Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Delegitimizing Global Jihadi Ideology in Southeast Asia

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Delegitimizing Global Jihadi Ideology in Southeast Asia

Article excerpt

Introduction

On 9 September 2004, two days away from the third anniversary of the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington, DC, a terrorist bomb went off just outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Nine people were killed and more than 180 injured. Most of these were ordinary Indonesians (Pereira 2004). Immediately after the attack, a statement, allegedly emanating from the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist network, was issued, claiming responsibility and justifying why the strike had occurred. The statement clearly showed that the JI was motivated by what we may call a "global jihadi" ideology, characterized by a globally oriented, violently anti-Western animus:

   We (in the Jama'ah al-Islamiah) have sent many messages to the
   Christian government in Australia regarding its participation in
   the war against our brothers in Iraq. However it didn't respond
   positively to our request; therefore we have decided to punish
   it as we considered it the fiercest enemy of Allah and the
   Islamic religion. Thanks to Allah who supported us in punishing
   [the Australians] in Jakarta when a brother successfully carried
   out a martyrdom operation using an explosive-laden car in the
   Australian Embassy. Many were killed and injured besides the
   great damage to the embassy. This is only one response in a
   series of many coming responses, God willing. Therefore we
   advise all the Australians to leave Indonesia otherwise we will
   make it a grave for them. We also advise the Australian
   government to withdraw its troops from Iraq otherwise we are
   going to carry many painful attacks against them. Cars bombs
   will not stop and [our] list contains many who are ready to die
   as martyrs. The hands that attacked them in Bali are the same
   hands that carried out the attack in Jakarta. Our attacks and
   our jihad will not stop until we liberate all the lands of the
   Muslims. (1)

This essay proceeds from the premise that defeating radical jihadi terrorism in Southeast Asia requires action on two tracks. The first, the counter-terrorist track that seeks to render terrorist leaders, militants, and their funding and logistics networks "inoperative", is of course essential to deal with the real-time threat (Raman 2003). However, in order to effectively neutralize the global jihadi threat in Southeast Asia over the medium-to-longer term, it would be necessary to move beyond short-term counter-terrorist measures and engage in longer-term counter-terrorism elements. In contrast to counter-terrorist elements that have a more identifiable end-result, namely, the elimination of real-time terrorist threats and their infrastructural support, the effectiveness of a counter-terrorism thrust is harder to evaluate as the end-result: a diminution of popular support for nihilistic global jihadi ideology--and a commensurate rise in support for relatively more progressive forms of Islamism--is not readily measurable. Nevertheless, this essay fully embraces the old Clausewitzian dictum that what is not easily quantifiable does not make it less important. It posits that a theatre strategy for defeating global jihadi ideology in Southeast Asia must combine both counter-terrorist and the arguably more crucial counter-terrorism elements (Ramakrishna and Tan 2003, pp. 305-37). In particular, enduring success in the war on terror in the region will not be achieved until and unless the ideological basis of the likes of the JI is effectively undercut. In other words, only when the global jihadi capacity to regenerate by attracting recruits and sympathizers to its cause is severely weakened, and more crucially, its cause is regarded by Southeast Asian Muslim communities as discredited, can one begin to seriously talk about success. The pathway to the counter-terrorism goal of rendering global jihadi ideology irrelevant is in fact indirect in the sense that military and "hard" law enforcement measures cannot be the main tools of the counter-terrorism approach. …

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