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Think Tank Calls for Monitoring of Regional Terror Group's Publishing Business


An international research organization is calling on the Indonesian government to monitor the publishing arm of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group blamed for the Bali bombings and other terrorist attacks in Indonesia. The organization does not recommend closing the publishing operation down, however, as Marianne Kearney explains from Jakarta.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for a number of terrorist attacks since the 2002 bombings that killed more than 200 people on the Indonesian island of Bali. A report by the International Crisis Group shows that JI, as the group is known, has also developed a flourishing publishing business.

Hundreds of JI members allegedly involved in the bombings have been killed or arrested by the Indonesian security forces. But the study says the publishing network of printers, translators, designers, marketers, and distributing agents could allow the organization to survive despite the crackdown.

Sidney Jones, the Crisis Group's senior advisor, says that most of the books discuss Islamic lifestyle, while others are downloads from al-Qaida websites, translated into Indonesian.

Jones says some of the material contains debate over whether terrorist tactics are permitted in Islam.

"There is a discussion going on about whether indiscriminate bombings are a desirable tactic, and one of the interesting things is that one of the most recent books published was arguing against the use of suicide bombings, and against the use of bombings that kill a large number of civilians," Jones said.

Since the Bali bombings, there has been a split in Jemaah Islamiyah over the group's tactics. Jones says some JI members disagree with the use of bombings that target civilians.

She says that because the books promote useful debate about violent jihad, and possibly even channel the energies of JI members into peaceful political activity, they should not be shut down.

"I think that it's actually very useful to have this debate going on within the organization," Jones noted, "it's going on as a result of translations from Arabic to Indonesian, of works published by very well know jihadi ideologues who have distanced themselves from Al Qaida."

She says monitoring this lively debate, and the network of businesses that support the publishing industry, could be a good way for the Indonesian government to keep tabs on the future direction of Jemaah Islamiyah.