Newsletter November 2011

Approaching an Era of Individual Jihad

By Noor Huda Ismail

In the last year, terrorism activities have been the domain of both high profile groups and small terrorist cells. However, some are criticizing radical groups and their practice of jihad, so much so that the ‘short cut’ (quick, easy to prepare terrorist actions rather than large-scale actions requiring extensive planning) has emerged as a form of individual criticism against jihadist groups that are seen to be “big on rhetoric but slow to take action”.

On the 25th of September 2011, Indonesia was shocked by the suicide bomb detonated by Ahmad Hayat in front of All Angels of Bethlehem Church (GBIS) in Solo. Although the event did not result in any deaths, it pointed towards emerging violent factions in the form of small terrorist cells that refuse to die.

Ahmad Hayat was formerly a colleague of Muhammad Syarief, who was responsible for the bombing of Az Dzikra mosque in front of the Markas District Police complex in Cirebon in April 2001. The two of them were involved in a small group said to have no leader or any kind of clear leadership structure. It was reported that the pair resigned as members of the Jamaah Anshoru Tauhid (JAT), because JAT was perceived to be lax in their actions to achieve ‘jihad’, seen as a primary role of such organizations by many youths holding similar values. Official mass organizations like JAT are obviously unable to openly support the need to undertake ‘jihad’ in a sporadic and incidental fashion amongst its members. This situation leads to young people like Muhammad Syarief and Ahmad Hayat opting for a short cut: that of individual “jihad”.

These ‘short cuts’ could be dubbed an emerging phase of ‘leaderless’ individual jihad; jihad that isn’t led by a strong leader. This is facilitated by the growing view of jihad as a war, or ‘qital’ (revenge killing) driven by a sense of conviction. With such growing momentum, the system of ‘revenge’ becomes one that is automatically activated amongst individuals rather than by initiated by leadership.

The phenomenon of ‘leaderless jihad’ is most visible through the fact that every time a bombing or terrorist action occurs, JAT always ‘washes its hands’ of the event and refuses to be linked to it. This is later seen as a denial of obligation by younger factions that view such actions as a necessary part of their commitment to ‘jihad’. As a way around this, younger factions are creating their own networks and inter-personal relations. Usually these networks are led by young people disappointed with the attitude of organizations like JAT, which in their opinion are not actually conducting jihad at all, branding organizations like JAT “big on rhetoric but weak in accomplishments.”
A classic example from this group is Urwah. This youth, whose real name was Bagus Budi Pranoto, was a progressive dakwah (proselytizer) activist that could not find a place to undertake jihad through the organizations previously mentioned. Urwah’s intense enthusiasm for jihad could not find a space for practical actualization within these groups. Urwah was accused by Densus intelligence of being a prime recruiter of people to the cause of jihad. He was later sentenced to 3.5 years imprisonment in May 2005 for his involvement in the Australian embassy bombing. After being released from prison, his enthusiasm for jihad was not dampened. Urwah made tactical decision to join Noordin’s group and in the end he was killed alongside Noordin in Jebres, Solo, in September 2009.

During armed training in Aceh at the beginning of 2010, a number of JAT followers also ‘did their own thing’. Luthfi Haedaroh, alias Ubeid, a member of (syuro?) JAT that has connections with the Dulmatin group, and Mustaqim, alias Abu Yusuf (JI), were found to be partaking in jihad actions outside of JAT’s orders. During his witness statement in the trial of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, Ubeid said that it was Abu Bakar Ba’asyir himself, the head of JAT, which gave him the mandate to undertake armed training in Aceh. This is despite the fact that JAT, as an organization, has never released an official decision to allow armed training anywhere in Indonesia, in any form, according to a statement by Sonhadi, the Director of JAT’s media center. On paper, there are no official documents pointing to JAT’s involvement in such activities. This points to the fact that Ubeid’s involvement in the armed training in Aceh can be categorized as an individual initiative.

On the other hand, we see a unique dynamic fostered in the Umar bin Khattab (UBK) pesantren in Bima, Nusa Tenggara Barat. Saban Abdurahman, a former santri still actively paid by UBK, murdered a police officer from the markas polisi, under the name of igtiyalat(?). Saban Abdurrahman purportedly killed the police officer to fulfill the suggestions of a speech given by Muhammad Abrori that stated that the police are thogut (?) and should be killed. Muhammad Abrori is the leader of the Umar bin Khattab pesantren that decided to ‘do his own thing’ to achieve jihad including undertaking I’dad (?) and preparation for bombing attacks.

This decision by Abrori was the result of his disappointment with JAT. After being a memberfor over a year, Abrori and his group felt that JAT’s jihad program was practically non-existent. Previous to this, a number of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) members in Bima had decided to leave JI for JAT. The move was caused by a growing perception that JI no longer had a jihad program and the hope that JAT had a more concrete approach to jihad in the realm of qital (battle).

Abrori’s initiative to ‘do his own thing’ was triggered by JAT Bima’s leadership because Abrori was seen to be doing activities outside of JAT’s coordination, with programs that were often contrary to JAT’s own dakwah jihad program.
After the murder of a police officer by Saban Abdurrahman, the UBK pesantren received word that the police were planning a revenge attack in retaliation for the death of one of their own. Abrori subsequently invited his friends to come to the pesantren to defend it against the police. As this was happening, a bomb, that was reported to be a direct attack against the police, exploded. As a consequence a number of organizers and teachers at Umar bin Khattab pesantren were arrested and accused of being terrorists. Soon after JAT strenuously denied any link or involvement with any of Abrori’s activities.

This emerging phenomenon of individual jihad is further proof of a backlash by radical factions against the denial strategy used by organizations like JAT every time a terrorist incident occurs. Thus, the actions of these groups represent an antithesis to these denials and aim to confront these organizations with the fact that jihad must be actively undertaken. The bombings by these factions send the message to these groups: “we did our part, where’s yours?”

The Role of FKEAI in deradicalization

By Taufik Andrie

The Ex-Afghan Indonesia Forum (FKEAI) is a government initiative aimed at deradicalization. But will the use of insiders as agents for deradicalization prove to be an effective strategy? It is not yet clear, however, what is clear is that BNPT has backed ‘old lions’ to fight against ‘young lions’ in the jungle of jihad.

The issue of deradicalization has been discussed in the public domain for some time now. Print media has written numerous articles. Television media has made it the theme of multiple talk shows. The National Body for the Prevention of Terrorism (BNPT) has run a number of marathon seminars in a range of locations. BNPT is working with several other institutions such as universities, religious organizations and NGOs active in promoting the socialization and dissemination of moderate, ‘soft’, Islamic values in the form of seminars, discussion and training.

Amongst a number of non-government organizations active in promoting the importance of deradicalization is a group associated with the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum (FKEAI). This forum was established on 17 September 2011 in Jakarta by a number of Afghanistan alumni-the name given to those who once received military training in Afghanistan between 1985-1995 under the flag of Al Jamaah Al Islamiyah (JI). Ahmad Sajuli bin Abdul Rahman, alias Fadlul Rahman, an Afghan alumni from the second intake that graduated from the Al Ittihad Military Academy in Sadda in 1987, has been appointed as the leader (coordinator) of the forum. The aim in establishing the organization was to create a space for socializing between Afghanistan alumni, which is comprised of around 293 from a range of armed backgrounds.

It is hoped that this forum will create a space for communication and coordination, with aview to allowing Afghan alumni to help each other, and to remember and support others within the group. Remembering that even within this group of Afghan alumni there are often conflicts of opinion, especially in the debate of whether or not violent action (amaliyat) should be undertaken in Indonesia. The FKEAI currently only has 15 members, as sadly not all Afghan alumni are willing to become members. Abu Rusydan, a senior figure in JI, stated that the willingness of people to become members is a positive thing, although the reason of his unwillingness for this reluctance is unclear. It could merely be the result of a lack of awareness about the positive influence that such a forum could have.

Aside from weekly meetings, the activities of the forum thus far have been minimal. This forum distributed Qurban (sacrificial meat) for the celebration of Idul Adha in November 2011. They received 2 cows and 24 goats from the BNPT to distribute to people in need. The most popular activity of the Forum has been the message of anti-violence printed on the longest cloth shroud in Indonesia on 29 September 2011. This activity was undertaken in conjunction with Lazuardi Birru, an NGO concerned with counter-radicalism issues.

From the beginning, the Forum has openly stated in the media that they support the deradicalization ideas of the government. In its development, members of the forum hope that they can become further involved in the government’s deradicalization program as agents of deradicalization. The question that follows is whether this is an effective strategy for the time being, given that a number of those active in violence and terrorism, both individual and that done by groups, are from a younger generation of radicals.

The discussion of deradicalization first emerged in the public realm in 2009 following the confirmation that a number of formerly-convicted terrorists were involved in the bombing of the JW Marriot and Ritz Carlton Hotels. The event led to a number of questions by the public about what was being done by the government to prevent terrorism and namely what rehabilitation programs existed for terrorists in prison.

A range of strategies have been undertaken by the government, some proving successful in their initiatives to prevent terrorism through deradicalization programs. Nasir Abas and Ali Imron, two key figures of JI, are seen by the government as capable of reducing the potential emergence of new breakaway groups growing out of JI. Their ability to track the movements of radical elements has been extremely helpful for police in planning operations to catch terrorists in action. After a person or a group has been captured, both Nasir Abas or Ali Imron have a significant role in identifying them, as well as helping police to identify the ideas and concepts of jihad that are held by those accused that have been arrested. This close relationship can be seen as relatively successful in a number of cases, although a number of terrorist suspects are stubborn in holding on to their jihadist beliefs. Even so, the role of Nasir Abas and Ali Imron to support these efforts cannot be denied.

However, deradicalization programs face a number of challenges from a range of groups, especially if the stated programs are undertaken by individuals or groups that were once involved in violence in Indonesia. This fact was highlighted by a special article criticizing the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum titled Taubat Nasuha 3 Mujahid Sejati (True Repentance of 3 True Mujahaddin), that was published on a number of Indonesian Jihadist websites. In the article it was written that these people, who were once jihadists, should not be proud of themselves as they will end their lives as traitors to the cause.

In a number of cases, the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum, led by Ahmad Sajuli acting as head, has been active in undertaking socialization in educational and social realms to underscore the dangers of radicalism. Amongst these efforts has been a seminar with the theme ‘Anti-terrorism socialization’ that was held by BNPT, working with the regional government of Poso, in Central Sulawesi on 12 November 2011.

Ahmad Sajuli said that the significance of the revitalization of jihad in Indonesia is that it has not occurred in warzone, but in a ‘peace zone’. In Indonesia in-depth study is still required to identify areas at risk of jihadist action. However, the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum is very cautious to formulate the concept of jihad in terms of safe zones and peaceful zones, as according to them jihad can exist anywhere up until the Hari Kiamat (Day of Judgement). And the spirit of jihad will continue to exist in the soul of every Muslim until then.

What this means is that the principles of Ahmad Sajuli and the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum still hold onto jihad as one of their fundamental ideologies as they understand the Koran. Thus the application of jihad in Indonesia must be studied closely, with particular attention to the regulations and rules of its implementation.

The facilitation and support given to the Ex-Afghan Communication Forum can be interpreted as a sign that BNPT needs support from insiders in the jihadist community, as if using ‘lions’ to fight other ‘lions’. But will this method work? Honestly, I have my doubts. The Ex-Afghan Communication Forum is a group of ‘old lions’ that seem not to be feared by the ‘young lions’ in the jungle that is Jihad field.

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