Indonesia: Schooled For Jihad

Noor Huda Ismail investigates the jihadists in Indonesia, including Abu Bakar Baasyir (Bashir), whom we have discussed many times here. Why do officials allow him to teach a course on Islam in the prison? Is that not simply creating a new contingent of jihadists? It indicates, of course, that their ideology doesn’t differ from his. From the Washington Post (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist):

It is visiting hour at Jakarta’s Cipinang Prison and its most famous inmate, the Muslim preacher Abubakar Baasyir, sits on a wooden bench surrounded by a dozen acolytes, assistants and lawyers. Several prisoners attend to him, including a confessed terrorist who has become the cleric’s servant and coordinates a team of six to wash his clothes and cook his meals without pay. Prison officials allow Baasyir to teach a class on Islam to fellow inmates four times a week; about 100 prisoners attend each session….

Baasyir is holding court in prison instead of his home or office because Indonesian prosecutors have accused him of being the emir of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. In a 65-page indictment, they alleged that he was involved in “planning and/or encouraging other people to commit terrorism” including the 2003 bombing of the J. W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, where 12 people were killed, and the 2002 bombing of a resort in Bali, where 202 people were killed. A court cleared Baasyir in the Marriott attack and found him guilty of approving of (but not of ordering) the Bali bombings….

But for me, Baasyir’s case poses a different question. That’s because he was a co-founder of the Islamic boarding school, Al Mukmin Ngruki, where I spent six years studying in sweltering classrooms. While I chose a career in journalism, many of my fellow students made a different choice. Dozens of Ngruki’s alumni have been accused of taking part in a wave of terrorist attacks against Westerners in Indonesia. Security analysts and police investigators believe that the link is no coincidence. Sydney Jones of the International Crisis Group has called my alma mater an “Ivy League” for Jemaah Islamiyah recruits.

All of which makes me wonder: Why did so many of my fellow students end up choosing terrorism while I ended up writing about them?

To begin to answer that question, I decided to meet Abubakar Baasyir in jail. I contacted Hasyim, his soft-spoken liaison man, whose cell phone is constantly on. “Please come in,” he said when I arrived. Using the word for teacher, he added, “Ustadz is ready.”

After 10 minutes, the white bearded cleric entered. In his mid-sixties, he appeared in a white shirt and worn eyeglasses; a white box cap was perched on his head. Abdul Jabar, a JI member who admitted to blowing up an explosives-laden van at the house of the Philippine ambassador in 2000, accompanied him.

Baasyir, who proclaims himself an admirer of Osama bin Laden but still denies that he is a terrorist leader, said that he is just a victim of “the infidel Bush’s America.” Then he quoted a verse from the Koran: “The infidels will never stop fighting us until we follow their way.” I know that verse by heart. We learned it in school.

Read it all.

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  1. says

    The Indonesian author writes: “The majority of my fellow alumni are more or less like me. They are successful in the secular world… Of the 88 percent of Indonesians who are Muslim, most lead secular lives.”

    What he doesn’t add is that the reason for this degree of secular culture in Indonesia is, sadly but realistically, the brutal dictatorship of Sukarno who led Indonesia into and after its independence from Western colonial rule, and who imposed with an iron fist the “Pancasila” of sociopolitical secularism.

    As with Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Pakistan, it seems that Muslim zones can only implement secular culture to the degree that brutal oppressive dictators impose it. Why? Because grass-roots Islamic culture is that strong that it requires nothing less than dictatorship to suppress it — and even then, it can never be successful: thus we see honor killings in “modern secular” Turkey; we see rampant support for Osama in a “moderate” Pakistan; we even saw official punishment of beheadings for prostitutes under the supposedly “secular” Saddam in Iraq.