Posts made in November, 2018

The Army, Radical Islam and the Global War on Terror

Posted by on Nov 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Army, Radical Islam  and the Global War on Terror

Soeharto had ruthlessly suppressed political Islam, but during the New Order’s final years attempted to offset his waning popularity by mobilizing Muslim extremist groups. With blessings from his father-in-law, Major General Prabowo Subianto and his regimist allies sought to inflame anti-Zionist, anti-Chinese, anti-western and anti-Christian sentiments in cooperation with hard-line groups like Husein Umar’s Indonesian Islamic Proselytizing Council (DDII), Ahmad Sumargono’s Indonesian Committee in Solidarity with the Muslim World (Kisdi) and Eggi Sudjana’s Indonesian Muslim Workers Association (PPMI). It was a destructive strategy. Soeharto’s backing encouraged those radicals to become more aggressive. Despite generous regime patronage for B.J. Habibie’s Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim Indonesia, ICMI) throughout the 1990s, modernist Muslim leaders turned against Soeharto and played a central role in forcing his resignation. The sudden lifting of Soeharto’s restraining hand gave the radicals freedom to act in a variety of ways detrimental to the secular state. Militant groups and new Islamic parties like the Crescent and Star Party (PBB) called for an Islamic State, marking the return of political Islam with a vengeance after decades of suppression. The chaotic, lawless period after Soeharto’s fall allowed groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI), Laskar Jihad and the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, to recruit and thrive. The phenomenon caught many by surprise since Indonesia – the world’s largest nation of Muslims – was considered peaceful and tolerant, its Islamic majority flavored with elements of Hinduism, Buddhism and Javanese mysticism. Almost exclusively Sunni, most Indonesian Muslims were from the marginal abangan variant, broadly tolerant and law-abiding. The large and growing modernist, or santri community was also considered moderate. Those championing radical Islam were and continue to be a small minority. The modernist Muslim socialization process during the 1990s brought army leaders closer to a spectrum of Islamic institutions. Courting those groups was part of a new strategy. With Soeharto’s tacit blessings, senior officers – including regimists like Feisal Tanjung, Hartono and Prabowo, and secular-nationalists like Wiranto – cultivated conservative Muslims to accrue political power. Throughout the New Order, military and civilian elites had mobilized criminals (preman) and militant groups, regardless of ideology, to maintain their political and economic interests. Past collaboration with civilian militias irrespective of creed or legitimacy – and the steady “greening” among the senior ranks over the previous decade – had prepared military leaders for such partnerships of convenience with radical Islam. The Army had come full circle since Lieutenant General Ali Moertopo’s malicious manipulation of political Islam during the 1970s and General Benny Moerdani’s brutal security approach toward conservative Muslims during the 1980s. In the post-Soeharto period, the patronage provided by President Habibie, Armed Forces Commander General Wiranto and others inside and out of the government gave hard-line Muslims renewed energy and self-confidence. Groups like the FPI and Laskar Jihad became vehicles for political mobilization, participating in quasi-official projects like Wiranto’s Pam Swakarsa volunteer security force. After religious violence erupted in Maluku during early-1999, those militants did not hesitate to organize a jihad campaign to avenge their Muslim brethren on Indonesia’s remote eastern islands – and received support in those efforts from politicians...

Read More