Agam's Gecko
Thursday, March 03, 2005
This morning, a panel of judges in South Jakarta handed down a guilty verdict on the chairman of the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (Indonesian Mujahidin Council), also known by some of his followers as the "Amir" of Southeast Asia's Jema'ah Islamiyah movement for violent jihad. Of course the old preacher of Yemeni descent has always denied the very existence of JI, which he co-founded along with its first Amir, Abdullah Sungkar (also of Yemeni descent), while both lived in exile in Malaysia. The two men had earlier founded the Islamic boarding school -- Pondok Pesantren -- al Mu'min, better known as Pondok Ngruki which became the ideological hub of the radical jihad network in Indonesia. Ba'asyir became "spiritual" leader upon Sungkar's death. The Ngruki school is located outside the central Java city of Surakarta (Solo), as friends there like to remind that the school is actually situated in Sukoharjo and not in Solo!

The court handed down a sentence of 2 years and six months, for which the prosecution is apparently considering an appeal, having asked for eight years which is already considerably less than the maximum on these charges, which carried a possible death penalty. His direct involvement in the planning of the Kuta Beach Bali and JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta bombings was not proved, and his conviction was for his part in a "sinister conspiracy" against the state. He was shown to have had advance knowledge of the Bali bombing massacre which killed over 200, but it was not proved that he had given the order to proceed. Prosecutors were plagued with witnesses who changed their story once on the witness stand, while the court itself was plagued by large numbers of highly excitable Ba'asyir supporters flooding the Agriculture Ministry's auditorium, which was used as a supposedly secure venue for the trial.

While several thousand police were called in this morning to ensure security, and many of Ba'asyir's supporters from many parts of Java had made a special trip to the capital for the occasion, there seems to have been none of the thuggish shenanigans they've gotten up to during previous sessions. At one session a few months ago, they went wild enough to scare the judges back to their chambers, physically attacking the vastly outnumbered court security detail. More recently, the intimidation has been of a more "spiritual" nature. Following final arguments and prior to the decision today, Ba'asyir himself warned the judges not to be the lackeys of the "Jews and Kafirs", because he knew that Allah would certainly punish them most severely in the hereafter. He of course repeated his mantra that the whole affair is entirely cooked up by "Bush, and his slave Howard, for the benefit of Jews." (maybe he belongs to Democratic Underground too?)

Among other things, Ba'asyir teaches that Jews carried out the WTC and Pentagon attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that "Bush and his slave Howard" intend to kill all Muslims in their imperialist wars on behalf of Zionism, and so on and so forth. It is distressing to know that impressionable young minds are still being shaped by such a lunatic, but today it was more interesting to see the reaction of his fanatics after the verdict. They surprised at least one observer (me) by turning on the tears -- gallons (litres) of them! -- rather than go into attack mode.

One of my good friends in Solo told me some interesting practices these Ngruki followers observe. They sound to be evolving into quite a distinct sect, with a low tolerance for contact with those who don't belong to it. Which, outside of the maddening air of superiority it reveals, might not be such a bad thing. The more they fear contamination by normal, tolerant Muslims, the less they might contaminate others with their intolerance. How intolerant are they? Well you can forget about shaking hands if you happen to be a dirty kafir, and wishing "Selamat Hari Natal" (Merry Christmas) to Christian neighbours would be practically a mortal sin. But how about attitudes toward normal Muslims?

If a Muslim who isn't in their sect happens to come to pray at their mesjid for example, the space he sat upon would be washed down seven times in order to cleanse it back to a level of acceptable righteousness. If a follower's article of clothing falls from the clothesline, and if a Muslim not of their group was to pick it up in good neighbourly fashion and replace it on the line, it would need to be washed again (seven times maybe? I forget), or thrown away. The main issue for these people is the establishment of Islamic sharia law across the whole of Indonesia. They make a lot of noise and get a lot of attention at times, but I'm confident that the ratio of Muslims who think this way is very small. And as long as the vast majority of tolerant and kindhearted Indonesian Muslims do not get too complacent about the prostelytising of intolerant Wahhabist Islamic chauvinism through such pesantrens as Ngruki, there is little chance of that changing.

One can find a lot of good detailed background history and info on the Ngruki network, its "spiritual" roots in the long ago Darul Islam rebellion, and all the various personages past and present, at the International Crisis Group website. The researcher Sidney Jones has been involved in investigating these networks, and the ICG reports (generally in .pdf format) are a goldmine of information.

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