Tag Archives: ISIL

Indonesia to Crack Down on Terrorism Amid I.S. Threat

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.

 

We're back on the right track *hug*
Map indicating the religious majorities in Indonesia.
Image taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Indonesia

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.

ISIL threats may destabilize India

This article attempts to draw lines between three major events:

  • the Syrian civil war and Iran’s role
  • the creation of an Islamic caliphate by ISIL
  • demotic religious conscription in Hindustan (India)

——————————————————————————-

July 2014 marked the 24th month of the Syrian civil war proper, the designation having been issued by the United Nations fifteen months after its beginning. In that time, various entities have flocked to both sides of the conflict: Russia, Iran and Hezbollah surged to the defense of the Assad regime, while Saudi Arabia, the West and al-Qaeda supported the armed opposition.

Since then, various governments and newspapers have picked up on rumours that the Islamic Republic of Iran was bribing Afghan refugees to support them in Syria: in exchange for 500$ per month, schooling for their children, and Iranian residency, the refugees would serve as loyalist soldiers. This implies the recruit being not only armed and trained, but flown the just-over-1400 kilometres from Tehran to Damascus. However, as an unnamed Western official stated, this allows Tehran to avoid human losses (from the slain members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) and political fallout (from the stream of aforementioned bodies) without abandoning their role in their holy war against the largely Sunni rebels.

The most well-known of the rebel groups is doubtlessly that of the Islamic State (IS), previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The name change occurred following the creation of a

Map indicating ISIL's current geopolitical situation.  Picture taken from http://www.arabnews.com/news/594131
Map indicating ISIL’s current geopolitical situation.
Picture taken from http://www.arabnews.com/news/594131

Sunni caliphate stretching from roughly Syria’s Aleppo to Iraq’s Baghdad. Despite struggling to crush resistance within the claimed territories, their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has already exposed a future goal: invade and destroy two of Shia Islam’s holiest cities, Karbala and Najaf, claiming they have ‘’scores to settle’’.

This threat has aggravated Shia-majority Iran, who has promised to, if necessary, defend the two shrines no matter the cost. The repercussions have been felt much further than Iran, however. An Indian organization regrouping Shia Muslims, Anjuman Haideri Hallaur, says over 30 000 of its members have already volunteered to travel to Iraq to defend the cities, and claims it can send over 100 000 fighters.

This project, however, will not be sanctioned or permitted by the Indian government, who has stated such travel would not be allowed. 46 Indian nurses are known to be trapped in Tikrit, one of the cities taken over by IS, while 100 others are believed to be in contested areas. Almost 10 000 Indian nationals work in Iraq, mostly in parts as of yet untouched by the fighting. Officials from the India’s Iraqi embassy had not yet stated whether or not such volunteers would be granted visas as of this time.

One Indian columnist, Saeed Naqvi, mocked the move as being ‘’sentimental’’ and ‘’foolish’’, asking if the ‘’bunch of nuts planning this journey’’ would travel by horseback. That may not be necessary, given Iran may be open to the idea of transporting these jihadists, who deplore IS’s twisting of the term. While diplomatic—especially economic—relations may suffer, bringing these Muslim volunteers to Karbala and Najaf would have the same impacts as the Afghan mercenaries: dilute the political and human losses inflicted by the insurgents.

The second problem that arises when one considers the Hindustani organisation’s proposed modus operandi: either ‘’form a human chain around the holy shrines of Karbala and Najaf [‘’with a million volunteers’’]’’ or ‘’fight [the IS] barehanded’’. When the horrors of the ISIL’s advance are contemplated—a tweet involving a soldier minus the body being called a soccer ball (with hashtags referring to the FIFA World Cup) comes to mind—, it is difficult to believe these tactics would lead to anything but the slaughter of the Hindustanis.

This fact is lost surely on neither the volunteers, regardless of their allegiance, or on the Iranians. In order to be of any use (and to survive, not a negligible benefit) in the event that IS reaches the two cities, the volunteers will need to be armed. Given the use of Afghan mercenaries, this would not prove a problem for Iran. Reports state that at least two of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force battalions have already been sent to Iraq, although the Deputy Foreign Minister and the Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman have denied the accusation (the Foreign Minister himself stated he ‘’frankly [had] no idea about that’’). Their presence, or the summoning of other military personnel, would then provide an ideal setting for the simultaneous militarization and radicalization of the Indian volunteers, both directed by Tehran. One could note similarities to accusations that Iran was funding and arming the Afghan Taliban in an attempt to defeat the Western incursion. By creating powerful Shia militias, Iran would continue to contribute to the heritage of the Islamic Revolution, as well as create opponents to Sunni expansion.

The same fear that today haunts Western nations—the return of radicalized citizens from overseas conflicts such as the Syrian civil war—would thus become much more relevant to India. A map of Shia/Sunni geographical majorities shows that Shia Muslims are most

A map indicating where Muslim communities are mostly Sunni or mostly Shia. Picture taken from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~ali22a/page%20three.html.
A map indicating where Muslim communities are mostly Sunni or mostly Shia.                                                                              Picture taken from http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~ali22a/page%20three.html.

common in the contested province of Jammu and Kashmir, near the ‘’red corridor’’ (a swathe of land along India’s eastern coast subjected to attacks from Maoist insurgents), and in the West Bengal province (found within the red corridor) allegedly lusted after by neighboring Muslim-majority Bangladesh. There is also a Shia population around the province of Uttar Pradesh, but the region is less restive than the others named.

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority province, is claimed in part or in whole by four political groups: India, Pakistan, China and the Kashmiris themselves, divided between remaining united with India, joining Pakistan, or becoming sovereign. The presence of Kashmir within the Indian nation has led to the creation of a Pakistani terrorist group (Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks), is responsible for the 1947 and 1965 Indo-Pakistani wars, and multiple eruptions of unrest. Pakistan may be more inclined to facilitate transport of volunteers from this region, if allegations of Pakistan fomenting unrest in the region are as true as they were during the 1999 Kargil War, as veterans may attempt to detach Jammu and Kashmir from the other provinces of India.

As for the volunteers originating from the red corridor, stirrings of

Map of India highlighting provinces dealing with a Maoist insurgency. Image taken from http://pksecurity.blogspot.ca/2011/09/global-peace-demands-balkanization-of.html
Map of India highlighting provinces dealing with a Maoist insurgency.
Image taken from http://pksecurity.blogspot.ca/2011/09/global-peace-demands-balkanization-of.html

nationalist or anti-India sentiments may lead to cooperation with the various Maoist groups in the region. Such alliances had been seen as during Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Iran’s Communist Party, the Tudeh, had aided the Islamists in their revolution against the Shah before being cast down. The West Bengal Hindustanis could boast the same motivations, coupled to a desire of seceding from India to be integrated into Bangladesh (Indian journalists and politicians allege Bangladesh is behind some of the armed groups seeking such changes, as well as pointing out that massive illegal immigration could be an attempt to islamicize the regions and strengthen pro-Bangladeshi sentiments).

There have been fears that Indian Prime Minister Modi, having described himself as a Hindu nationalist, would attempt to pass laws targeting minorities—which could add to the reasons listed above—, but such concerns seem to be unfounded as of yet.

For these reasons, one can assume the Indian government will put in place stricter punishments for citizens traveling abroad for purposes of jihad, similar to measures put in place by Great Britain. Regardless, an increase in the number of Indian fighters in southern Iraq would not be surprising, with Iran being the most likely responsible.