News / Asia

Indonesian Cleric's Arrest Disrupts Radicalization in Southeast Asia

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested August 9 after a months-long investigation into a terrorist group calling itself al-Qaida in Aceh.  Analysts say his arrest was more significant than just the disruption of a terrorist plot. It demonstrated, they say, a new emphasis by Indonesian authorities on preventing radicalization and terrorist recruitment in Southeast Asia.

Radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was charged Wednesday with helping plan terrorist attacks in Indonesia. It is a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death. Police say he was involved in setting up a terrorist cell and militant training camp in Aceh Province that was plotting high-profile assassinations and attacks on foreigners in the capital.

Symbolic importance

But terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna with the Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies says Bashir's symbolic importance to the radical Islamic movement surpasses any operational role he may have played.

"Bashir remains a central figure in terrorism in Southeast Asia and globally," Gunaratna said. "He's the public face. He's the iconic figure when it comes to terrorism in Southeast Asia. There is no one who is more prominent than Abu Bakar Bashir in Southeast Asia."

Who is he?

The 71-year-old cleric is a co-founder and spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaida linked terrorist network. Its purpose is to establish an Islamic caliphate extending over the Muslim areas of south-east Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah is blamed for a series of bombings that killed over 250 people in the last decade, including those on Bali in 2002 and 2005.

Bashir spent more than two years in prison for his involvement in the 2002 terrorist bombings on Bali that killed 202 people. The Indonesian Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 2006.

Bashir has denied any involvement in terrorism but he continues to speak out and founded a legal organization called Jama'ah Ansharut Tauhid or JAT that promotes the creation of an Islamic state in Indonesia. His arrest had been anticipated after several JAT members were arrested in May for allegedly funding terrorist activities in Aceh.

No mistakes

Security analyst Ken Conboy with Risk Management Advisory says police took its time collecting intelligence and evidence against Bashir so as not to repeat the mistakes they made the last time the arrested him.

"The government really blew the case against him," Conboy said. "They had him in prison. They couldn't make any of the bigger charges stick and even the charges they did eventually get, he was let free. So I think the government really stumbled the last time around and I am sure this time they were being very very methodical and making sure they had as tight as case as possible before they arrested him."

Bashir blames pressure from the United States and Australia for his arrest and some hardline Islamic organizations in Indonesia defend him as a victim of anti-Islamic forces.

Extensive influence

Gunaratna says Bashir's influence in radicalizing Muslims and recruiting terrorists extended throughout Southeast Asia. Malaysia recently arrested three suspected militants believed to have ties with the radical cleric.

And he says Bashir's arrest is a turning point for the region's war on terror. It shows that Indonesian authorities are now willing to go after ideological figures with significant public support that promote extremist causes.

"The president of Indonesia should be congratulated because previous presidents did not take the threat seriously," Gunaratna noted,  "and certainly the government of Indonesia should send to prison not only those who are operational terrorists but ideological terrorists, people who write, who advocate and who support terrorism. And Abu Bakar Bashir belongs to all those categories."

But he says this new emphasis on cracking down on those propagating extremist messages is just beginning, and more must be done to prevent the radicalization of another generation of Muslims in Southeast Asia.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid