Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jemaah Islamiyah Adopts the Hezbollah Model. Part I


by Zachary Abuza

1st part of 3


Islamist terrorism may have its roots in the Middle East, but it has long since expanded globally. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, is no exception. Jemaah Islamiyah has for more than fifteen years fought to transform Indonesia into an Islamist state. In recent years, its terrorist campaign has suffered setbacks. As Jemaah Islamiyah regroups, it builds upon the experience of Middle East terrorist groups. From Al-Qaeda, it adopts philosophical underpinnings that guide its dual strategy. From Hamas and Hezbollah, it borrows an "inverse triangle model" in which a broad network of social services supports a smaller jihadist core, and from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates it adopts a model of charities and NGOs that help Jemaah Islamiyah advance its jihadist goals.


What Is Jemaah Islamiyah?

Jemaah Islamiyah was founded sometime in 1992 or 1993 by former members of Darul Islam, an Islamist movement that emerged during Indonesia's fight for independence from the Netherlands but that continued armed struggle for more than a decade after independence. Members of Darul Islam grew especially frustrated with their political emasculation under Muhammad Suharto's rule (1965-98). Jemaah Islamiyah's founders, Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, conceptualized the group as a covert organization that would topple the secular state through a combination of political agitation and violence. Jemaah Islamiyah's primary founding document, Pedoman Umum Perjuangan al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyyah (PUPJI, The general guidebook for the struggle of Jemaah Islamiyah) outlines the role of clandestine cells and describes the Islamist struggle in terms of guerilla warfare. By the end of the decade, Jemaah Islamiyah had become an Al-Qaeda affiliate, receiving financial and material support from the group. Several top Jemaah Islamiyah operatives even received instruction in Afghan training camps.[1] Soon after its founding, Jemaah Islamiyah became an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Jemaah Islamiyah sought advantage from the collapse of Suharto's authoritarian rule and Indonesia's descent into a chaotic decentralized democracy. Beginning in 1998, Jemaah Islamiyah launched the "uhud project," whose goal was ridding regions of the country of both Christians and Hindus in order to establish pure Muslim enclaves, governed by Shari'a (Islamic law). Its two paramilitaries, Laskar Mujahidin in the Moluccas and Laskar Jundullah in Central Sulawesi, engaged in sectarian bloodletting against Christians and Hindus until, in 2002, the government was able to broker the Malino accords, enabling a fragile truce. Meanwhile, Jemaah Islamiyah began a bombing campaign in 2000, killing several hundred people, including 202 in one attack in October 2002 at a Bali disco.

Indonesian authorities fought back. Security forces arrested more than 450 Jemaah Islamiyah members, prosecuted over 250 terrorists, and eviscerated the organization's regional cell system. Victory was not complete, however. More than a dozen hardened Jemaah Islamiyah leaders remain at large; some, such as Noordin Muhammad Top, have significant organizational skills. Others, such as Zulkarnaen and Dulmatin, have technical and military capabilities. As recently as June 2008, police raids have netted large caches of bombs and bomb-making material,[2] suggesting that Jemaah Islamiyah's commitment to terrorism remains high.


Justifying a Soft Power Strategy

With the exception of Ali Ghufreon (known also as Mukhlas), awaiting execution for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing, Southeast Asian jihadists have no important homegrown theoreticians. Jemaah Islamiyah has filled the gap by drawing upon the works of Al-Qaeda's three most important thinkers—Abu Musab as-Suri, whose main work is the 2002 tract "Call to Worldwide Islamic Resistance"; Abu Bakr Naji, who wrote the 2004 document "The Management of Savagery"; and Abdul Qadir (Dr. Fadl), who, in November 2007, penned "Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World."

Together, these authors provide theoretical sustenance to Jemaah Islamiyah's revitalization of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, a civil society organization affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah, and other overt organizations. Suri, for example, argued that Al-Qaeda's blanket opposition to democracy was counterproductive and that jihadists should instead work with Islamist political leaders and parties. Naji concurred. "If we meditate on the factor common to the movements which have remained, we find there is political action in addition to military action," he explained. "We urge that the leaders work to master political science just as they would to master military science." Naji's specific recommendations that jihadists be able to justify their actions in Islamic law and reach the people directly without reliance on state media parallel the strategy implemented in Egypt by Sayyid Qutb who, in the Muslim Brotherhood, combined a mass-based movement and a network of covert cells. Jemaah Islamiyah has also adopted the substance of Qadir's tract which argued that most terrorism is illegal by Islamic law, that violent jihad should only be waged in defense, and that fighting Muslim leaders, even those decried as apostates, is illegal unless rebellion would lead to tangible improvement in Muslims' lives.[3]

Today, Jemaah Islamiyah pursues a three-front strategy of recruitment and expansion of cells, religious indoctrination and training of its members, and instigation of sectarian conflict. Indeed, Noordin Mohammad Top wrote an 82-page tract about how to establish jihadi cells on a six-month timetable.

The PUPJI outlines the three phases of jihad: iman (faith of individuals), hijrah (building a base of operations), and then jihad qital (fighting the enemies of Islam). One section of the PUPJI, "Al-Manhaj al-Harakiy Li Iqomatid Dien (The general manual for operations)," states that Jemaah Islamiyah can engage in overt activities in order to proselytize and build a base of support. But the bulk of the document is a guide for clandestine operations and cell-building, the path Jemaah Islamiyah leaders most closely follow.


The Rebound

After the Indonesian crackdown that began in 2003, Jemaah Islamiyah reverted to recruitment and indoctrination for several years, but it has again begun to build a base of operations, especially in Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas. As the group sought to recover from the blows inflicted by Indonesian counterterror forces, debate raged about how to move forward. The International Crisis Group's Sydney Jones, a leading expert on Indonesia, describes factional rifts inside Jemaah Islamiyah between proponents of sectarian bloodletting and those who wish to target the Indonesian government and Western targets.[4] Such strategies, however, are not mutually exclusive. Since 2004, Jemaah Islamiyah has increased bombings, assassinations, and raids on military and police facilities. The November 2005 beheadings of three Hindu schoolgirls was meant to undermine confidence in the state.[5]

By provoking sectarian attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah can broaden its definition of a defensive jihad. Such vigilantism enables it to contend that Jakarta has abdicated responsibility by not coming to the defense of the Muslim community, enabling Jemaah Islamiyah to pursue its goals with greater popular support. Since mid-2006, the Indonesian police have taken seriously the threat of sectarian violence after uncovering documents emphasizing the centrality of sectarian bloodletting to Jemaah Islamiyah's efforts to regroup.

Religious indoctrination has become a parallel component of Jemaah Islamiyah strategy. The group has sent high-level cells to Pakistan for advanced religious training. In 2003, for example, Jemaah Islamiyah sent nineteen children or brothers of high-ranking Jemaah Islamiyah members to study in the Lashkar e-Toiba madrasa, an Islamic school in Lahore, Pakistan, which has ties to the Taliban. Although Pakistani security arrested and deported them in fall 2004,[6] Jemaah Islamiyah has been able to conduct more such training in Indonesia where the group runs a network of approximately sixty madrasas and has launched its own publishing houses: Al-Alaq, the Arafah Group, the Al-Qowam Group, the Aqwam Group, and Kafayeh Cipta Media.[7]

Such a strategy is not unique to Indonesia and, indeed, has been frequently practiced in the Middle East. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood regrouped in the wake of the Egyptian government's mid-1990s crackdown by concentrating on mosques, publishing, and proselytizing.[8] Likewise, for more than a decade before Israeli Arabs became involved in Palestinian violence, the Islamic Movement within Israel maintained its own educational institutions and publication houses in the Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm.[9] Lebanon, too, has become home to a number of Islamist publishing houses.


Jemaah Islamiyah's Inverse Triangle

Like many Middle Eastern Islamist groups, Jemaah Islamiyah has embraced the inverse triangle in which a broad range of charities and nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) serve as cover for a narrower terrorist mission. And like many Islamist groups in the Middle East, as Jemaah Islamiyah regroups, it shows no intention of abandoning its core ideology even as some Indonesian officials wishfully see moderation where none exists. As the organization seeks to rebuild, it becomes an example of how Al-Qaeda affiliates, beaten back by successful counterterror strategies, regroup using both the democratic process they simultaneously fight and the legitimacy naively bestowed by the international community on any organization that calls itself a nongovernmental organization.

Jemaah Islamiyah has adopted a Hezbollah model of social organization in which most of the group's activities are overt charitable work and provision of social services even as a component of the organization clandestinely pursues terrorism. Beginning in the 1980s, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi'i political group founded by Iran in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, began to construct a large network of educational institutions and social services both to complement their military wing and to serve as a recruitment tool. Slowly, Hezbollah built a state within a state in Lebanon, preventing anyone within its territory the option of remaining outside the group's influence. Even as Hezbollah conducts terrorist activities against Israel and within Lebanon itself, many in the international community refuse to define the group as a terrorist organization, in effect arguing that social work is exculpatory.[10]

Hamas has implemented the same model. While Hamas is a lethal terrorist organization that has employed at least sixty suicide bombings since the second intifada began in September 2000, many Palestinians and Europeans argue that the group's network of schools, orphanages, clinics, and social welfare organizations bestows some legitimacy.[11] In Iraq, too, militia leaders pursue the same strategy. Abdul Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has employed not only the Badr Corps, which has sponsored terrorism and conducted violent operations, but also the Shahid al-Mihrab Foundation, a charitable organization run by his son, Amar al-Hakim.

In Jemaah Islamiyah's case, the base of the inverse triangle is Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, an umbrella organization for political parties, NGOs, civil society organizations, and individuals committed to transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state.[12] Created in 1999, the organization has an office in Yogyakarta, publishes conspiracy-laden and vehemently anti-Semitic and anti-American books through Wihdah Press and its own magazine, Risalah Mujahidin, lobbies political officials, and in 2001 and 2003, held high-profile national conferences.[13] Muhammad Jibril, son of Jemaah Islamiyah leader Muhammad Iqbal Abdurrahman, runs Ar-Rahman Media, its multimedia publishing house. The use of diverse institutions is deliberate, even as the antipathy toward Indonesian democracy is pronounced. Muhammad Jibril told Al-Jazeera,

We want an Islamic state where Islamic law is not just in the books but enforced, and enforced with determination. There is no space and no room for democratic consultation.[14]

At a November 2006 sermon at a mosque in Kediri, East Java, Jemaah Islamiyah founder Ba'asyir urged his followers to go abroad to wage jihad, though without explaining why. "If you want to go on jihad, do not do it here [Indonesia] but in the southern Philippines or even in Iraq." He said the Bali bombers were legitimate jihadis even if their jihad was "not at the right time or place." Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia may have switched tactics with regard to the desirability of terrorism inside Indonesia, but they have not altered their commitment to violent jihad.

Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has to some extent become Jemaah Islamiyah's equivalent of Sinn Fein, the political party that existed solely to mirror the Irish Republican Army's aims. Jemaah Islamiyah uses Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia to achieve whatever aims it can through the democratic process. Thus, the Majelis Mujahidin advocates for Islamic law components to all major bills and laws. It seeks, for example, to push Indonesian penal law into conformity with Islamic law[15] and has urged local Islamic communities to lobby regional representatives for Islamic law at the local level.[16] It is a strategy that is both well organized and effective. Nearly forty regional governments have taken steps to implement Islamic law, regulate interaction between men and women, obligate Qur'an reading, and ban alcohol.[17] The group has also pressured the media to replace secular programming with Islamic programming, legislating to force civil servants to wear Islamic dress, and mandating Arabic literacy.

Jemaah Islamiyah's engagement in the political process is a cynical short-term tactic in its longer-term strategy to eradicate democracy. "The democratic system is not the Islamic way," Ba'asyir explained. "It is forbidden. Democracy is based on people, but the state must be based on God's law—I call it Allahcracy."[18] "Islam's victory can only come though da'wa and jihad, not elections."[19] Many of Jemaah Islamiyah leaders hold concurrent positions in Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, giving themselves a patina of legitimacy and political cover. Since his release from prison in October 2004, Abdurrahman (Abu Jibril), for example, has used Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia as his base of operations. But his message has not necessarily changed. In one recruiting film produced by Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, Abdurrahman calls on his congregants to wage a violent jihad. Armed with a pistol extended into the air he exclaimed, "You can't just have the Qur'an without the steel. You will bring down the steel."[20] His younger brother remains Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's director of daily operations.[21]

Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has grown increasingly confident and combative in dealing with the government, which it accuses of leading a witch hunt against Muslims. Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia has begun issuing "summons," or official complaints, to the police in order to intimidate them and influence investigations of suspected terrorists. In May 2006, for example, it issued a summons to the Indonesian National Police specialized counterterrorism unit, Detachment 88, for their raid on a Jemaah Islamiyah safe house in Central Java, in which two suspects were killed and two others were arrested.[22] As Ba'asyir said, "The struggle for Islam can only come through crisis and confrontation."[23]

Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia also serves as a link between Jemaah Islamiyah and Saudi financiers. Many Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia leaders hold or have held concurrent positions in Saudi charities and their Indonesian counterparts that have been used to support terrorist activities.[24] These include the Saudi Al-Haramain and the International Islamic Relief Organization. Two Indonesian charities, KOMPAK and the Medical Emergency Relief Charity, respectively serve as their counterpart or executing agencies. While U.S. Executive Order 13224 and the U.N.'s 1267 Committee on January 22, 2004, designated the Indonesian branch of Al-Haramain as a funder of terrorism, four months after the designation, Al-Haramain was operating openly in East Java.[25]

Zachary Abuza                 



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