Thursday, June 15, 2006

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and the Threat of Terrorism in Indonesia

On 14 June 2006, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a 67-year old Muslim cleric from Solo, Central Java was released from Cipinang jail Jakarta after completing his 30 months jail term for criminal conspiracy. His supporters welcomed the release of Ba’asyir with enthusiasm and jubilation. The name has long been linked with the shadowy terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al-Qaeda-supported terrorist group in Southeast Asia. Most of the leaders of this group have either been arrested or killed by the Indonesia authority in the drives to eradicate terror threats in the past few years. The most recent success was the ambush to Azhari’s hideout in East Java that led to his killing.

Even though he was cleared by the Indonesian court from all terror related charges in 2003 and 2005, but his radical Islamic views has worried many quarters in the society. His radical stance also landed him into the position of being accused as the spiritual leader of JI who claimed the responsibility of several deadly bombings in Indonesia: Bali 2002, JW Marriot 2003 in Jakarta. Moreover, his vow to continue the fight for the implementation of an Islamic Sharia in Indonesia upon his release from jail would likely to influence the dormant terror attacks in Indonesia by radical Muslim groups.

The US and Australia have expressed their concern over Ba’asyir’s release from jail. Both countries were disappointed with the fact that Ba’asyir has only served a short period of jail term for his alleged ‘sinister conspiracy’ in connection with terror activities in Indonesia. They believe that his radical views on Islam might have encouraged the perpetrators of terrorism in Indonesia.

How far would the release of Ba’asyir influence the terror activities in Indonesia? Should his release be a cause of worry for the Indonesian authority of possible new waves of terror attacks? How should the Indonesian authority react to these possibilities?

To answer all those questions, we should start with the assumption that Ba’asyir is just a clergyman who has a strong view on Islam and how Islam should be implemented in Indonesia. He was put in jail not because of his proven involvement with the terror activities of the so-called JI in Indonesia. The judges found that Ba’asyir “knew the perpetrators,” and that his words “might have encouraged” them to conduct the barbaric activities of killing the innocents through suicide bombings.

From these two statements, we could see the doubt in the minds of the judges about any direct involvement of Ba’asyir with the terror activities of the JI. In my opinion, knowing a person/persons who commit crime does not necessarily imply that we are a part of any crime committed by him/her. Our views/words on certain matter that might influence the minds of the perpetrators to do a crime should not make us a party of the crime either. Unless there is any proven direct link between the two parties, we cannot be held responsible to the crime done by the criminals. The perpetrators conduct their crime based on their own understanding and capability of conducting such action.

Ba’asyir’s ruling on his alleged involvement in JI terror network, in my opinion, was the result of the continuing pressures from the US and Australia to the Indonesian authority to find perfect scapegoat for the mastermind of the terror attacks in Indonesia. It is just like accusing Saddam Hussein as the mastermind behind the terror attacks by the Al-Qaeda terror group in the US. Ba’asyir’s radical view on Islam is the perfect excuse for accusing him to be involved with the terror attacks in Indonesia.

Coming back to the question of any possible renewal of terror attacks in Indonesia after Ba’asyir’s release, I think it is an exaggeration. With or without Ba’asyir’s presence any terror groups could possibly conduct any terror attack in Indonesia. But Ba’asyir is a figure that needs to be watched closely. His radical view on Islam and his vow to fight for the implementation of an Islamic Sharia in Indonesia can be interpreted as a possible danger to the unity of a plural Indonesia. However, there should not be any exaggeration in taking care of his presence. His radical Islamic view is not solely his privilege but is shared by many different radical Muslim groups in Indonesia. He is just a variant and a part of a bigger group of radical minority in the Muslim community in Indonesia.

It is the homework for the Indonesian authority to contain any possible terror attacks in Indonesia. The current anti-terror department created in the hierarchy of Indonesian authority has so far done quite successful job to contain terror threats. The arrests of the perpetrators of terrorism like Amrozi, the killing of Azhari and the nearly successful effort in capturing Noordin Top recently have proven the seriousness of the Indonesian authority to fight terrorism and to ensure the safety and security of the Indonesian populace.

Terrorism does not know any religion. With or without a Ba’asyir terror threat is very much presence in any society. Only a vigilant authority with a cooperative society could defeat the threat of terrorism.

At the same time, moderation of view on certain subject, for example on Islam, should be of better benefits to ensure the unity and pluralism in a democratic and plural society like Indonesia. Finally, even though in a globalized world in which everything is interconnected, but Indonesia as a sovereign nation should not budge to the pressures and demands from foreign powers. Indonesia has a life and a system of its own and must trust its capability to ensure the functioning of rule of law to keep the law and order situation always in check.

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