Indonesia’s military chief said this week that the Islamic State is the “worst idea in history” and called for a more assertive regional response to combat the threat.
Calling IS a “cancer,” Indonesia’s armed forces (TNI) chief General Moeldoko said in a speech on Wednesday that: “ISIS is the worst idea in history. ISIS is not Islamic. I am a Muslim, but I can say that ISIS does not represent the Islam that I know. To me, there is no room for ISIS to develop in Indonesia.”
At the same time, he warned that: “There have been several people from countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join IS. We need to find a common understanding among the ASEAN Chief of Defence Forces, to anticipate the future risk, when these fighters return to their home countries. We need to think of concrete steps to deal with this threat.”
To that end, Moeldoko said that at the ASEAN Chief of Defense Forces informal meeting in Malaysia next year, he would propose a meeting between regional defense chiefs to discuss how to best coordinate a regional strategy for combating the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia has a number of Muslim-majority nations including Indonesia itself, the world’s largest Muslim country. There are also large Muslim populations in other states throughout the region, who are potentially vulnerable to IS’s message.
The Indonesian government says that 60 Indonesians have traveled to the Middle East to fight alongside the Islamic State, at least five of whom have died. Earlier this month an Indonesian national reportedly carried out a suicide attack in Iraq. At least one Malaysian citizen has also carried out a suicide attack on behalf of ISIS. Filipino militants have also said they support IS.
Back in August, Indonesia’s government officially banned the Islamic State’s teachings in the country.
The U.S. has sought stronger backing from Indonesia and other regional states in its ongoing fight against IS. Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry briefly visited Indonesia to attend Joko Widodo’s presidential inauguration and hold talks with various regional leaders attending the inauguration, including the new Indonesian president himself. State Department officials said that combating IS was the top priority for Kerry during these talks.
Moeldoko was speaking in Singapore at an event hosted by the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on the strategic challenges that Southeast Asia will face over the next two decades.