News / Asia

Indonesian Jihadists in Syria Highlight Conflict's Global Draw

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Hujaira town, south of Damascus, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Nov. 13, 2013.
Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad are seen at Hujaira town, south of Damascus, after the soldiers took control of it from the rebel fighters, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, Nov. 13, 2013.
Kate Lamb
As the war in Syria enters its third year, the conflict continues to attract Islamic fighters from the Arab world, and from countries as far flung as Kazakhstan, Australia and Indonesia. The trend has become a major concern for Western governments.
 
Of the hundreds of rebel units currently operating in Syria, some pledge allegiance to al-Qaida while others want to see Syria become an Islamic caliphate.
 
According to a recent estimate by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, some 11,000 people from 74 countries have traveled to Syria to join the opposition fighters.
 
The figure has doubled since last April, with a particularly sharp increase in non-Arab and Western fighters.
 
According to terrorism analyst Noor Huda, while most foreign fighters are from the Middle East and Europe, Indonesian fighters are also getting involved for ideological reasons.
 
"They look at Sham [region of Syria] as the holy of holiest place for jihad where now they see the battle between good and evil, the battle between the Sunni and the Shia, and mostly Indonesian jihadists are Sunni, and then it is time for them to actually defend their Sunni brothers, it is timely for them,” Huda explained.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the ruling minority are Alawites, a Shia Islamic sect.
 
Huda noted that Indonesians studying in the Middle East have also traveled to Syria, and two have died in crossfire over recent months. They have since been held up as martyrs on radical websites.
 
Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency is currently tracking 50 Indonesians in Syria suspected of terrorist activities.
 
Inspired by the idea of global jihad, the involvement of Indonesian hardliners in Syria also has local repercussions.
 
“If we look back at our experience with Indonesian fighters in Afghanistan you can see that the returned jihadists from Afghanistan have a certain standing here in Indonesia,” Huda said.

As Indonesia’s militants take a greater interest in conflicts abroad, Sidney Jones, from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), says they are becoming more anti-Shia at home.
 
“What is new in Indonesia is this virulent anti-Shia rhetoric, which seems like in part it is coming in part from Saudi-funded organizations," Jones said, "but the Syrian conflict is exacerbating that because Assad can be used as a example of why you have to aware of Shia, and see them as the enemy because they are killing Sunni Muslims.

Indonesia is the world largest Muslim-majority nation. Most here subscribe to Sunni Islam and hold moderate religious views.
 
Over the past two and half years, minority Shia Muslims have come under increasing attack, as well as forced relocations and in some cases, government-sanctioned forced conversion.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MikeBarnett from: USA
January 14, 2014 7:19 PM
Osama bin Laden and all of al Qaeda have been Sunni muslims who have followed the Wahabi version of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia. It has an extremely strict and narrow vision of Islam. It is no surprise that Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states support the overthrow of President Assad, resistance to Prime Minister Maliki, and war against Iran as long as others do the fighting in each case.

Indonesians linked to al Qaeda blew up the Bali nightclub in 2002 and fought the government for several more years. Now, they have sent fighters to Syria for combat training before returning home. The US maintains 800 Special Forces soldiers to help fight islamic insurgents on Basilon Island in the southern Philippines north of Indonesia. They helped the government in a September, 2013, battle at Zamboanga against the muslim Moro National Liberation Front. Consequently, the actions in Syria are not new; they represent the type of international training that al Qaeda can conduct for islamic insurgents from many nations including the US with its Somali refugees, most of whom are Sunnis. This is a global unconventional war.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid