Saturday, May 31, 2008


Many nations have been involved in prosecuting the war on terror and many have had successes of a kind. But Indonesia faces unique challenges and has produced almost unique results.

PROBABLY the most successful country in the world in combating radical Islamist terror is Indonesia.

Since the first Bali bombing in 2002, more than 400 Jemaah Islamiah terrorists and active supporters have been arrested in Indonesia. Short of a nation engaging in large-scale military operations, that in itself must be surely the highest number of arrests anywhere, certainly for any democracy.

And these arrests have all resulted in transparent legal proceedings with a very high conviction rate. JI has been fundamentally compromised and disrupted. There has not been a big terrorist bombing since the second Bali bombing in 2005. That's nearly three years. That is an outstanding success by any measure.

JI is no longer a tanzim siri, as Indonesians say, or secret organisation. It has been widely exposed. It structures have shrunk. Most of its senior personnel have been captured. It must rely on less capable people.

Part of the long-term Indonesian success comes from its program of deradicalisation. This is a program with strong family resemblance to similar effective programs run in Singapore and Malaysia.

The essential and simple philosophy behind this program is that as well as detaining, punishing, preventing and deterring terrorists, the state and society make a serious effort to reclaim them, and especially their families, for moderate, mainstream society. The Singaporeans realised soon after they arrested a swag of JI activists who had planned to blow up the Australian embassy, among other things, that they did not want the immediate and extended families of these people to form a permanently alienated and bitter subculture that hated the state. So they made sure the families were able to continue to send their children to school and had adequate housing and the like.

In some senses it is easier for a predominantly Muslim state to undertake than for a secular state because it approaches detained terrorists as Muslims. It seeks to change their mindset by changing their attitude to jihad. Although it provides a lot of intellectual material to bring subjects back to moderation, the emphasis is on practical matters rather than ideological argument. This happens through building up personal connections between state officers and detainees.

In particular, a huge effort is made to bring detainees back from hijrah, or the unreal world of the imagination, to the real world of the here and how. Officers will eat and pray with detainees and give them dignity by sometimes allowing them to lead prayers.

The deradicalisation program offers them a way back. It is a sign that the state and society have not given up on them, that they can recover an Islamic meaning to their lives that renounces violence and extremism.

Extract from greg Sheridan..the Australian.

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