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Indonesia. The jihadi project has failed

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Brussels/Jakarta - Divisions and ideological debates generated by Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), an organisation founded by Indonesia’s best-known radical cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, show the weakness of Indonesia’s jihadi movement.

Indonesia: The Dark Side of Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the many facets of JAT, an ostensibly above-ground organisation whose inner circle has had and continues to have ties to fugitive extremists. It has been in the spotlight since May when three of its officials were accused of helping finance a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

“JAT has a public face, advocating full implementation of Islamic law, condemning democracy as illegitimate and preaching jihad”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser. “That face gives ‘plausible deniability’ to the involvement of senior JAT officials in more covert activities”. She notes that Lutfi Haedaroh alias Ubeid, arrested while fleeing the Aceh camp, was on JAT’s executive council.

JAT was founded in 2008 as a vehicle for Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s absolute leadership. In fact Ba’asyir’s insistence on full decision-making authority within JAT makes it unlikely that involvement of senior officials in clandestine activities could have taken place without his approval. The briefing examines JAT’s structure and ideology and analyses the disputes that have erupted between JAT and other radical organisations, including Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI), exemplifying not only the fractures in the jihadi movement but also Ba’asyir’s own declining influence.

There is no indication that violent extremism is gaining ground in Indonesia, even though the constant shifting and realignment of groups will undoubtedly produce more terrorist plots in the future. “We are seeing the same old faces finding new packages for old goods”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, South East Asia Project Director. “Recruitment continues, but there’s more community pushback”. Ba’asyir was refused permission by the local Islamic council to speak in Banten province last month.

The truth is that the jihadi project in Indonesia has failed. The far bigger challenge for the country is to manage the aspirations of those who joined JAT for its public, non-violent message: that democracy is antithetical to Islam; that only an Islamic state can uphold the faith; and that Islamic law must be the source of all justice.

© Crisis International -


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