This BBC article profiles two women two women married to members of Jemaah Islamiyah, which is fascinating in itself. But it underscores two points I have often made (at length in Onward Muslim Soldiers) but which bear repeating nevertheless:
1) Jihadists around the world consider themselves to be all fighting the same struggle — that of Islam against unbelievers — and so there is a great deal of travel between nations by committed jihadis. If these were nationalistic or social movements clad in religious garb, why would an Indonesian travel to Afghanistan to fight, or vice versa;
2) These men consider themselves to be waging jihad, not committing terrorism. This may seem to be a basic point, or a distinction without a difference, but it is actually of key importance: it places their struggle within a recognized Islamic theological and legal context, making it easier for them to gain recruits, and it allows them to condemn terrorism before gullible Westerners without moving a single finger to stop activities that Americans would classify as terrorism.
“Mira Augustina married her husband the same day she met him. It was the first time he had proposed, by way of the 21-year-old’s father. ‘We met at nine o’clock in the morning. We talked a little, and then he asked if I wanted to be his wife. And by 6pm we were married. Oh yes, it was a very happy day for me,’ Augustina said.
“Augustina was told her husband was an Indonesian named Mohammed Asseqof. In fact, authorities say he was an Iraqi man with a Kuwaiti passport named Omar al-Faruq, and he was reportedly a key link between al-Qaeda and the regional militant network, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has been blamed for the Bali bombing.
“Augustina’s father, an alleged arms runner, introduced al-Faruq to JI activists, as well as to his daughter. Al-Faruq was captured last year, and the CIA removed him from Indonesia. His wife and their two daughters haven’t seen him since. Augustina said she was only now coming to terms with who her husband really was, and what her marriage did to help Jemaah Islamiah.
“‘The marriage alliances are the glue that holds the organisation together,’ said Sydney Jones of the International Crisis Group in Jakarta. ‘Oftentimes senior members of the organisation will offer their sisters or sisters-in-law to new and promising recruits, so that not only is someone drawn into the organisation, but they’re drawn into the family at the same time. They’ve been in control of finances in some cases. They play a role as couriers, in ensuring that, particularly after imprisonment, communication among different members of the organisation is maintained,’ Ms Jones said.
“She said the women of Jemaah Islamiah for the most part remain behind the scenes. ‘It’s not a role in actively taking part in bombing activities, the way some of the women in Chechnya or in Sri Lanka have done. It’s more ensuring that the organization stays solid.’
“One Malaysian family illustrates this more than any other.
“The father trained in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, where he probably met the men who would later marry two of his daughters. One daughter, Paridah Binti Abas, is married to Ali Gufron, also known as Mukhlas, who was recently convicted of masterminding the 2002 Bali bombing.
“Paridah was pregnant with her sixth child when Ali Gufron was arrested in 2002. When their son was born, the couple decided to name him after one of their heroes, Osama.
“To meet Paridah now is to meet only a pair of eyes. the rest of her face is covered. She wears a black veil, a black tunic, black pants, black socks, and black sports sandals. Paridah comes from a middle class Malaysian family. She attended high school, and is fluent in Arabic and English. ‘I love books. Sometimes I read the books four or five times,’ she said.
“Paridah admits that her husband wanted to teach Bali tourists a lesson about their evil ways. But she says he didn’t mean to kill so many people.
“Unlike Mira Augustina, Paridah seems to have known what her husband was doing all along. She says even her young children support him. ‘They are convinced that their father is a mujahid, not a terrorist. They said actually Indonesia must say thank you to my father, they said, because he showed us that Bali is full of influence of “ma’sia”… “bad things”.’
“Paridah had a comfortable childhood, but her husband Ali Gufron grew up in a poor village. He became a preacher and fled to Afghanistan to fight for a better life. Paridah now lives in that village, far from Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. There, her ailing father-in-law and mother-in-law occupy a humble shack.
“They are parents to three men who have been found guilty of carrying out the Bali bombing – Ali Gufron and his younger two brothers, Amrozi and Ali Imron. ‘When people knocked on the door to ask me questions I didn’t answer. I just kept quiet and hoped that they would leave. But the people are still coming. And I keep telling them that I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything,’ said Ali Gufron’s mother.
“But Sydney Jones said such women often are aware of their male relative’s activities. ‘The women have to know everything that’s going on because their husbands are meeting with people on a regular basis. And oftentimes, given the way that the family structure works, the women would be actively involved in helping serve the guests,’ she said.
“The fate of Mira Augustina’s husband Omar al-Faruq is uncertain. All that is known is he is still being detained by the CIA. Paridah Binti, Abas’ husband Ali Gufron, has been sentenced to death for his role in the Bali bombing. He has two more chances to appeal. Paridah said she could dream that she will have her husband home again, but she could no longer hope.” (Thanks to Nicolei.)