operations), and then jihad qital (fighting the enemies of Islam). One section of the PUPJI, "Al-Manhaj al-Harakiy Li Iqomatid Dien (The general manual for operations)," states that Jemaah Islamiyah can engage in overt activities in order to proselytize and build a base of support. But the bulk of the document is a guide for clandestine operations and cell-building, the path Jemaah Islamiyah leaders most closely follow.
After the Indonesian crackdown that began in 2003, Jemaah Islamiyah reverted to recruitment and indoctrination for several years, but it has again begun to build a base of operations, especially in Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas. As the group sought to recover from the blows inflicted by Indonesian counterterror forces, debate raged about how to move forward. The International Crisis Group's Sydney Jones, a leading expert on Indonesia, describes factional rifts inside Jemaah Islamiyah between proponents of sectarian bloodletting and those who wish to target the Indonesian government and Western targets. Such strategies, however, are not mutually exclusive. Since 2004, Jemaah Islamiyah has increased bombings, assassinations, and raids on military and police facilities. The November 2005 beheadings of three Hindu schoolgirls was meant to undermine confidence in the state.
By provoking sectarian attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah can broaden its definition of a defensive jihad. Such vigilantism enables it to contend that Jakarta has abdicated responsibility by not coming to the defense of the Muslim community, enabling Jemaah Islamiyah to pursue its goals with greater popular support. Since mid-2006, the Indonesian police have taken seriously the threat of sectarian violence after uncovering documents emphasizing the centrality of sectarian bloodletting to Jemaah Islamiyah's efforts to regroup.
Religious indoctrination has become a parallel component of Jemaah Islamiyah strategy. The group has sent high-level cells to Pakistan for advanced religious training. In 2003, for example, Jemaah Islamiyah sent nineteen children or brothers of high-ranking Jemaah Islamiyah members to study in the Lashkar e-Toiba madrasa, an Islamic school in Lahore, Pakistan, which has ties to the Taliban. Although Pakistani security arrested and deported them in fall 2004, Jemaah Islamiyah has been able to conduct more such training in Indonesia where the group runs a network of approximately sixty madrasas and has launched its own publishing houses: Al-Alaq, the Arafah Group, the Al-Qowam Group, the Aqwam Group, and Kafayeh Cipta Media.
Such a strategy is not unique to Indonesia and, indeed, has been frequently practiced in the Middle East. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood regrouped in the wake of the Egyptian government's mid-1990s crackdown by concentrating on mosques, publishing, and proselytizing. Likewise, for more than a decade before Israeli Arabs became involved in Palestinian violence, the Islamic Movement within Israel maintained its own educational institutions and publication houses in the Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm. Lebanon, too, has become home to a number of Islamist publishing houses.
Jemaah Islamiyah's Inverse Triangle
Like many Middle Eastern Islamist groups, Jemaah Islamiyah has embraced the inverse triangle in which a broad range of charities and nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) serve as cover for a narrower terrorist mission. And like many Islamist groups in the Middle East, as Jemaah Islamiyah regroups, it shows no intention of abandoning its core ideology even as some Indonesian officials wishfully see moderation where none exists. As the organization seeks to rebuild, it becomes an example of how Al-Qaeda affiliates, beaten back by successful counterterror strategies, regroup using both the democratic process they simultaneously fight and the legitimacy naively bestowed by the international community on any organization that calls itself a nongovernmental organization.
Jemaah Islamiyah has adopted a Hezbollah model of social organization in which most of the group's activities are overt charitable work and provision of social services even as a component of the organization clandestinely pursues terrorism. Beginning in the 1980s, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi‘i political group founded by Iran in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, began to construct a large network of educational institutions and social services both to complement their military wing and to serve as a recruitment tool. Slowly, Hezbollah built a state within a state in Lebanon, preventing anyone within its territory the option of remaining outside the group's influence. Even as Hezbollah conducts terrorist activities against Israel and within Lebanon itself, many in the international community refuse to define the group as a terrorist organization, in effect arguing that social work is exculpatory.
Hamas has implemented the same model. While Hamas is a lethal terrorist organization that has employed at least sixty suicide bombings since the second intifada began in September 2000, many Palestinians and Europeans argue that the group's network of schools, orphanages, clinics, and social welfare organizations bestows some legitimacy. In Iraq, too, militia leaders pursue the same strategy. Abdul Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has employed not only the Badr Corps, which has sponsored terrorism and conducted violent operations, but also the Shahid al-Mihrab Foundation, a charitable organization run by his son, Amar al-Hakim.
In Jemaah Islamiyah's case, the base of the inverse triangle is Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, an umbrella organization for political parties, NGOs, civil society organizations, and individuals committed to transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state. Created in 1999, the organization has an office in Yogyakarta, publishes conspiracy-laden and vehemently anti-Semitic and anti-American books through Wihdah Press and its own magazine, Risalah Mujahidin, lobbies political officials, and in 2001 and 2003, held high-profile national conferences. Muhammad Jibril, son of Jemaah Islamiyah leader Muhammad Iqbal Abdurrahman, runs Ar-Rahman Media, its multimedia publishing house. The use of diverse institutions is deliberate, even as the antipathy toward Indonesian democracy is pronounced. Muhammad Jibril told Al-Jazeera,
At a November 2006 sermon at a mosque in Kediri, East Java, Jemaah Islamiyah founder Ba'asyir urged his followers to go abroad to wage jihad, though without explaining why. "If you want to go on jihad, do not do it here [Indonesia] but in the southern Philippines or even in Iraq." He said the Bali bombers were legitimate jihadis even if their jihad was "not at the right time or place." Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia may have switched tactics with regard to the desirability of terrorism inside Indonesia, but they have not altered their commitment to violent jihad.
Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has to some extent become Jemaah Islamiyah's equivalent of Sinn Fein, the political party that existed solely to mirror the Irish Republican Army's aims. Jemaah Islamiyah uses Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia to achieve whatever aims it can through the democratic process. Thus, the Majelis Mujahidin advocates for Islamic law components to all major bills and laws. It seeks, for example, to push Indonesian penal law into conformity with Islamic law and has urged local Islamic communities to lobby regional representatives for Islamic law at the local level. It is a strategy that is both well organized and effective. Nearly forty regional governments have taken steps to implement Islamic law, regulate interaction between men and women, obligate Qur'an reading, and ban alcohol. The group has also pressured the media to replace secular programming with Islamic programming, legislating to force civil servants to wear Islamic dress, and mandating Arabic literacy.
Jemaah Islamiyah's engagement in the political process is a cynical short-term tactic in its longer-term strategy to eradicate democracy. "The democratic system is not the Islamic way," Ba'asyir explained. "It is forbidden. Democracy is based on people, but the state must be based on God's law—I call it Allahcracy." "Islam's victory can only come though da'wa and jihad, not elections." Many of Jemaah Islamiyah leaders hold concurrent positions in Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, giving themselves a patina of legitimacy and political cover. Since his release from prison in October 2004, Abdurrahman (Abu Jibril), for example, has used Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia as his base of operations. But his message has not necessarily changed. In one recruiting film produced by Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, Abdurrahman calls on his congregants to wage a violent jihad. Armed with a pistol extended into the air he exclaimed, "You can't just have the Qur'an without the steel. You will bring down the steel." His younger brother remains Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's director of daily operations.
Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has grown increasingly confident and combative in dealing with the government, which it accuses of leading a witch hunt against Muslims. Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has begun issuing "summons," or official complaints, to the police in order to intimidate them and influence investigations of suspected terrorists. In May 2006, for example, it issued a summons to the Indonesian National Police specialized counterterrorism unit, Detachment 88, for their raid on a Jemaah Islamiyah safe house in Central Java, in which two suspects were killed and two others were arrested. As Ba'asyir said, "The struggle for Islam can only come through crisis and confrontation."
Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia also serves as a link between Jemaah Islamiyah and Saudi financiers. Many Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia leaders hold or have held concurrent positions in Saudi charities and their Indonesian counterparts that have been used to support terrorist activities. These include the Saudi Al-Haramain and the International Islamic Relief Organization. Two Indonesian charities, KOMPAK and the Medical Emergency Relief Charity, respectively serve as their counterpart or executing agencies. While U.S. Executive Order 13224 and the U.N.'s 1267 Committee on January 22, 2004, designated the Indonesian branch of Al-Haramain as a funder of terrorism, four months after the designation, Al-Haramain was operating openly in East Java.
Jemaah Islamiyah used or co-opted many of these charities between 1999 and 2001, during a period of sectarian bloodletting in the Molucca Islands between Jemaah Islamiyah's paramilitaries and Christian and Hindu citizens. Dewan Dakwah Islam Indonesia, a hard-line Islamist offshoot of the Muhammadiyah, the national Islamic organization, established KOMPAK in late 1998 ostensibly to provide relief assistance to people in conflict areas, such as Kalimantan, the Moluccas, and Central Sulawesi. It immediately partnered with the Saudi International Islamic Relief Organization although it recently suffered a setback when, on August 3, 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Indonesian branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization, along with the Philippine branch and a Saudi director of the International Islamic Relief Organization, for financing terrorism, including Al-Qaeda. The United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee acted in concert although it did not designate the Indonesian branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization as a financier of terrorism until November 9, 2006. While KOMPAK did not engage in conflict directly, its aid won support for Jemaah Islamiyah and its paramilitary organizations such as Laskar Jundullah and Laskar Mujahidin.
Of the thirteen regional directors of KOMPAK, at least three were top-level Jemaah Islamiyah operatives. KOMPAK, however, only came to the assistance of Muslim communities, which it worked to radicalize. KOMPAK officials, while acknowledging that they operate in regions struck by sectarian conflict such as Aceh, Poso, the Moluccas, and Bangunan Beton Sumatra, assert they alleviate the crises and provide necessary relief. They deny any links to jihad activities. In 2003, Indonesian forces arrested several KOMPAK leaders for their involvement in sectarian violence and terrorism; several others went underground.
As with other jihadist organizations and corollary charities in North Africa, Iraq, Chechnya, and elsewhere, KOMPAK's support is not entirely indigenous. It serves as the executing agency of many Saudi and Persian Gulf funds, including from Al-Haramain and the International Islamic Relief Organization.
Aris Munandar, a top KOMPAK and Al-Haramain official, was a key financial conduit between Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. Agus Dwikarna not only served as head of KOMPAK for South Sulawesi but also was the regional branch officer for the International Islamic Relief Organization and treasurer of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia. Munandar, who was a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, used KOMPAK to support both the sectarian bloodletting in the Moluccas and Sulawesi and Al-Qaeda operatives' training of Jemaah Islamiyah members. KOMPAK also produced a number of jihadi videos for fundraising and recruitment purposes.
The Indonesian crackdown broke KOMPAK into disparate cells, but the organization did not cease its commitment to radicalization. One such splinter group, KOMPAK in Ambon, conducted the October 2005 Bali II bombings. Indonesian prosecutors believe that one mid-level Jemaah Islamiyah operative, Abdullah Sonata, received 11 million rupiah (US$15,000) and 100,000 Saudi riyals ($36,500) in 2004 from a Saudi named Syeikh Abu Muhammad to finance militant operations and to send Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists to Mindanao. Other KOMPAK members acquired weaponry with which to instigate a new wave of sectarian bloodletting in Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas. Dulmatin, who is one of Jemaah Islamiyah's leading operatives and has been in hiding in the southern Philippines since early 2004, ordered other KOMPAK members to dispatch suicide bombers to the Philippines. Abdullah Sonata asserted that he sent ten although only four got through.
It is clear, therefore, that the KOMPAK network, funded by Saudi charities, helped develop Jemaah Islamiyah. It also illustrates clearly that terrorist organizations can be created from social networks.
Hambali, Jemaah Islamiyah's top operative in Malaysia, established other charities including Pertubahan el Hassan, as conduits for funds to both Jemaah Islamiyah, its paramilitaries in the Moluccas, and the Medical Emergency Relief Charity. Initially, these charities served as ancillary organizations used to assist with jihadist activities. Over the last two years, however, Jemaah Islamiyah has begun to focus far more on charities. While the Indonesian military has made inroads tracking down terrorist leaders, the Indonesian government has been more willing to tolerate Jemaah Islamiyah charities in the belief that it can wean Jemaah Islamiyah leaders from violence and that it is better to have them involved in overt and nonviolent activities. Jakarta has, therefore, been unwilling to enforce United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee or U.S. Department of the Treasury designations, which make it illegal to raise funds for or donate to any proscribed individual or organization. The Indonesian government's strategy appears to mirror that of the Lebanese government's strategy with regard to Hezbollah. Beirut and many Western powers long tolerated Hezbollah, convinced that incorporating it into the Lebanese government might moderate the group. However, in Lebanon, such accommodation backfired precisely because the charities were only one aspect of a much broader strategy that included immutable commitment to jihad.
Tsunami and Earthquake
The December 2004 tsunami and the May 2006 earthquake in central Java, both massive humanitarian crises, provide a window into just how Jemaah Islamiyah and its charities operate to further Islamist agendas.
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused a tsunami which killed more than 165,000 Indonesians and displaced half a million others. Jakarta, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster, sought to tap Jemaah Islamiyah's social service network. On January 4, 2005, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia dispatched the first group of seventy-seven volunteers to Aceh from their Yogyakarta based headquarters. Among them was a top Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia official who was a suspect in the October 12, 2002 Bali blast that killed 202 people. Not all Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia personnel were engaged explicitly in humanitarian work; the group indicated that their primary goal was to provide "spiritual guidance" to victims, assist in the reconstruction of mosques, and guard against proselytizing by non-Muslim relief agencies. Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's non-humanitarian agenda led the Indonesian Air Force to expel nineteen Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia members from Aceh on January 11, 2005.
Abdurrahman's Laskar Mujahidin also used the tsunami to propel itself to new relevance. Founded in January 2000 by Abdurrahman and Hambali, both of whom had experience fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, the group fielded approximately 500 armed combatants in the Moluccas who were equipped with high-speed motor boats, which they used to attack remote Christian and Hindu communities. After the tsunami, they established four base camps in Aceh including one outside the airport, adjacent to the camps of other domestic and international relief organizations, beneath a sign that read, "Islamic Law Enforcement." Unlike Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, which was more concerned with providing "spiritual guidance" and restoring "infrastructure in places of religious duties," the Laskar Mujahidin was deeply involved in relief work, including the distribution of aid and especially the burial of corpses. Though the organization is vehemently anti-American, it gave cautious backing to the presence of U.S. and Australian troops. It was clear, however, that their lobbying did persuade the government to call for the early departure of foreign troops.
Joining Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia and Laskar Mujahidin was the Medical Emergency Relief Charity (MERC), an Indonesian executor agency for Saudi funding. Established on August 14, 1999, amidst sectarian fighting, MERC now has twelve offices in Indonesia, concentrated in the regions most directly affected by sectarian violence. In 2000-01, MERC produced two well-publicized jihadi videos for fundraising purposes. While MERC was never directly implicated in supporting Laskar Jundullah and Laskar Mujahidin paramilitary operations to the degree that KOMPAK was, its one-sided approach to the Moluccas conflict, as well as the actions of some individual members, raised suspicions. There is some evidence that MERC received funding from the Indonesian branch of the Saudi-funded International Islamic Relief Organization. MERC operations abroad, in particular in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Chechnya, have also raised concerns about it being a conduit for terrorist funding. MERC sent a team of four doctors and other staff to Iraq in 2003. In 2004, U.S. forces killed one MERC employee, an ambulance driver, in a firefight. The group's website stated that they operate in the tribal areas of Pakistan with the support and permission of the Taliban. Other Islamist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizb ut-Tahrir, though not directly connected to Jemaah Islamiyah, have also become active in Aceh in the wake of the tsunami. Both groups have engaged in sectarian violence.
The Islamist charities flocked to Aceh for three reasons. The first was to garner good press and media attention, providing a needed makeover for groups associated with terrorism and sectarian violence while simultaneously highlighting the secular government's failure. Second, the Islamist charities sought to counter any Western influence. Hence, Din Syamsudin, the head of the quasi-official Indonesian Ulema Council and president of the second largest Muslim organization in the country, Muhammadiyah, who has subsequently acted as a fundraiser for Hamas, warned:
Paranoia about Western influence has become a prime motivator for Islamist groups in the Middle East. Prior to the rise of Al-Qaeda, for example, Saudi clergy preached that the Muslim world was subject to a Western "cultural attack" and "intellectual attack." In 1981, the World Muslim League, a Saudi NGO, published a book entitled, The Means of Combating the Intellectual Attack on the Muslim World, which highlighted a theme developed by ‘Abdullah ‘Azzam, a professor at King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz University in Jeddah and mentor to Osama bin Laden. Defense against a "cultural NATO" is a theme that Iranian hardliners have also recently adapted. Hence, almost two years after the tsunami, Ba'asyir declared that "naked women are more dangerous than bombs" in his salvo about spiritual pollution and Western culture and values degrading Islam from within.
Third, these groups saw the disaster as an opportunity to proselytize. Several groups in addition to Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia indicated that their primary goal was to provide "spiritual guidance" to victims, ensure that Islamic law was being followed, and to assist in the reconstruction of mosques. With 400,000 refugees and mosques at the center of rural community relief efforts, the potential for influence was great.
The cynicism of the Islamist parties grated on local political movements. While Aceh is nearly 100 percent Muslim, the Acehenese secessionist movement, the Free Aceh Movement known by its acronym GAM (Gerakan Aceh Meredeka), urged the international community to force the Islamist groups to leave in apparent frustration with the government's unwillingness to do so:
Tsunami relief efforts provided a template for subsequent operations, most notably in the May 27, 2006 earthquake in central Java. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 6,000 people, injured 78,000, and left up to 1.5 million homeless. The United Nations' World Food Program moved quickly into central Java and chose Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia as one of eight partner organizations to deliver ninety-five tons of food aid. The Australian government immediately protested Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's contract, but World Food Program spokesman Barry Came said, "We don't pick groups to distribute aid based on their religious or political beliefs. We choose based on the ability to deliver, and so far they've performed up to standard. We have no complaints." He backed down, however, under international pressure. Both Ba'asyir and Abdurrahman had been proscribed under U.N. Security Council 1267 Committee lists as specially designated terrorist financiers, and Ba'asyir, just released from prison, was reportedly planning to deliver the World Food Program aid personally.
The episode highlights a major problem facing the West when combating Islamism: The United Nations and international agencies either refuse to perform due diligence or use moral equivalency to justify support for Islamist organizations. Not only do such organizations receive Saudi support as they pursue sectarian radicalization, but too often they also indirectly receive subsidies from Western taxpayers who fund international organizations.
The Hezbollah model is not new to terrorist organizations, but it is new to Jemaah Islamiyah. Jemaah Islamiyah has taken advantage of an opening: Political will in Indonesia to dismantle terrorist infrastructure has waned as the nature of the group's militancy has become apparent. Released from prison, the group's leaders have been able to focus on political, religious, and charitable work. The civilian infrastructure they have developed will make the group—still committed to terrorism—more durable over the long term.
Policymakers in Indonesia need to understand precedent. The existence of charities and social service networks has not made Hamas or Hezbollah any less violent although they have contributed to de-legitimization of governments. The Indonesian government should do what the Lebanese, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority governments did not: They must uproot social networks. Few governments have put forward a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the phenomenon of the inverse triangle, and most disaggregate the terrorist and social welfare arms and fund raising.
There is intense international pressure on the Indonesian government to ban Jemaah Islamiyah, but no politician in the world's largest Muslim community has the political courage to do so. As Indonesia's top counterterrorism official, Ansyaad Mbai, stated, the reason there is no ban on Jemaah Islamiyah "is because the political situation is still very sensitive." Complacency and political expediency rule the day in Jakarta. As long as Jemaah Islamiyah members do not blow things up or simply target Western interests, Jakarta will do little.
It is not just courts and counterterrorism officials who have grown frustrated. A handful of Muslim reformers and liberals have been at the center of a push to rewrite Law No. 8 (1995) on nongovernmental organizations to tighten both the process of NGO incorporation and increase oversight. The proposed law will make fundraising by unregistered (or de-registered) NGOs illegal. The proposed law would make Jemaah Islamiyah's fundraising illegal under Indonesian domestic law.
This unwillingness to take on terrorist infrastructure is regrettable. First, like Hezbollah and Hamas, Jemaah Islamiyah has a long-term timetable. Second, by pursuing overt strategies, Jemaah Islamiyah is able to forge closer ties and common cause with Islamists who might otherwise eschew their violence. Many Indonesians no longer see Jemaah Islamiyah as a radical fringe organization even though the group's agenda has not changed. Third, there is little evidence that Jemaah Islamiyah will abandon terrorism. Tactics may shift, but strategy does not. Herein, Hamas again provides an example that should worry Indonesian authorities. Its assumption of political control in Gaza has not tempered its commitment to terrorism; indeed, Hamas has become even more aggressive since the January 2006 Palestinian elections.
Herein, Washington and other Western governments have an interest. Indonesia may be half a world away from the United States, but any Islamist gains in the archipelago nation will have profound repercussions on U.S. national security. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and the United States should not cede the Indonesian population to the same Saudi-funded Islamists who radicalized their Arab brethren, recruited unencumbered for years in Afghan and Pakistani refugee camps, and profess an inflexible hatred of the United States, Israel, and the West. Washington should pressure Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to uproot Jemaah Islamiyah's overt presence and cede them no political space where they can recruit and indoctrinate anew. Targeting their financial and social networks is essential to the long-term fight against terrorism.
 "How the Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist Network Operates," Asia Report, no. 43, International Crisis Group, Jakarta/Brussels, Dec. 11, 2002; "Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia: Damaged but Still Dangerous," Asia Report, no. 63, idem, Aug. 26, 2003.
©1994-2013 The Middle East Forum E-mail: info (at) meforum (dot) org Daniel J. Pipes