Jemaah militants infiltrate political parties – Eurasia Review
By Ronna Nirmala
Suspected members of the group behind the 2002 Bali bombings have infiltrated political parties to spread their hardline beliefs, a counterterrorism official said on Friday, three months after authorities revealed that suspected members of the Jemaah Islamiyah had penetrated state institutions.
Irfan Idris, head of de-radicalization at the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, made the statement days after police arrested a member of a newly formed party on suspicion of involvement with Jemaah Islamiyah. Authorities here have accused JI, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Southeast Asia, of carrying out the deadliest terror attack ever in Indonesia 20 years ago.
This is the second such arrest since November.
“There is a change in their strategy,” Irfan told reporters.
“No political party is founded to train terrorists, but know that [members] will join through some people who will end up undermining institutions, organization and religion,” he said.
Irfan said the suspects joined state institutions, political parties or socio-religious organizations not to launch terrorist attacks in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but to slowly instill their ideologies in their colleagues.
Earlier this week, National Police Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo said the government plans to double the strength of the counter-terrorism unit Densus 88 to face these new challenges and strengthen the fight against terrorism, including prevention and enforcement.
“In line with the increasingly complex challenges, the government has accepted the proposal to expand the structure of Densus 88,” Listyo said on Wednesday.
“Terrorist activities are against religion”
The suspect arrested last week and a member of a political party was one of three alleged JI members arrested at the time in Bengkulu, a province on the island of Sumatra.
The person, whom police identified only by the initial R., is a member of the Ummah party, officials said. The party was founded last year by veteran politician Amien Rais, former chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly.
Ummah party spokesman Mustofa Nahrawardaya said the suspect only joined the party three weeks before his arrest.
The man was a well-known preacher in Bengkulu and a member of several Islamic organizations, Mustofa told local media.
In November, police also arrested Farid Ahmad Okbah, chairman of the little-known Indonesian People’s Appeal Party, on suspicion of being the head of the JI Council of Advisors.
Ahsin Sakho Muhammad, a member of the fatwa commission of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), a semi-official group of Muslim scholars, insisted that no mainstream Islamic group supported terrorist activities. The council had issued a fatwa against terrorism in 2004, he noted.
Ahsin made the remarks after reports surfaced that two of the three JI suspects arrested in Bengkulu were MUI members.
“BNPT is welcome to investigate,” Ahsin told CNN Indonesia, “MUI does not tolerate [terrorism] whatever sort of. Terrorist activities are against religion.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the prosperous Islamic Justice Party (PKS) has challenged the counterterrorism agency to prove his claims.
“Just give us facts. If they joined [a party]find out the motives, whether repented or simply disguised,” Mardani Ali Sera said, according to CNN Indonesia.
In November, a senior BNPT official, Ahmad Nurwakhid, said JI militants had tried to infiltrate the Indonesian army, police and ministries for more than a decade.
Police have arrested 876 members of the group since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, police said in October. But the number of JI members and supporters is estimated to be 10 times higher, with 67 JI-affiliated religious schools suspected of being breeding grounds for militants, they warned.
JI, which was banned in 2008, has not staged a major attack since 2011.
And yet, police said they arrested 339 suspected activists in 2021, a 56% increase from the previous year. Police also killed 18 militant suspects last year.