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Prof Greg Barton from Monash University (Australia)

The evolution of jihadi salafism in Indonesia: a regional perspective

In the wake of the bombing in Bali on October 12, 2002, Southeast Asia in general and Indonesia in particular began to be described as terrorisms second front. Within Indonesia, however, there was considerable scepticism. Many believed that jihadi salafism had very little support in Indonesia, a view shared by many long term observers of the country. Indonesian Islam, it was said, is different. Developments over the past decade have shown both positions to be mistaken. The level of threat posed by jihadi salafist terrorism in Indonesia and Southeast Asia is clearly nothing like that being experienced in South Asia, Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa. Nevertheless, Indonesia faces a remarkably resilient and persistent challenge from home-grown terrorism. With over 830 arrests, most of them leading to successful prosecutions, the Indonesian authorities have risen to the challenge of dealing with a problem far more extensive and enduring than most would have predicted. In hindsight it is clear that jihadi salafism has deep roots in Indonesian society being a product of social movements that pre-date Indonesian independence. Whilst it is true that such radical movements have always been the exception to the rule sometimes, as with the Darul Islam movement of the 1950s, the exception is very significant. At the same time, global developments have transformed the nature and expression of jihadi salafism in Indonesia. And whilst Indonesian authorities have become skilful in responding to the technical challenges this represents a more comprehensive response within the civil sphere is required to properly address this low level but pernicious problem.

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Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies