It’s difficult not to like Al Jazeera. Their journalists avoid the self-indulgent habits of TV reporters elsewhere by not talking about themselves all the time. They also like to break news stories, that mainstay of the news business that seems so out of fashion these days.
This week, they’ve been at it again, reporting from Indonesia that senior retired generals were attempting to oust President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from office by secretly backing hard-line groups to incite religious violence, ferment a rebellion and topple his government.
The reasoning should come as no surprise. Yudhoyono is being seen as too weak, secular and too reformist by those whose zeal was forged out of the days of President Suharto and his bunch of thugs — men who truly believed Indonesia could only be held together by force.
Compiled by Step Vassen, the report says the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) held the powerful backing of the disgruntled few that showed that ‘behind the religious violence a dangerous political power play is happening.’
The FPI has been linked to a series of attacks, particularly against Christians and Ahmadis, declared by the Indonesian Ulema Council as a deviant practice for preaching that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the last prophet, not Mohammad as most Muslims believe.
Ahmadiyah has about 200,000 followers.
Sadly, groups like the FPI appear to be filling a vacuum of notorious religious militancy that was left vacant by the demise of Jemaah Islamiyah, which ran amok across the archipelago for more than a decade and whose ranks have been obliterated by government forces, particularly Detachment 88.
Vassen also spoke with Chep Hernawan of the Islam Reform Movement,who claimed the generals had decided to back the anti-Ahmadiyah factions after previous attempts at fermenting a backlash against Yudhoyono through issues like corruption had failed.
Apparently the generals who want to see the back of Yudhoyono are fed up with ‘the president’s lies’. Chep said a three-star general had approached him in January, opining the Ahmadiyah had to be disbanded in order to avoid a revolution.
‘He told me that we should keep fighting jihad, we should not back down so the liar can be toppled,’ he reportedly said, referring to the president.
Yudhoyono hasn’t commented on the report,but any response is likely to be ruthless and make a mockery of claims by the generals that the president is perceived as weak. Anyone who doubts this need only look back to early last year when ambitious militants tried to establish what became known in some quarters as the Coalition of the Leftovers on the home ground of Acehnese separatists on the north east tip of Sumatra.
Jihad remnants of JI, the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and an assortment of other outfits had gathered at a paramilitary training camp in the mountains of Aceh, determined to re-group.
Among their plans was an attack on the Presidential Palace and State guests who would be gathered there during Independence Day ceremonies in August. The police were tipped off and nearly all who attended that meeting have been killed or jailed.
I’ve no reason to doubt the veracity of the Al Jazeera report, and if the generals in question have any common sense left, it’s not the back of the president they should be worried about.