Indonesia Urged to Combat Fundamentalists

1 February 2012 FDI Team


In a report released on 26 January, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has warned that acts of vigilantism among Muslim extremists in Indonesia are increasingly turning into terrorism. 


While Indonesia’s 210 million Muslim faithful are typically peaceful moderates, religious fundamentalism, which was formerly suppressed under the “New Order” regime of former president Suharto, is spurring on a new generation of radicals. The new jihadists are intent on violence against religious minorities, including Muslims from the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, and the authorities, in the name ofupholding morality and curbing “deviance” in Indonesia.

‘They preach that Indonesians have forgotten the core of Islam,’ says Noor Huda Ismail, founder of the Institute of International Peace Building in Jakarta, which works with local authorities to de-radicalise former terrorists. ‘Their message is simple: the only way for Indonesians to prove themselves as good Muslims is through jihad against the infidel Americans and their allies.’[1]  

While terrorism is nothing new in Indonesia, the ICG has criticised the Indonesian Government for leniency in dealing with a string of recent “morality raids” last year by Islamic extremists. The attacks included the suicide bombing of a police mosque in Cirebon, West Java, and an evangelical church in Solo, Central Java.

The attacks show a developing trend of independent radical groups forming among groups of poor, uneducated and unemployed men, who are influenced by local extremist clerics urging them to attack what are termed “Islam’s enemies.” 

The government of President Yudhoyono has been slow to act, perhaps because of fears that a crackdown might actually be perceived as un-Islamic by the wider community. The ICG is urging the government to develop a national consensus on what constitutes extremism, to directly confront “hate speech” and to draw the line between upholding morality and orthodoxy – and jihadism.[2] While government efforts at policing have occasionally borne fruit, more concerted long-term action will be needed to facilitate real change. 

Ashley Woermann

Future Directions International Research Assistant

Indian Ocean Research Programme



[1] Beech, H., Time, 7 June 2010, ‘What Indonesia Can Teach the World About Counterterrorism’. <,9171,1992246,00.html>.

[2] International Crisis Group, 26 January 2012, ‘Indonesia: From Vigilantism to Terrorism in Cirebon’. <>.

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