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Islamist Violence in Indonesia: Bringing the State Back in (Report)

Nebula 2010, Dec, 7, 4


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The current state of Islamist militancy in Indonesia has yielded a somewhat conflicting set of outcomes, both in relation to the future of Jihadist activism and how best to respond to it. On the one hand Southeast East (sic Indo) has not emerged as the "next front" of the global war on terror as Gersham (2002) predicted. And in fact we are not seeing the manifestation of the much feared slippery slope phenomenon where exposure to radical Islam will lead to increasingly large numbers of people taking up the idiom of violent extremism. And more interestingly we are not seeing militancy establish itself as the moral vanguard of a creeping cultural Islamisation of the state--i.e. the Pakistan phenomena. At the same time however the problem of acts of violence justified by and in defense of various strands of Islamist ideology has not abated. Alas, it seems then that Indonesia like a variety of other nation-states are confronted with an ongoing problem of a particular type of relapsing and remitting religiously justified "light insurgency" enacted against both apparatuses of the state and the perceived symbols of western modernity. To elucidate this discussion I will engage several areas of analysis including: a brief historical analysis addressing the actors and ideologies at work in the trajectory of modern Islamism in Indonesia, an exposition on the efficacy of the response to the problem of violent militancy and finally an analysis detailing the vexed role of the state in being both an object of violence and an agent of radicalization. By highlighting these themes this paper will advance the position that the persistence of structural violence employed by the Indonesian state at various levels directly and indirectly creates conditions that increase the attractiveness of the groups that justify a violent agenda on Islamist precepts. Thus while the Indonesian state has taken an increasingly vigilant stand against activities of JI and the splinter cells it has inspired, it has been much slower in responding to other trends, in particular the Islamisation of street violence.