In the post-Suharto era, Indonesia has been faced with two security challenges, one of them being secessionist threats and the other one is ideological challenge, which is posed by the radical Islamic group. In fact, there has been a perceived change in the political culture of Indonesia since Suharto was forced to quit power. Currently, emphasis is placed on civil society and existence of multiparty democracy.
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However, the changes have destabilized the security of the country in a number of ways. After the independence of East Timor, separatist movements have resurfaced in Indonesia to claim independence. On the other hand, Islamic organizations have taken the opportunity to extend extremist ideas, including perpetuation of terrorism (Assyaukanie 2007, p. 90).
Radical Islamic leaders, such as Hamzah Haz, have come out strongly to suggest that Shariah law should be applied in the country. Islamic extremist groups, particularly Jemaah Islamiah, are in support of the establishment of Islamic state. This definitely threatens the national security of the country.
The government has failed to control the emergence of separatist groups due to the activities talking place in East Timor. Some militant groups, such as Jemaah Islamiah and Laskar Jihad, have vowed to use force to ensure that the state is converted into an Islamic state (Hefner 2005, p. 67).
Jemaah Islamiah is a terrorist network in the Southeast Asia that has been associated with a number of bombings, including Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian Embassy on 9 September 2004. It is perceived to be the region’s supreme transnational jihadist movement. Indonesia is the main operational base for the group, though it also operates in Singapore and Philippines.
The 2002 Bali bombing was considered the main terrorist’s capability. It was the first time that radical groups were using suicide bombers (Singh 2004, p. 68). After the Bali attack, the Indonesian government launched a crackdown on members of the terrorist group, but the group still poses a threat to national security in Indonesia.
Since the Bali bombings, the government of Indonesia has been forced to change its policies on terrorism. Before 2002, the post-Suharto governments never thought that terrorism was a serious issue that had to be addressed with urgency. For instance, Megawati government entered into an agreement with Australian security agencies to launch joint crackdowns on members of Jemaah Islamiah (Hillman 2006, p. 58).
Even though the government has always tried to prevent terrorism, the political class has never explained to the public the magnitude of terrorism in the country. This shows that there is no good will from the political class. Moreover, the government has been reluctant to proscribe the group.
This shows that some individuals with enormous influence in government control radical groups such as Jemaah Islamiah. The immediate post-Suharto years were characterized by the resurgence of radicalism in Indonesia (Hughes 2004, p. 12).
Terrorist groups emerged to challenge the sovereignty of the state by recruiting youths and financing terrorist activities. It can be observed that Islamic radicalism has played a major role in reshaping the geopolitical climate of the post-Suharto era.
Modern Indonesian radicalism is a result of both national and international forces, including spiritual, political, financial, and social elements. A number of Islamic leaders believe that the Indonesian government has discriminated Muslims. They note that Islam has been marginalized (Bawedan 2004, p. 669).
In this regard, they have taken advantage of the weak democracy to claim their rights using scrupulous techniques such as terrorism. Islamic leaders claim that Islam should be given its rightful position in government.
List of References
Assyaukanie, L 2007, The Rise of Religious Bylaws in Indonesia, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
Bawedan, A 2004, “Political Islam in Indonesia – Present and Future Trajectory”, Asian Survey, Vol. 44, no. 5, pp 669–690.
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Hefner, R 2005, Muslim Democrats, and Islamist Violence in Post-Soeharto Indonesia, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Hillman, B 2006, “New Elections, Old Politics,” Far Eastern Economic Review, Vol. 26, no. 9, pp 16-57.
Hughes, J 2004, “Indonesia: Islam, Democracy Do Mix,” Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 28, no. 2, pp 12-18.
Singh, B 2004, “The Challenge of Militant Islam and Terrorism in Indonesia,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 58, no. 1, pp 47–68