Suicide Bombers Jakarta, jihad vs. hirabah, insights on attacks & renouncers of violence

July 21, 7:28 PM

Suicide bomb blast in Jakarta

The suicide bomb attacks on the JW Marriot and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta last Friday have led to the deaths of nine people, including the two suicide bombers, according to the Indonesian police. Six of the people killed by the blast were foreigners. According to reports, forty two have been injured.

The Indonesian police and experts have suspected that the mastermind behind the attacks is Noordin Mohamed Top, a Malaysian national who has been a senior operational officer in the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a dangerous regional Southeast Asian terrorist group. The JI has also been suspected. Noordin Top may have broken from the JI to form his own group.

Sidney Jones, an expert on Islamic militants, International Crisis Group, Jakarta, has said that it is “more likely to be a splinter group [rather] than JI itself, which doesn’t mean you couldn’t have JI members but it’s very unlikely to be JI as an organization behind this attack.”  She says that Noordin Top is the likely organizer of the attacks. “Noordin is the only person of the various leaders of radical groups in Indonesia who is continued to be determined to attack western targets and particularly American targets.” Kevin O’Rourke, political risk analyst, Reformasi Weekly, thinks “the attacks are devastating for the image of security that Indonesia has built up painstakingly over the past four years.” He suspected JI. “It’s an explosion in a hotel. Jemaah Islamiah perpetrate explosions in hotels.”

One terrorist was recently arrested – Saifuddin Zuhri, the right hand man of Noordin Top. According to Jones, “It was clear in the last two weeks that something was afoot. And the police were very actively searching this area in South Central Java called Cilacap because they believe some of Noordin’s associates were active there. And we now know there is linkage between explosive materials used in these hotel bombings with some of the materials found in Cilacap by police.”

The majority of Muslim scholars don’t believe in this type of attack. The Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema (Muslim Scholars) Council (MUI) Amidhan has condemned the explosions. This is Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body.

Insight on the attack

Hamedan Hamdan, a candidate for the Masters of International Policies degree at MIIS, offers the following perspective on the attack.

First of all, the attack happened after the elections have not completely ended. The initial reaction by the President of Indonesia was that he thought it might be to undermine the presidency and to show a weakness in Indonesian intelligence. However, if you observe the suicide attack and the attack in 2003 on the same hotel, it is more a symbolic attack since it attacks Western owned hotels in Indonesia, the Marriot and the Ritz Carlton. The attack has a message. Western interests are the target and have always been the targets of al-Qaeda linked groups.

This is the work of people who share a similar ideology with al-Qaeda. Arguably, it might be JI particularly Noordin Top since he has been implicated before in bomb attacks in that exact building in 2003. Moreover he has proclaimed that he would like to perpetrate more attacks.  According to Rohan Gunaratna, terrorism expert and head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, at one point Noordin Top announced that he was forming the Al-Qaeda organization of the Malay Archipelago. If this information is correct, then it would be no surprise that this group carried out the attack against Western interests in the Muslim world, although ironically, the victims are most often Muslims.

Noordin Top is a Malaysian national who was sent with other individuals under the instruction of Hamdali to study under the late and infamous bombmaker of JI named Faturrahman Alghazi to learn his bomb-making techniques. People are pointing fingers at him and JI because he was the suspected mastermind of the 2003 Marriot bombing and the 2004 Australian embassy blast and the JI is blamed for an attack in Bali in 2002, also for the 2003 Marriot bombing, the 2004 Australian embassy blast, and another Bali attack in 2005 that involved suicide bombers. Only a few groups, if any, in Indonesia use al-Qaeda tactics.

On the day of the event, the 17th of July, there was a meeting in the JW Marriot. The name of the meeting was the Indonesia Country Program (ICP). CEO’s were meeting in the lounge. These are all CEOs from several foreign companies. One of the people who died in the blast was the CEO of Holcim Indonesia. It’s possible that the bomb was targeted against Western companies and Western CEOs with companies in Indonesia. JW Marriot was where the foreign businessmen were meeting.

About JI (Jamaah Islamiyah or Al-Jamaah Al-Islamiyah (AJAI))

JI (or AJAI) historically descended from another organization, Darul Islam (House of Islam), which was established in 1942 by Kartosuwiryo. Darul Islam was a public and Islamic organization, whose main goal was to liberate Indonesia from colonial powers and create an Islamic State of Indonesia. However, the organization was challenged and crushed by the secular Indonesian government. Kartosuwiryo was unable to avoid capture and later sentenced to death in 1962. Shortly after his death, the organization began to dissipate and go underground.

Approximately 30 years later, two Indonesian preachers, Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Bashir, who were evading the authorities, decided to revive the Darul Islam movement. The preachers, who shared many of Kartosuwiryo’s ideals and visions, decided to establish a new organization, AJAI, which was designed to be secretive and have greater ambitions than Darul Islam.

Sungkar and Bashir learned from Darul Islam’s mistake that an open struggle for an Islamic state would be addressed with a fierce opposition by the secular government of Indonesia. They were determined to succeed and be greater visionaries than Kartosuwiryo. Their ultimate objective was to create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia, rather than only focus on the creation of an Islamic state of Indonesia. Therefore, they decided to secede from Darul Islam and establish the secretive AJAI.

The five practical methods, which are purposed in AJAI’s guidelines, PUPJI, is what AJAI believes will help achieve its ultimate goal. The five methods are dawah (calling to Islam), tarbiyah (education),amar ma’ruf nahi ‘anil nungkar (enjoin good and forbid evil), hijrah (move to a better or more secure place), and jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the way of Allah). In addition, AJAI advocates salafism. In other words, AJAI believes that the best time and example of Muslim ummah occurred during the ruling of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his righteous predecessors in Medina. AJAI strives to revive the practice of Islam during that period, while its operatives strive to emulate those righteous predecessors. Moreover, PUPJI requires that all AJAI operatives maintain a high level of secrecy (sirri) on every aspect of their operations.

Within the first seven years after its inception in 1993, AJAI appeared to be a non-violent, secretive organization, which relied on peaceful means to achieve its ultimate goal. During this period, it was evident that AJAI placed more emphasis on the first four practical methods previously mentioned. Furthermore, it was apparent that AJAI focused on establishing economic and logistical network supports in three regions (mantiqis). AJAI did that to place support networks, which would sustain AJAI over time. Mantiqis (or AJAI’s regional divisions) are quintessential areas of operations that had been carefully selected to support the organization.

With the fall of military rule of Suharto in May of 1998, AJAI began to shift toward violent means to achieve its ultimate goal. Suharto was notorious for his harsh measures against any movement or individual whom he perceived to be a threat to his regime. During Suharto’s regime, Sungkar and Bashir, who preached about the creation of the Islamic state of Indonesia, were hunted and forced to escape to Malaysia. The fall of Suharto consequently allowed Sungkar and Bashir, as well as other top AJAI operatives, to return to Indonesia. Once they returned, they began to preach about the need to establish a pan-Islamic state starting from the largest Muslim country in the Southeast Asia (and in the world)—Indonesia. Through public lectures or sermons about the need to establish an Islamic state of Indonesia, they began to influence the public and change the public perception.

The socioeconomic and political conditions post Suharto’s regime was conducive for Islamist ideology to thrive. Along with the fall of Suharto, Indonesian economy and security went into a state of chaos. Since his regime was mainly responsible for the economic crisis, it demonstrated another failure of secular ruling in promoting social welfare in Indonesia. Consequently, Indonesian Muslims became more receptive to the idea of establishing Islamic state of Indonesia with the view to emulate the righteous predecessors’ way of ruling. After all, the majority of Muslims consider the era of those predecessors as the golden era of Islam. AJAI understood this social change and decided to exploit this opportunity to advance its goal. AJAI operatives continued to persuade Muslims who were unhappy of the Indonesian socioeconomic conditions and Muslims who shared AJAI’s goal to join the organization. Moreover, the fall of military rule of Suharto created some sort of a vacuum of power, which allowed AJAI’s operatives to move freely in Indonesia.

At the end of 1999, Abdullah Sungkar died, and was replaced by Abu Bakar Bashir. However, Bashir was not elected by consensus, and some of AJAI’s operatives—particularly the more militant, radical, and younger ones—were reluctant to support Bashir. They considered Bashir to be weak and insufficiently radical. Nevertheless, they did not have a choice, and they were afraid that their difference could lead to the collapse of the movement. After compromising so that the movement did not collapse, they secretly began to distance themselves from AJAI’s leadership. They began to express more radical ideologies outside of AJAI, one of which was al-Qaedaism.

The rift within AJAI worsened when Bashir decided to be the emir of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) in 2000 in addition to his position as the emir of AJAI. According to the more radical members, the concept of MMI diverged from Sungkar’s strategy that AJAI should remain underground and secretive until the organization is well established. Bashir, on the other hand, believed that the fall of Suharto represented an opportunity for all Muslim groups in Indonesia, including AJAI, to participate in Indonesian politics and contribute to the change.

While Bashir became gradually open to public, the radicals maintained their secretive nature. To name a few, some of the important radicals are Zulkarnaen, Hambali, Imam Samudra, Mukhlas, Amrozi, Dr. Azhari, and Nurdin M. Top. Although the radicals continued to respect Bashir as de jure head of AJAI, the radicals secretly began to search for a new leader closer to their way of thinking. The leader to whom most of AJAI radicals looked was the leader of the global salafi jihadist movement, Usama bin Laden. It is worth noting that since late 1990’s, bin Laden had firmly established his position as one of key players in the international salafi jihadist movement. Bin Laden’s rise to prominence occurred due to expansion of his al-Qaeda networks all over the world and his robust opposition against the West and corrupt Muslim regimes. Many Muslims consider his opposition to be heroic.

Insights about publishers associated with JI

According to Asia Report Number 147, from February 2008, Islamic publishing is a booming industry in Indonesia. Publishers associated with JI have developed a small niche in this market. The profitable publishing consortium has been developed by a handful of members and persons close to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in and around a religious school founded by Abu Baker Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar in Solo, Central Java.  It has become a vehicle for the distributing of jihadi thought.

The debate about al-Qaeda tactics is occurring within the JI without any assistance from the government’s deradicalisation program. Alumni of Pondok Pesantren al-Mukmin in Ngruki, Solo run the JI-linked publishing companies. There are 5 publishing houses and a few small new publishers that are linked with JI. One publishing company that is based in Jakarta is ar-Rahmad Media, which is run by a former member of JI’s al-Ghuraba cell in Karachi, Pakistan, Muhammed Jibril.

One of the JI groups’ Al-Alaq publishes the London-based Syrian national, Abu Bashir al-Tartousi (Abdul Munim Mustafa Abu Halimah), known for his fiery pro al-Qaeda rhetoric but who also came out against suicide bombing in Iraq.

According to the report, the JI publishing industry bridges factional and organizational divisions and serves as an example of salafi jihadi outreach in order to get a product out. (Salafi jihadism supports violent jihad and is a school of thought of Salafi Muslims. Although it is disputed that Salafists were not originally violent, Salafists became so by the mid 1990s.)

The report concludes that radical ideology is alive and well in Indonesia and that the salafi jihadi message has not lost its appeal, even though there have been no major bombings in Indonesia. It also mentions that there may be translators for JI publishers who may be close to Noordin Mohammed Top.

With the recent bombing in Indonesia and authorities suspecting that JI and Noordin Mohamed Top orchestrated the attack, it is worth mentioning those who have published their work who reject Top’s tactics.

One of the publishers, Bambang Sukirno, whose two publishing enterprises are Aqwam and Jazera, is known to oppose the indiscriminate tactics of Noordin Mohammed Top. Many of the Jazera titles are from jihadi ideologues that have distanced themselves from al-Qaeda.

Another one of the publishing groups is the Arafah Group. Although its homage to al-Qaeda shows in the books produced, they are very much in line with JI mainstream. Many of the top figures seem to reject the tactics pursued by Noordin, while they have used one of Noordin Top’s inner circle translators in an imprint dedicated to jihadi literary works.

In terms of the publishing process, the Asia Report notes that there is an interesting omission in the literary works that are published by these JI authors. This omission includes the writings by Indonesians who subscribe to the al-Qaeda line in justifying the Bali bombing and acts that followed. One of those texts was “Menabur Jihad, Menuai Teror” (“Sowing Jihad, Reaping Terror”) written by Ubeid (Lutfi Hudaroh, a former courier of Noordin Mohammed Top). According to the report, it is probably the longest extant Indonesian jihadi text and was likely commissioned by Noordin. It has never appeared in print.

Many within the JI mainstream are opposed to attacks on Indonesian soil, according to the report. Still as the report points out, book production crosses the ideological divide between those who are close to Noordin Top and those who are part of the JI mainstream.

Insights on Jihad or Hirabah

The Arabic language and Muslim culture have semantical distinctions in using the appropriate terminology for religious discourse. According to J. Michael Waller’s “Making Jihad work for America”published in the Journal of International Security Affairs,  words matter. Waller is the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of Political Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington D.C.

He believes that the word ‘jihad’ has been hijacked. The word ‘jihad’ has many meanings depending on whether or not the perspective is one of a scriptural fundamentalist, a traditionalist Muslim, reformist traditionalist, Islamic moderate or a secularist. One of the most infamous extremist groups that dedicated itself to the establishment of Islamic rule by force is the Islamic Jihad, which was founded in Egypt in the late 1970s. While the methods used opposed the virtues of most believers, the name was an effort to justify terrorism in the name of Islam. In its manifesto written in a penitentiary in Cairo in 1986, it cites archaic theological tracts that call for subjecting oneself to “martyrdom,” not merely by personal sacrifice but by “giving up one’s life.” The group leader Aboud al-Zumur defied what had been sacrosanct by arguing that Muslim fighters did not need to support their spiritual leaders and that they could attack non-Muslim civilians in an offensive manner rather than only in self-defense, and prompted fighters by giving them a choice to seize political power in foreign countries.

Extremists had radicalized the concept of jihad.

The idea of ‘jihad’ as terrorism is offensive to the average Muslim. Many would like to see the word reclaimed and another word applied to describe Islamist terror. The correct words to use already exist in the Islamic lexicon. Layla Sein of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists has explained that the concept of ‘jihad’ comes from the root word ‘jahada.’ ‘Jahada’ means ‘to strive or struggle for self-betterment from an ethical-moral perspective.’ The concept of ‘hirabah’ comes from the root word ‘hariba’ ‘Hariba’ means ‘to fight, to go to war or become enraged or angry.’

Looking at the religious legitimacy of suicide bombing with this mind, it is clear that extremist terrorist groups are practicing ‘hirabah’ not ‘jihad.’ Layla Sein makes the point that terrorist groups promote terrorist agendas and tell young people who are religiously motivated and impressionable to believe that armed action are jihad methods.

Some Muslim organizations, like the highly influential Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) agree with reclaiming the word ‘jihad’ and appropriating what is seen as terrifying and offensive to the average Muslim to the word ‘hirabah.’ The Secretary General Sayyid M. Syeed of the ISNA has said,

“The Qur’an and the sayings of the prophet emphatically distinguished the term jihad from hirabah, a destructive act of rebellion committed against God and mankind. Hirabah is an act of terrorism, a subversive act inflicted by an individual or a gang of individuals, breaking the established norms of peace, civic laws, treaties, agreements, moral and ethical codes… While as [sic] different forms of jihad are highly commendable acts of virtue, hirabah is respected as a despicable crime… Individuals and groups indulging in hirabah are condemned as criminals, subjected to severe deterrent punishments under Islamic law and warned of far more punishment and humiliation in the life after life.”

The result could be that those young impressionable minds that feel compelled to separate from their government’s viewpoint or to take matters into their own hands in efforts to promote Islam may actually have a chance to rethink their decision. They would be properly informed and know the difference between committing ‘hirabah’ and committing ‘jihad.’

Senior thinkers and religious figures that have renounced the use of armed action in ideological efforts in favor of reconcilation

Some senior thinkers and religious figures have renounced the use of armed actions by groups demonstrating their jihadist commitments. Notable examples include Sayid Imam al-Sharif, who founded and commanded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization whose supporters assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He also worked with Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl, was the author of the Salafi jihadists’ bible, “Foundation of Preparation for Holy War.” In 2007, he condemned killings on the basis of neutrality and colour of skin and cited the Qur’anic injunction: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress the limits; for God loveth not the transgressors.” He declared that armed operations were wrong, counterproductive and must cease.

A notable example of a defector from the JI is Nasir Abas, who escaped from the group in 2003. He had a key position in JI, as the chairman of Mantiqi 3. In answering what made him leave the group in an interview with the Center for Moderate Muslim Indonesia, he said, “The primary reason was that I saw something wrong with some of the members. They have deviation and incorrect understanding of JI’s mission, namely exploding bombs in civilian areas.” In explaining what he meant by deviation, he said the following,

“Its about understanding the meaning of jihad and its implementation. I understand jihad as the situation I found in Afghanistan and the Philippines, namely by facing the enemy which is attacking the Muslim community in uniform, with weapons. While some JI members like Hambali and his friends made the civilians as the target, such as: the bomb exploding at some churches in 2000, the bomb action in Philippine Embassy in 2001, and Bali bomb in 2002. Since Hambali has been caught, the struggle was continued by Dr. Azahari and Nordin M. Top. I couldn’t understand exploding bombs against innocent civilians was jihad. It’s incorrect and unsuitable. That was the difference that made me escape from the group.”

According to Nathan Field who writes for the National Newspaper, during the last decade, local violence has declined dramatically. “In Egypt violence form organized militant groups has disappeared. The country’s two main jihadist groups, al Jihad and al Gamma’a al Islamiyya, have both published books denouncing their past actions, usually referedd to as the “Revisions,” and most of their members have since been release from jail. In Algeria, the overwhelming majority of the violent Islamists of the 1990s have embraced the National Reconciliation project and returned home. And in Saudi Arabia, several hundred arrested jihadists have passed through “rehabilitation” or “re-education” and been reintegrated back into society.” As to the cause for the shifts in thinking, Nathan Field says that in Egypt it came from within the jihadist movement, while in Saudi Arabia the state funded and sponsored the reeducation programmes.

He continues to cite an Al-Hayat interview with Hassan Hattab, the founder of the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, now an advocate for reconciliation. In response to why he embraced reconciliation after such a violent past, he pointed to the changes in the ulema’s position: ““We noticed that the ulema turned against the continuation of violence and this was an essential factor in our decision to stop operations. There wasn’t a single cleric who supported our fight against the government. Where previously they were silent about what was happening, now they take a clear position against the violence.”

Noman Benotman who used to be one of the leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who sought to overthrow Gadhafi, and was an important figure in terrorist networks works on behalf of Gadhafi. According to Salon.com, he was assigned the task to convince imprisoned members of his former terrorist group to sign a peace treaty of sorts in order to reintegrate them into society. As part of the deal, they renounce violence and the murder of civilians.  Benotman used to live in a guesthouse that bin Laden owned and dealt directly with bin Laden.

A London-based analyst of Islamic groups, Murad Batal Al Shishani, believes that there’s a new radical generation growing today that is a product of the American occupation of Iraq, called neo-Zarqawists. According to Al Shishani, is generation includes veterans of Al Zarqawi’s jihad in Iraq. Neo-Zarqawists have begun to call their inspiration Al Maqdisi ‘soft.’  Why? Abu Mohammad Al Maqdisi was the spiritual advisor to the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. The reason for the criticism lies in a letter that he sent in 2005 to Zarqawi. In that letter of advice, Maqdisi criticized Zarqawi’s indiscrimate use of suicide bombs and attacks on Shiite and Christian civilians. According to Islam Daily which reposted an article from the Chistian Science Monitor, he stressed that Iraqis should lead their own battle against the Americans. Zarqawi responded by calling Maqdasi’s criticisms sabotage to jihad in Iraq. Neo-Zarqawists prefer Zarqawi’s interpretation of jihad.

In response to the group that has called his position ‘softened’ toward the Jordanian government since his release from prison, Maqdisi and other prominent clerics in the jihadi movement published an open letter warning followers to steer clear of a new group so radical that it considers all government employees, including mosque prayer leaders, apostates from Islam. In the meantime, according to Islam Daily, Maqdisi denies that he has changed his views, although an expert on Maqdisi’s writings, Joas Wagemakers of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, notes that Maqdisi has never called for their unlimited and indiscriminate use but has always stressed that suicide bombings are legitimate.

As the debate about ‘who is a true jihadi?’ and ‘Is everything allowed for the cause?’ grows, Wagemakers adds,

“These are interesting questions because they show that a new, mostly younger and less educated generation of jihadis is trying to wrest the initiative away from their elders and consider almost anything allowed if they believe it serves the cause. The damage they do to the image of Islam, however, is tremendous.”

Possible impact of last week’s suicide bombing

Hamedan Hamdan, a candidate for the Masters of International Policies degree at MIIS, offers the following perspective in terms of the possible impact of the attack.

The President of Indonesia discussed the impact on the economy and tourism, but one thing that is certain is that when it happened, the rupiah fell 1% on the initial news of the blast. Then the Central Bank later said that it would maintain stability on the foreign exchange market. This is a small dip and eventually this will stabilize, because of the news of the reelected President and the general optimism about reform and economy. The general feeling about the reelection of the president will eventually prevail.

According to the Vice President of Indonesia, the impact of the terror attack on the economy will not last for a long time. I agree with that. I am concerned about the tourism industry. The terrorist act has happened in a hotel. This is one of the areas that is mostly secure. It’s a wealthy area and is supposedly a more secure area. It shows that a secure area can be penetrated. This can have an impact on future tourism. I’m also afraid of some countries may issue travel warnings also that can have a negative impact. Five star hotel.

Investments won’t be that affected. They will bounce back.

Also, after hearing news about the bomb, Manchester United has cancelled its Indonesia trip. The team was supposed to check in over the weekend at the Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta. They were scheduled to play on Monday against Indonesian All-Stars; the game was cancelled. This may have a negative impact on future events that might be planned in Indonesia.

While the Indonesian Soccer Federation (PSSI) is serious about Indonesia hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, a bombing like this can threaten their dream and put it in jeopardy. Although the competition to host the games is understandably stiff, this attack has fostered fears and made people think about what would happen if Indonesia does host the games with all these fans, media and soccer players from around the world there. What will Indonesia do to ensure their security? Although in 13 years, security can improve, the decision by FIFA is made a year from now in December 2010. This might make it harder for Indonesia to realize this dream. It will make it harder for FIFA to pick Indonesia as a host. PSSI will have to work harder to convince FIFA to consider it as a host in 2022.

As long as there are people with this violent behavior, this shows the need for moderate Muslims to reach out to those who have extreme views and to bring them toward understanding the peaceful purposes of Islam. There is a plain need for deradicalization efforts. You can only defeat an idea with an idea.


(This report was produced through collaboration with Hamedan Hamdan. He contributed the section “About JI (Jamaah Islamiyah or Al-Jamaah Al-Islamiyah AJAI)” on the history of JI and in specific sections where he is mentioned in the article.)

Author: Maria Lewytzkyj

Maria Lewytzkyj is an Examiner from San Francisco. You can see Maria’s articles on Maria’s Home Page.

http://www.examiner.com/x-5249-SF-Foreign-Policy-Examiner~y2009m7d21-Suicide-Bombers-Jakarta-jihad-vs-hirabah-insights-on-attacks–renouncers-of-violence

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