If we had a sane and responsible government, John Kerry or Joe Biden or Jeh Johnson or some other official who has assured us that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam would explain why young Muslims in far-off Indonesia think that it is the embodiment of authentic Islam, and what their strategy is for countering this phenomenon. Instead, they leave the chasm between their confident proclamations and reality to grow ever wider.
“Islamic State’s influence stretching thousands of miles to Indonesia,” by Jonathan Kaiman, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2015 (thanks to Darcy):
When Rahmat and Afrian talk about Islamic State, their eyes widen, their speech slows, and their expressions soften into smiles.
The two friends, both 33, say they plan to join the Islamist militant group in Syria, 4,500 miles away from their middle-class homes in Medan, Indonesia’s fourth-largest city, as soon as they can save enough money to fund the trip.
“The Islamic State is like a dream come true for me and all Muslim people,” said Rahmat, a perfume trader wearing a Quicksilver T-shirt and a G-Shock watch, who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name. “Now is the time to return to Islamic glory, like we experienced in the old days.”
Southeast Asia is emerging as a new recruiting frontier for the Sunni Muslim extremist group that seized control of large portions of northern Syria and Iraq last year. Hundreds of Indonesians, at least 150 Malaysians, and even a few young men from Singapore have joined Islamic State, according to the best assessments of analysts in the region.
“I think support for ISIS is increasing,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for the Jakarta-based Policy Analysis of Conflict think-tank, using an acronym for the group. At least 200 Indonesian citizens have traveled to the Middle East to join Islamic State, she said.
Others have pledged devotion to the group, which proclaimed itself a caliphate in June 2014….
Rahmat and Afrian have been busy preparing by viewing jihadist videos online, especially the slick, brutal execution videos that have become a cornerstone of Islamic State’s global propaganda push. They have also been doing push-ups, sit-ups and martial arts.Both say they plan to take their families with them. Afrian, a high school teacher, has a wife and a 2-month-old, and Rahmat has a wife and three children.
“My son will become a fighter too, inshahllah,” God willing, Rahmat said. “Once he asked me, ‘Dad, why don’t we go to Syria?’ I think he understands everything.”…
According to an Australian intelligence report obtained by news website The Intercept, two Indonesian commercial pilots have pledged devotion to Islamic State. Ridwan Agustin, a former AirAsia pilot, may have already traveled to Syria. The pilots “pose obvious threats,” the report says. “Their access and knowledge of security and safety regimes provides the ability to attempt attacks as witnessed by past global events.”
Rahmat and Afrian said they decided to join Islamic State in June 2014 after it released a video declaring a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. (Indonesian authorities have blocked the video; Rahmat says he first saw the contents on BBC and Al Jazeera.)
Rahmat said that law enforcement agents had not contacted him since he pledged devotion to the militant group in a small ceremony with fellow members of the Indonesian Muslim League. Afrian said that police had visited his house about 10 times to gather information, but did not threaten him with arrest.
“First they interrogated me about my views on sharia law,” he said. “Then, at the end, they also asked me about ISIS.”…
Both Rahmat and Afrian said that they had kept up to date on the group’s videos of beheadings, defenestrations and mass executions and fully support them.
“One verse in the holy Koran says we have to deter our enemy,” Afrian said. “The Islamic State is a state. It has territory, government, citizens, and laws. If you don’t want to get in trouble with the Islamic State, don’t go there.”
Rahmat said that he began thinking seriously about sharia law in 2000 in a Medan prison, where he was held for two years on drug charges. ” I met someone who taught me the Islamic way, knowledge, how to be faithful to the creator,” he said. “It was like being reborn.”
Alchaidar has known Afrian and Rahmat since 1999, and has interviewed them extensively.
“It’s very hard for me to understand why their beliefs changed from secular to very religious,” he said. “For me, it’s incomprehensible.” He said both seemed motivated mainly by ideology.
Rahmat said he hopes to become a martyr in the Middle East. Afrian said he dreams of eventually returning to Indonesia.
“Success, for me, would mean that all of Indonesia adopts sharia law,” Afrian said. “That’s the only way to avoid repressive actions by non-Muslims against Muslims.
“For Muslim people, there’s a quite famous proverb: Live in dignity, or die in jihad. If we die doing this, we will have won.”