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  • Gauresa Nanwani

Terrorism in Indonesia: An Obsession

Phtograph: Flickr, Image Courtesy: Freedom House

Following the recent Jakarta attacks on the 14th of January 2016 in Indonesia it appears that terrorism is no longer an act of terror but is instead an obsession to reach a political goal. The questions that arose proceeding the attacks were more along the lines of ‘ISIS is involved again, aren’t they?’ in contrast to the minority that questioned the safety and security of the country immediately. With the spread of the news across social media, hash tags such as #KamiTidakTakut, translating to #WeAreNotAfraid, were trending. But were these people insinuating they weren’t afraid of another physical attack by ISIS or the possibilities of Islamic Fundamentalism propagating across the globe?

The Jakarta attacks didn’t shake up much of the population in terms of security. Firstly, the attacks showed a changing trend in such acts targeted directly at Western locations; such as embassies, Starbucks Cafés, and hotels, towards a more guerilla tactic aimed at neighboring areas instead. Although this tactic can essentially be more dangerous, more coordinated, and require fewer resources, it was shockingly executed at a smaller scale with few casualties. This either implies that Indonesia was growing even more successful in resisting Islamic militancy, or perhaps ISIS was creating a public outcry for the country to fall back into Islamic fundamentalism.

Unsurprisingly, when the attacks occurred, people associated the attack with ISIS even before they claimed responsibility themselves. It’s actually quite noticeable that most acts of terrorism today, be it the Jakarta attacks or the Paris attacks, are immediately associated with ISIS. Essentially, without realising we are equating the term “terrorism” with “ISIS”. The fight from the radicals’ end is for the religion to follow the Quran literally by the book – and in Indonesia, which is a secular democracy where Muslims thrive, it is not an ideal country to instill these conservative beliefs. The notion of Islam as practiced in Indonesia is relatively liberal in comparison to the Quran literalism notion as practiced in other parts of the world. It has been suggested that ISIS therefore despises the Muslims that willingly live under such a secular government, due to the general favour of pluralism over fundamentalism. This is also suggested in the PBS Documentary, “Struggle For The Soul of Islam: Inside Indonesia”: ‘Despite this history of pluralism and moderation, however, in recent years Indonesia has become both a target and breeding ground for Islamic militants. The bombing of two night clubs in Bali, in October of 2002, was a stunning wake-up call that Al Qaeda-style terrorism had spread to Southeast Asia. It was second only to 9/11 as the most deadly terrorist attack in modern history…

This conflict between Indonesia’s long tradition of tolerance, and the dramatic rise of fundamentalist forces, makes Indonesia a unique battleground in the war of ideas over how Islam should be understood – the frontline in what is becoming the most critical conflict of our age.’

Indonesian authorities have been fighting the propagation of hardline Islamisation for years. Despite this, there has been a remotely slow shift towards this more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam as for instance more women in Indonesia are seen to wear veils that cover their full face. However, this is of no satisfaction to groups such as al-Qaeda or ISIS, where the lack of an overall embrace for the Quran’s literal practice of Islam is growing to agitate them further, as seen in these series of attacks. It is therefore no surprise that these acts of terror are obsessively repetitive and seen as for the most part, Islamic related. To secular democracies such as Indonesia, Islamisation is like a tumor that slowly contaminates a perfectly functioning body. Being a malady that has been a part of their lives for years, they aren’t afraid, and are ready to fight any shortcomings such as the recent attacks. Likewise, once the tumor is in, it’s obsessed with its power of deterioration, hence the series of terrorist attacks. Despite knowing there is more to come, be it in the South East Asian region or even Europe, the recent attacks are no indication that such a secular democracy, as Indonesia, will tip to Islamic Fundamentalism.

Indeed, it is unfortunate that when we look at the frequency of terrorist attacks today, it is no longer surprising. When an attack is associated with Islam, it is actually understandably expected. What does this imply? That terrorism is no longer an act of terror, but an obsession to achieve political goals. Evidently, Islamisation appears to be at the top of the list.

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