The Rise of Communal Violence and the Reemergence of Radical Islamism During Political Transition
Muhammad Najib Azca 14 December 2017

Indonesia has witnessed the mushrooming of communal violence during the early stages of its transition towards electoral democracy after the fall of Suharto’s authoritarian regime in 1998 (Tadjoeddin 2002; Varshney, Panggabean & Tadjoeddin 2004; van Klinken, 2007). The two reports by the UNSFIR on general picture and the pattern of collective violence during Indonesia’s transition period confirm Synder’s hypothesis on the likely of eruption of ethnic and communal violence during the initial stages of democratization . The burgeoning of communal violence was not typical of a multi ethnic and multicultural country of Indonesia. Such phenomena were part of another global trend Mary Kaldor names as “New Wars” (1999).

It is a misleading, however, to say that violence took place only during the transition period or the late period of New Order regime. According to Bertrand (2004), violence in Indonesia is more properly and accurately to be seen not merely as a consequence of the transition period but is inherently being part of institutional character and “national model” of the New Order. Yet the level of violence was increasing during what Bertrand calls the “critical juncture,” where the political system comes under pressure which happened in 1990s.

The stories and portraits of violence in various aspects and regions during the New Order were revealed in many studies and publications including two important books: Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia edited Benedict Anderson (2001) and Violence and Vengeance, Discontent and Conflict in New Order Indonesia edited by Frans Husken and Huub de Jonge (2002). In the introduction of collected articles on various topics of violence mainly led or done by the state, from the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and East Timor to the “State of Fear” as the way to control criminal contagion and from the drama of May 1998 violence to the role of preman Pemuda Pancasila during the Suharto’s New Order, Anderson (2001: 18) wrote:

“…violence in the twentieth-century Indonesia has never been a legitimate monopoly of the State. It has been deployed, under differing circumstances, with differing kinds of legitimation, by revolutionaries, middle classes, villagers, ethnic groups, “privatized” corporate apparatuses, quasi-official gangsters, the CIA, and so on. The absence of a full state monopoly of legitimate violence by the State has many causes, not to speak of effects. But it is also a manifestation of the absence of a Law by which monopoly could be generally justified.”

The situation and the extensive practices of violence in the daily lives of Indonesians are nicely captured by the Indonesia version of the title of the edited book by Husken and de Jonge: Orde Zonder Order[1] or the Era of No-Order. In a chapter of the book, Nico Schulte Nordholt discusses the role of preman as an example of the phenomena of quasi-order during the New Order. An odd example of the practices of social discipline led by the state was movingly discussed by Kees van Dijk through the case of Gerakan Disiplin Nasional (GDN).

On political transition and the rise of Islamist fundamentalism in Indonesia: the return of the repressed

After having had a short ‘honey moon’ with the regime in the early stages of the New Order following a bloody fight against communism, Islam as a political force was primarily repressed during the New Order. Suharto enjoyed his longevity of power by marshalling political support through a three-political repressive machine: Military, Bureaucracy-Golkar, a state-led political party. The endurance and the balance of power of Suharto’s regime began to unsettle following his tension with the military leader. The emerging tensions within the army in the late Suharto era, according to the Editors of Indonesia (1992: 93), began to be visible in 1988. Angry and potentially threatened because of the military’s defiance, Suharto then switched his political strategy to one of embracing Islamic groups by supporting the foundation of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI, Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim se Indonesia) in December 1990. Hefner (2000: 159) suggests that Suharto’s ICMI initiative was a punishment of the ABRI leadership for its actions. However, it was also an effort to balance the president’s loss of support among the military with a new base among Muslims.

Subsequently, Suharto encouraged factionalism among the military, particularly the army (Hefner, 2000: 151; Kingsburry, 2001: 98-9). In 1994, President Suharto replaced several of the most prominent critics of ICMI in the military command with figures sympathetic to what Hefner calls ‘regimist Islam’. He chose four officers – Feisal Tanjung, Hartono, Syarwan Hamid and Prabowo – who represented the ascendant ‘Islamic’ wing of the armed forces.[2] Factional tensions were growing especially bertween the so-called ‘green’ (regimist Islam) wing and the ‘red-and-white’ (nationalist) wing (Sulistyo 2001). His maneuver was interpreted by Martin van Bruinessen (2002) as a sign of effort to achieve proportionate representation of Muslims in the political, military and bureaucratic spheres, where Christians and nominal Muslims had always been over-represented and had held many key positions. Furthermore, he notices that “proportionality” became a key word during the period.

The next critical development of the Islamist fundamentalism was the flourish of a form of Muslim street politics that gradually became more prominent in the course of the 1990s. Such phenomena were, as suggested by van Bruinessen (2002), unthinkable without endorsement and protection of certain faction within the regime. One of the leading actors on the street was KISDI (Komite Indonesia untuk Solidaritas terhadap Dunia Islam), the Indonesian Committee for Solidarity with the World of Islam, led by Ahmad Sumargono.[3] Though claiming as its founding date 1987 its first public appearance was in 1990, in a caravan of the revival of Islamist groups—around the same time that ICMI was established. The increasing tense in the final months of Suharto’s rule and the dynamics of transition period inflicted major shift on political Islam. Some groups of Muslim politicians continued loyal to Suharto until his last days, including some radicals such as the KISDI leaders—those who Hefner (2000) calls “Muslim regimists”. These groups, as van Bruinessen suggest (2002), were fearing that change might cause them to lose the access to power they had so recently gained.

The worsening economic crisis mixed with massive popular and student movements demanding for Suharto to resign eventually led to the leave of Suharto on 21 May 1998. Habibie, the Vice President who was also the chairman of ICMI, took over the power. Among his first maneuver was to install a cabinet in which ICMI personalities and the “green” camp of the Armed Forces were strongly represented. The reformasi movement camp that previously united against Suharto was fragmented; the major secular wing perceived Habibie as the extension of Suharto’s New Order and thus should be rejected. Concerned that Habibie’s presidency would further empower radical Muslims, a broad spectrum of secular and non-Muslim groups created a new front to oppose him. It was during such tense situation that several Islamist paramilitary groups were established include the notorious Front Pembela Islam (FPI) led Habib Rizieq.

The more crucial political moments happened later in November 1998 when the MPR convened in an extraordinary session and a massive popular movement asking for ‘total reform,’ including the replacement of Habibie’s government with an ad hoc presidium consisted of reformasi leaders. During such critical period, the military commander recruited about 100,000 civilians, many of them affiliated with radical Muslim groups, as auxiliary security guards or Pam Swakarsa. Such mobilization has been a symbolic sign of social and political revival: the return of the repressed; the shift of Islamic political force from the periphery to the core of game. The return of the Islamist movements was later institutionalized through the birth of several Islamic parties include their paramilitary groups before and during the 1999 political election.

On communal violence and the rise of Islamist fundamentalism: a tale of two turbulent areas

The massive and prolonged religious communal violence that erupted in Ambon, Maluku and Poso, Central Sulawesi during transition period was unprecedented in modern Indonesian history. What common to happen previously was clash or short-term riot which took place in certain areas perpetrated by dominant groups toward minorities such as violent incidents in Situbondo and Tasikmalaya (by Muslims toward Christians) or in Kupang (by Christians toward Muslims). The communal conflict in Ambon and Poso was then followed by another unprecedented phenomenon of mass mobilization: thousands Muslims from outside the area of conflict joined in the communal violence by using religious banner, jihad or holy war.

The massive mobilization of non-local Muslim fighters to join the conflict can be explained as a consequence of at least three factors:

  1. extensive (and sometimes excessive and provocative) media coverage over the conflict with strong partisan tones;
  2. the rising trends of Islamist fundamentalism movement during transition period; and
  3. the lame and partial of the security forces which allow them to enter into the area.[4] Thus, during the course of the conflict (1999-2002) it was estimated about six thousands jihadist came into the area.

I will present below the brief story of the conflict and how mobilization of thousands jihadists to the area. I will also discuss shortly how the period has provided ample opportunity for Islamist movements to consolidate and to make flagrant public performance in new democratic Indonesia.

The communal conflict in Poso began in December 1998, on the eve of both Christmas and the holy month of Ramadhan. This was incited by a trivial incident of drunken local youth. This incident, however, was successfully controlled and limited by the security forces and ended merely as a little flame of local violence. Another big blow came in April 2000 and reached its peak in May 2000 as marked by a well-known incident of the Walisongo Muslim boarding school. The clash continued to happen until July 2000 and resulted in 500-800 people being killed (Aragon 2001; Aditjltondro 2004; van Klinken 2007). The Malino I Peace Accord, initiated primarily by central government, was signed by the warring parties in December 2001. However, several terror and violent incidents took place in many places in Poso until recently, mainly conducted by quite well-trained and well-equiped small groups of Muslim militias. The last incident of clash between the police and Muslim militias unfolded in Poso in January 2007 resulted in 14 people were killed mostly from the Muslim side (ICG 2007).

The conflict in Ambon started on 19 January 1999, coincided with the special holy day of Eid Fitri, a celebration in the end of Ramadan, also inflamed by a petty case of youth brawl. After a lull period for around three months in March-June 1999, including a relatively peace and calm of political election, the new clash occurred in July 1999. The conflict escalated in December 1999 and reached its peak in June 2000 marked by the implementation of the civil state of emergency in Maluku province. The Malino II Peace Accord was reached and signed by the conflicting groups in February 2002. The violence, which taking forms as terror activities and attacks by a small group of militias, both by militias from both sides, continued to happen until mid 2002 (Azca 2003; ICG 2002; ICG 2003). Another big incident unfolded in April 2004 coincided with the anniversary of the so called ‘separatist’ movement of the Republic of South Mollucas (Republik Maluku Selatan, RMS). However, its destructive influence was limited in a small area of the city of Ambon and failed to spread out throughout the island.

The massive and prolonged religious communal conflict in the two areas has attracted big numbers of non-local Muslim fighters (jihadists) to take part. When the first violence happened in Ambon it was coincided with the special festive day of Muslims, Eid Fitri, thus strategically framed by some Islamist groups as the sign of “Muslims under attack by Christians.” This seemed very sound among many Muslims and produced—what Asef Bayat (2005: 901) proposes to call as – “imagined solidarities,” a group identity in which actors come to a consensus and imagine that they share partial interests and commonality with others. Thus, following the production of even partial shared commonality, mixed with collective anxiety, a consensus was built and solidarity was formed to make a social movement emerge.

It is important to note that the “Muslim under attack” framing, followed by the “call for jihad” was undertaken during the early period after the collapse of Suharto regime. It was a turbulent period: “the Islamist networks…began to lose…[their] position of influence, access, and security within the national political class,” as Sidel suggests (2007: xii). I found that the massive influx of non-local jihadists did not happen during the very early stages of the conflict. Whereas a small number of non-local jihadists began to enter Ambon in June 1999 nearby (by Laskar Mujahidin), the massive entry occurred in April-May 2000 and was incited by the massacre of hundreds of Muslims in a Tobelo, North Maluku, mosque during late December 1999. In Poso, a large number arrived in June-July 2000 in the aftermath of a brutal attack on Muslims who had gathered at the Islamic boarding school, the Walisongo Pesatren in May 2000 resulted in about 100 Muslims being murdered. Interestingly, separate groups of non-local jihadists were attracted to each two areas: Laskar Jihad predominantly went to Ambon, whereas Laskar Mujahidin chiefly embarked in Poso (ICG 2005; Azca 2003).

The two conflicts have been furthermore well-known as the so-called ‘academy of jihadists’ where jihadists from many places come to learn and practice jihad techniques. Thus, have the so-called ‘alumni of Ambon’ and ‘alumni of Poso’ become prominent among jihadists who face protracted religious conflict in Asia, namely in Afghanistan and in Mindanao. They even attracted some foreign jihadists to take part in their battle. To a certain extent, therefore, the two trouble areas have become an arena of global jihadists.

During the course of the conflict, several thousands non-local jihadists were deployed to the areas. They were mobilized through various channels; among them were two large and well-known networks, namely Laskar Jihad and Laskar Mujahidin.[5] Whereas Laskar Jihad consists of only one single group, Laskar Mujahidin consists of several militia groups linked with different movements and groups such as Kompak (Komite Penanggulangan Akibat Krisis, Committee for Overcoming Crisis Effects), Jama’ah Islamiyah (JI), and splinter groups of Darul Islam (DI)[6] (ICG 2005).

Laskar Jihad[7] was the largest and a most prominent Muslim militia group; it recruited thousands of people and operated in quite flagrant ways, characterised by, among others, wearing an Arabic style of dress. More than seven thousand non-local jihadists were claimed to have been sent to Ambon over a two year period (Noorhaidi 2005: 6). Though its main network and supporters were locals/nationals, its transnational image and link were prominent due to its notorious leader, Ja’far Umar Thalib, a young scholar who was also a veteran of the Afghanistan war. Another critical transnational factor was the issuance of religious fatwa by some leading salafi scholars from the Middle East concerning the obligation to do jihad in Ambon. In tandem with its close relationship with the military, the group has uniquely a strong nationalistic character as indicated by the way its perception of the main source of the conflict was “separatism movement by Christians” (instead of communal factors.) The Laskar Jihad employed a nationalist discourse when it perceived as a threat the existence of NKRI (the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia).[8]

Another major network that was less well-known, consisting of a relatively smaller number of members, was Laskar Mujahidin. It recruited hundreds of people and operated in more covert ways with no specific costume and banner, and was characterized by a trans-national identity, ideology and network. Some people from this network embraced the Salafi jihadist like Osama bin Laden. Though some of these groups were explicitly very keen on implementing Islamic law, either at the national or the local level, the nationalistic discourse of NKRI was almost absent. The group was known as being much better-trained and better-equipped than the former, in terms of capacity in warfare. Some of them were trained previously and had participated in another jihad zone, such as Afghanistan and Mindanao (Azca 2003; ICG 2005; Fealy and Borgu 2005; Noorhaidi 2005).

The two major networks, however, enjoyed only very short periods of honeymoon, more so in Maluku. Personal, tactical, and ideological quarrels hindered further cooperation in dealing with conflict situation in the ground. Tension even started from the very beginning of the arrival of Laskar Jihad in Poso in July 2001, which had fewer people than Ambon. Abim, the ex-leader of the Laskar Jihad community in, Poso, who went to Ambon before coming to Poso, told me in an interview: “When we first arrived to Ambon, thousands people welcomed us along the way from the port to the mosque. When we first arrived to Poso, we were greeted by graffiti and flyers: “Laskar Jihad is traitor” and “Laskar Jihad is the agents of intelligence”” (interview in Poso, 16 March 2008).

It was evident that the two groups used both domestic and foreign networks to conduct their operations. Though Laskar Jihad was known for its success in mobilizing thousands of local Indonesians to participate in jihad, the group based its foundation on “foreign authorities,” in this case fatwas made by leading Islamic scholars from the Middle East such as Muqbil Ibn Hadi al Wadi, a mufti in Yemen, Rabi Ibn Hadi al Madkhali, a mufti in Saudi Arabia, and Wahid al Jabiri, a mufti in Medina. It is also important to note that the emergence of Salafi movements in Indonesia – which played a key role in the formation of Laskar Jihad – took place in the context of an aggressive global campaign by

Saudi Salafi movements which received support from the Saudi government. This assistance included generous philanthropic support intended to extend the network into the archipelago (Hasan 2005).

Although “Laskar Mujahidin” attracted less people than Laskar Jihad, it mobilized a significant number of individuals who had previous experience in other conflict zones, either in Mindanao or Afghanistan. The group also succeeded in attracting some foreign jihadists to Indonesia, including the notorious jihadi Omar Faruk. The jihadist group that carried out terrorist attacks within Indonesia such as the Bali bombing, the bombings of the Marriot Hotel, and the bombing of the Australian embassy, had links to “Laskar Mujahidin,” especially from JI section. In other words, this group was more amenable to using violence in order to achieve its goals. Though “Laskar Mujahidin” only gained limited support domestically, they were quite successful at using the communal conflict to develop their network more broadly.

Communal violence and its aftermath

When communal violence in Ambon and Poso terminated, and the peace accord signed by the warring parties, where have all those non-local jihadists gone? What has happened with jihad movements and their network? What were jihad’s effects to their activists as well as to the society? I will discuss these issues below and in the next sections.

The conflict ended officially through the eventual peace accords: the Malino I for Poso in November 2001, and the Malino II for Maluku in January 2002. After the peace accords, there have been no longer massive communal clashes between the warring parties—in fact a significant decline of the clashes occurred even before the peace accords were achieved. This fact is the reason behind the use of term after or post jihad given that massive communal religious war between the two warring parties has basically ended. The terms jihad (and its derivative jihadist) in this paper refer not to its normative meaning (as either personal or collective religious obligation for Muslims in accordance with Islamic tenet)[9] but to its particular empirical reference, namely, participation of Muslim fighters in the communal conflict in Ambon and Poso.

Yet the post peace accord period actually revealed a different story: though there were no longer communal clashes between the two warring parties; terror and violent actions continued to be carried out by small, but well-trained and well-equipped, groups. So, the truth is that the conflict has not completely ended but has shifted into something else: the prolongation of the terror itself! The later stage of the peace trajectory of the two towns was also quite different.[10] In Maluku, terror and violence have eventually been dissolved in relatively quickly and almost completely.[11] In Poso, on the other hand, incidents continued until 2007. International Crisis Group (ICG) Report (2004) writes: there were 32 violent incidents in 2003 alone. In mid January 2007, a fierce clash between police troops and Muslim militias resulted in 14 people was killed, one of them was the police (ICG 2007).

One of the important factors which led to dissimilar trajectories of peace in the two areas is the different character of (ex) non-local jihadists. Following its disbandment in October 2002 most of Laskar Jihad members returned to their home towns, mostly in Java; but some Laskar Mujahidin activists continued to live in the areas, mainly in Poso. In contrast to ex-Laskar Jihad activists who chose to stay, a group that is non-violent and less-mobile in character, some (ex-)Laskar Mujahidin activists who stayed to continue engaging in several terror and violent actions. The conclusion was evidenced by the findings that those who were involved in terror and violent activities in the recent period in the two areas were generally affiliated with Laskar Mujahidin (ICG 2005).

Although Laskar Jihad has officially been disbanded and there was a friction regarding the leadership of Ustad Ja’far Umar Thalib, the network of Wahabi Salafi movement behind them remains to survive and even continue to develop. The networks spread out throughout the archipelago, though their backbone based in Java. They hold a national gathering of Daurah Jamaah Salafi participated by thousands Salafi activists from throughout Indonesia every two year. When the national Daurah Jamaah Salafy was held in August 2007 in Bantul, Yogyakarta, I attended in the meeting that participated by about two thousand Salafi activist from many areas, including from Ambon, Poso, Aceh and Papua. When I did my fieldwork in Ambon in April 2008, I took part in one of their internal meetings discussing a program to send Salafi activist to transmigration areas in tandem with the program of provincial government of Maluku. But the network work silently in their “enclave community” and nothing big news has been done by this network.

Regarding the network of “Laskar Mujahidin” in the post-jihad period, it seems likely that there was a constant dynamic among the groups—though it was quite difficult to say in certain due to the covert nature of their network. The most notorious group among them was Jama’ah Islamiyah (JI), especially following a series of bombing and terrorism attacks conducted by its activists or those who associate with, such as the Bali Bombing I (2002), the Marriot’s Hotel (2003), the Australian Embassy (2004), the Bali Bombing II (2005), and, the latest, the Marrriot-Carlton Hotel Jakarta on 17 July 2009. However, following acute fragmentation inside the JI and the vacuum of its leadership since the dispute concerning the leadership of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir after the later took the leadership of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), it became more difficult to refer to JI as a single organization. The fragmentation became more complicated recently following the friction between Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Irfan Suryahardi Awwas, the ex chairman and the general secretary of MMI respectively, led Ba’asyir to quit and establish a new group named Jama’ah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) on 17 September 2008 (Republika, 18 September 2008).

Yet the post-jihad stories were not merely about acute friction and fragmentation within the network. The case of the Ceram attack on a paramilitary police post on 16 May 2005, interestingly reveals how a disparate group of men linked through various networks (KOMPAK, DI, a Poso-based organization, and perhaps JI) can come together and form a team of operatives. The fact reveals that common experience of training and fighting during the early stages of the Poso and Maluku conflicts could function as the organizing principle for terrorism action (ICG 2006).[12]

On the other hand, it is interesting to observe that the sharp rivalry between ex Laskar Jihad and ex “Laskar Mujahidin” seemed to continue in the post-jihad period. One of the most noticeable fights between the two was the “war of book” regarding justification of the use of terrorism actions for religious purpose. Some ex prominent leaders of Laskar Jihad wrote some publications which publicly condemned the misuse and the abuse doctrine of jihad for terrorism actions. In reply, some authors who linked with Laskar Mujahidin also wrote counter-books and publications in defense to their arguments and fighting back.[13]

Concluding remarks

Finally, rethinking Indonesia today after nineteen years of the collapse of the New Order, I argue that the rising of Islamist fundamentalism as a repercussion of the protracted religious communal violence during Indonesia’s political transition has provided new and bigger challenges to the process of democratic consolidation in Indonesia. As discussed in the previous section, post-jihadists have taken different trajectories in the post-jihad period, from terrorism to political and social activism, as well as those who engaged in ‘enclave community’. Most of them share a conviction that of Islamic law (syaria) is the legitimate system to be applied in daily life—though they have different views on how to make it. Some of them reject democracy and claim it as not compatible and fitting with Islamic tenet and furthermore justify the use of violence to achieve their political goals. Others chose to live in such ‘enclave community’ which disengages from political realm and dynamics as their safe haven. Some others perceive democracy and democratic procedure as simply political tool to deal with modern world include for achieving their political goals for implementing syari’ah in society. Thus for some radical groups, the next and the long term agenda in the period of “After Jihad” could be to establish a new state “After Indonesia” which based on their conviction on Islamic values and tenet…


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[1] The Indonesian version the book was translated by Imam Aziz and published by LKiS, Yogyakarta, in 2003.

[2] Salim Said (2001, pp. 144-6) gives a different account. According to him, the rise of General Feisal Tanjung and General Hartono to the top of the military command was the outcome of a long cultural-historical process of integrating Moslems into the nation-state of the Republic of Indonesia, rather than the outcome of a power struggle in national politics. A brief note needs to be added about Said. He was a scholar close to the CPDS (Center for Policy and Development Studies), a think tank founded by General Hartono and Lieutenant General Prabowo. Regarding the CPDS and the politics of the military in the late Suharto era, see Sulistyo (2001, pp. 296-300).

[3] Ahmad Sumargono published a book entitled Saya Seorang Fundamentalis, Renungan Ideologis (I am a Fundamentalist: Ideological Reflection) in 1999, by Global Cita Press, Cimanggis Bogor.

[4] Further discussion on the partisan role of the security forces in the conflict of Ambon was discussed in my previous work entitled The role of security forces in communal conflict: The case of Ambon, Indonesia  (M.A. Thesis in Australian National University, 2003).

[5] Some parts of this section was excerpted from my article entitled Communal Violence in Indonesia and the Role of Foreign and Domestic Network published in Conflict, Community and Criminality in Southeast Asia and Australia published by CSIS Washington, 2009.

[6] Darul Islam (DI) is an Islamist movement established in 1948 led by Kartosuwiryo in response to the unfavorable Renville Agreement in January 1948. Following the transfer over state authority from the Dutch colonial to the national government in 1949, DI began to involve in violent conflict against the Indonesian military due to its goal to establish the Islamic State of Indonesia (Negara Islam Indonesia, NII). Some insurgency movements intended to establish such Islamic state later affiliated to DI, such as those in Aceh and Ujung Pandang. Suffered by serious internal fraction, DI (or NII, I use the both terms in this paper interchangeably) was fragmented into many factions including the notorious Jama’ah Islamiyah (JI) led by Abdullah Sungkar and later by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. Kompak, on the other hand, is a humanitarian agency established by Dewan Da’wah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), a national council for Islamic propagation founded by ex Masyumi, a modernist Islamist political party banned during Sukarno’s period, activists. Although its original forms to be a humanitarian agency, it mobilized significant numbers of militias who had military experience mostly in Mindanao. For further discussion on the history of DI see van Dijk (1981), its link to recent radical movements discussed by Bruinessen (2002) and in more details in ICG Report (2005).

[7] The Laskar Jihad is the paramilitary division of the Forum Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah (the Communication Forum of the Congregation of the Followers of the Prophet) or FKAWJ led by Ja’far Umar Thalib. It was founded after a huge Moslem rally on 7 January 2000 at the Lapangan Merdeka (Freedom Square), Jakarta, following the massacre at Tobelo in North Maluku during the last week of December 1999. The rally was attended by many Moslem leaders, including Amien Rais, the chairman of the MPR and the leader of the National Mandate Party (PAN, Partai Amanat Nasional), and Hamzah Haz, the leader of the United Development Party (PPP, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan) who is now the Vice President. For further information about the Laskar Jihad see Greg Fealy (2001), ICG (2002), Hasan (2002) and Shoelhi (2002).

[8] Further discussion about the shared discourse on separatism between Laskar Jihad and Indonesian military was discussed in my previous work entitled The role of security forces in communal conflict: The case of Ambon, Indonesia  (M.A. Thesis in Australian National University, 2003).

[9] The Arabic word jihad (which derives from the word jahada) means “to strive, to exert oneself, to struggle” in its generic terms. However, its later interpretation of the concept (the so-called classical mode of interpretation) refers mainly to “the jihad of the sword,” the unconditional command to fight against unbelievers. The development of such a notion of expansionist jihad coincided strikingly with the development of legal thought (fiqh and syari’ah) and the period of great conquests, in which Muslim conquerors invaded non-Muslim territories and placed them under the rule of the Islamic empire. For further discussion see Khadduri, M. (1955), Peters R. (1999) and Azca (2008).

[10] Further discussion on this issue presented in my paper entitled A Tale of Two Turbulent Towns:

Different Trajectories of Peace Process in Ambon and Poso presented in a workshop held Asian Research Institute (ARI), Singapore, in July 2007.

[11] There were exceptions such as the limited communal violence unfolded in the city of Ambon in April 2004 following the anniversary of the RMS and the Loki attack carried out in May 2005 by jihadists from different network, such as Kompak, JI, DI, and local militias.

[12] see ICG Reports, especially Weakening Indonesia’s Mujahadin Networks: Lessons from Maluku and Poso published in 2005 and Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Network published in 2006.

[13]Al Ustad Luqman bin Muhammad Ba’abduh wrote a book entitled Mereka Adalah Teroris, Sebuah Tinjuan Syariat (They Are Terorists, An Islamic Law Perspective) published by Pustaka Qaulan Sadida in 2005 in reply to Imam Samudra’ s book entitled Aku Melawan Teroris (I Fight Againts the Terrorist) published in 2004. This thick book (748 pages) describes the fallacies of Imam Samudra and friends who conducting bombing in the name of Islam and why such actions are unjustifiable from the point of view of Islamic Law. Ba’abduh was a field-commander of Laskar Jihad in Ambon. Ba’abduh’s book then replied by another book entitled Siapa Teroris? Siapa Khawarij? (Who is Terorist? Who is Khawarij?) written by Abduh Zulfidar Akaha published by Pustaka Al Kautsar in 2006.

Credit: Bay Ismoyo / AFP



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