According to the United Nations (2012), the International Monetary Fund (2013), and the World Bank (2013), Nigeria ranks 37th, 38th, and 23rd respectively in lists of world economies (however, one must note that Nigeria recalibrated its economy in 2014, hence after the surveys, for the first time since 1990). This is despite, again, 50% of the population having an income of under 732$ per annum. In order to take this fact into consideration, one should use the Human Development Index (HDI). Instead of using only the national GDP, the HDI index also considers life expectancy and educational standards. Using this measure, Nigeria falls to 152nd place.
This flagrant difference between the illusion touted by the politicians of Abuja and the reality inflicted on many of the Nigerian non-elite has allowed for the birth of a now thriving anti-state extremist group, Boko Haram. While the group may have its roots in religion, the perceived discrimination almost certainly plays a greater role in the group’s survival nowadays. In the words of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, ‘’nothing is more destructive than the gap between people’s perceptions of their own day-to-day economic well-being and what politicians and statisticians are telling them’’.
The same statement now applies to Indonesia, the world’s sixteenth-largest economy according to the three sources named above. Regardless, Indonesia ranks 121st on the HDI index. This is partially due to almost 12% of the 237.6 million strong population under the poverty line, with 50% of the population surviving on under 2$ a day. With the previous Indonesian administration having made headlines with corruption scandals, the frustration and distrust created by the clear distinction between classes can be exploited just as easily in southeastern Asia as it has been in Nigeria.
Rallies and meetings in support of the Islamic State (IS), previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have taken place across Indonesia, some even taking to the streets of the capital Jakarta. On the 31st of July, a new Youtube video worried many in the governmental circles: a group of young Indonesians, with their leader presumed to be a wanted Indonesian terrorist (Abu Muhammad), stood on Syrian soil and called for their countrymen to join the cause.
While the threat of Indonesian jihadists returning currently seems relatively low—out of the estimated 11 000 foreign fighters in Syria, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict believes only fifty or so are from the archipelago—, a terrorist resurgence centering on the IS call seems possible. From his place in jail, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the alleged spiritual leader of the extremist group responsible for killing over 200 people in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, has pledged support to the Middle Eastern caliphate.This move has led to fears that IS propaganda may provide the spark needed to revive certain Islamist groups that are even now ”recruiting police and soldiers”.
According to the Jakarta Post, the initial government response was weak to the point of being almost reluctant. In their words, it is ‘’only after mounting public pressure [that] the Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring order access to ISIL websites blocked[, having] previously said the ministry could not block the ISIL video without any prior complaints’’. The article continues, highlighting the fact that the ministry ‘’barely takes action’’ against websites advocating and advising on terrorism, even after security agencies highlight their existence, while proactively targeting websites hosting pornographic material.
The two largest Islamic organizations of the country, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have condemned the video, as has the Foreign Minister. On August the 4th, the Indonesian government also ordered a ban on supporting the Islamic State, repeating a warning against joining the group. The National Police has also targeted local supporters of IS, although it apparently remains unknown whether or not the suspects have been apprehended.
With Indonesia growing increasingly aware of the threat posed to it by this reemerging extremism, it seems likely that inefficient frontline officials such as the aforementioned Communications and Information Minister will be replaced, that security cooperation with nearby countries also combating religious extremism (notably Malaysia and the Philippines), as well as tougher restrictions on support for the IS. Given the fact that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, one would presume any laws attempting to target extremist indoctrination and propaganda would be specific to the IS, and not allow any sweeping surveillance of mosques or interventions. An intensified crackdown targeting the remnants of other terrorist groups, given the possibility of regrouping around the new caliph, may also be in order.