Solahudin's book, The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia (trans. Dave McRae) has just been published by UNSW Press in association with the Lowy Institute.
In the eyes of Indonesian terrorists, it appears that targeting the 'far enemy', such as America and its allies such as Australia, is increasingly unpopular. The far enemy is now seldom targeted for attacks. Conversely, the popularity of the 'near enemy', particularly the Indonesian police, as a target for attacks has skyrocketed. In the past three years, the majority of terror attacks in Indonesia have targeted the police. During this period, 29 of the 30 people killed in terror attacks have been police. In the most recent case in Tangerang near Jakarta in early August 2013, a policeman was shot dead while riding his motorbike to a local mosque.
Prior to this period, it was relatively rare for the police to be the target of significant terror attacks. Between 2002 and 2009, large-scale terror attacks always targeted foreign interests in Indonesia. The most recent was in July 2009, when the group led by the now deceased terrorist Noordin Top bombed the Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta.
This shift in targets is linked inextricably to the popularity of the concept of jihad tamkin among Indonesian terrorists. This concept was promoted by Muhammad Al Maqdisi, a Jordanian jihadi religious scholar, who has criticised various acts of terror that did not contribute to upholding Islamic law. In his view, jihad, including acts of terror, is justifiable only to achieve victory, namely the establishment of an Islamic state.
Jihad tamkin began to become popular as a concept around 2006 when Indonesian translations of Muhammad Al Maqdisi's works appeared. Previously, the idea of jihad tamkin had been less popular than jihad nikayah, which emphasises attacks to weaken the enemy, frequently without an agenda to uphold Islamic law.
An example is Noordin Top's group, which was more interested in attacking the interests of America and its allies than in upholding Islamic law in Indonesia. None of the 2003 Marriott bombing, the Australian embassy bombing in 2004, the second Bali bombing in 2005 nor the Marriott and Ritz Carlton bombs in 2009 had any agenda to establish an Islamic state. In his various statements, Noordin Top firmly states that these bombing actions were intended as revenge on the West and to weaken the West, which he considered the main enemy. The increase in popularity of jihad tamkin has made the near enemy more popular among Indonesia's terrorists, because they accuse the Indonesian Government of being an idolater (thogut) that obstructs the upholding of Islamic law in Indonesia. Terrorists consider the police to be an army of the tyrants (ansharut thogut).
Terrorists consider police to be their main enemy within the Indonesian state apparatus because it is the police which has been most active in arresting and fatally shooting terrorists suspects. Between 2010 and August 2013, the police anti-terror squad Detachment 88 has arrested 302 terrorist suspects and shot dead 67 people. Unsurprisingly, it is easy to find appeals to assassinate police on various jihadi websites in Indonesia. One treatise of this sort is 'Virgins of Heaven, I Woo You with the Heads of Detachment 88', which recommends taking revenge by killing police wherever and whenever they can be found.
Now that terrorists in Indonesia have established the police as their main target, does that mean an end to attacks on the far enemy? Don't be too certain. The far enemy could again become a target for attacks if international issues emerge which are perceived to hurt the Islamic community. For example, in 2012-2013 there were two plots to attack foreign embassies and consulates in Indonesia, although the police thwarted both. These plots were spurred by the film The Innocence of Muslims and violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. If similar cases emerge, it's not impossible that terrorists in Indonesia could again target the far enemy.
Additionally, to be sure of whether the far enemy will again become the main target of attacks for terrorists in Indonesia we must also follow changes in salafy jihadi ideology, the ideology that strongly determines the forms, strategy, tactics and targets of terrorism in Indonesia. Before Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa in 1998 calling for the deaths of civilians of America and its allies, terrorists in Indonesia had almost never targeted the far enemy. Once the fatwa was issued, jihadis in Indonesia started to attack the far enemy. Conversely, the far enemy has now lost popularity as many jihadis in Indonesia have adopted Muhammad Al Maqdisi's teachings. It is not impossible that another new teaching could emerge that emphasises the importance of attacking the far enemy anew.
Consequently, a key to understanding terrorism in Indonesia, including whether or not terrorists will again attack the far enemy, is to have knowledge of the local and international political situation and of ideological changes in terrorist circles.
Photo by Flickr user Comicbase.