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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid