Radicals Echo JI Across Indonesia

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Radicals Echo JI Across Indonesia

Indonesia had some success against terrorists in 2010. But recent protests suggest the hardliners are still a threat.

Standing where the Sari Club once stood in Kuta is a little eerie—an empty car park marks the spot where a pub once stood, while across the road well-meaning tourists visit a memorial. It’s a sombre change of pace compared with the usual maddening rush of Balinese traffic.

Nearly all those responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people are dead, in jail or hiding out in the southern Philippines. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al-Qaeda affiliate that plotted the attacks, has largely slipped out of public view. It could almost be seen as a victory in the ‘War on Terror’ launched almost 10 years ago.

However, disturbing trends are emerging elsewhere in Indonesia, implying the militant Islamic zeal that typified JI hasn’t disappeared, but has simply changed identity.

This was highlighted over the weekend when 1000 hardliners took to the streets warning the government that it would be toppled like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak if it didn’t disband the minority Muslim sect Ahmadiyah.

According to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Ahmadis want all Muslims dead, meaning, of course, that the Ahmadis must die first. They also labelled President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a transvestite and a coward for not dissolving the sect.

Followers of the Ahmadiyah sect have been mobbed and beaten to death in Indonesia for simply following another interpretation of Islam, of which there are many.

Founded in India towards the end of the 19th century, the practice is banned in many Islamic countries because followers believe that Mohammad wasn’t the final prophet. There are an estimated 200,000 adherents in Indonesia.

‘In the name of Allah, I swear that until the last drop of my blood, whatever the risks, Ahmadiyah must not exist in Indonesia,’ FPI Chairman Habib Riziq told the faithful during last Friday’s sermon in Makassar.

The protests came as officials warned that students connected with the Islamic boarding school founded by Abu Bakar Bashir, JI’s one-time spiritual leader who is currently before the courts, will be monitored following warnings from terrorists already in captivity.

Students from the school, Pondok Ngruki, have been linked to attacks in Bali and Jakarta, and now the police and intelligence are focusing on the latest batch of clerics who have graduated.

Indonesian authorities, particularly Detachment 88, scored some great successes against militant terrorists in 2010 and a relative quiet period has since followed. But it’s difficult to judge how long this will last given the intolerance being preached from the self-anointed enforcers of religious interpretation.