Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The State of Jihadists

On January 26, 2012, the International Crisis Group released a new report titled "Indonesia: From Vigilantism to Terrorism in Cirebon."

While the ICG's work is usually excellent, and a must read for serious students of terrorism, readers of this blog will not find anything new in the otherwise great report - as the report confirms what we have previously argued in this blog, which is that al-Qaeda and Jamaah Islamiyah, its affiliation in Indonesia, have been in decline for years and that global terrorism has degenerated more and more into local based movements.

This shift, however, can be dangerous due to its unpredictability. An adage says "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," and this seems to be playing out in the terrorism business nowadays. Take the example of Mohammad Reza Taheri-Azar, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, who drove a rented SUV into a crowd of students, injuring nine.

It was later revealed that he wanted to avenge his fellow coreligionists who were killed by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq -- even though as a Shiite, this guy would have been decapitated by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, both of whom consider Shiite to be a deviant sect of Islam.

The ICG report mentioned above illustrates this problem. The "new wave" of Indonesian terrorists emerge from schools and mosques run by religious fundamentalists. They have made their mark by attacking other religions. Feeling that they needed to do more, they turned to websites run by Islamic radicals such as al-Qaeda for tips and inspiration, and eventually got hooked on terrorism. But while this new wave takes its cues from big-time terrorist groups and organizations, it remains administratively and operationally separate from them. They're homegrown, local terrorists and terror sympathizers.

At the same time, however, this new breed has been less lethal than its predecessors due to its lack of military/bomb-making training, as evident in the last year's spate of bombings in Indonesia, which I discussed in a prior article in the Jakarta Globe.

Still, one can only wonder when these terrorists will increase their sophistication and become threats to a larger portion of Indonesian society. Thus, so as to head off this looming issue, there's a great need for deradicalization programs that promote the idea of pluralism and tolerance various areas of Indonesia. Let's hope Indonesia's leaders begin to act on this advice.

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