11 Down, 41 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Jemaah Islamiyah: Radical Islamism in Indonesia works well enough as a standard text on South Asian radical organisation JI, covering all the important bases, including the history of radical Islam in Indonesia, the so-called Afghanistan alumni effect, a considerably specific look at the 2002 Bali bombing and so on.

Author Greg Barton lays out the cultural, religious and political context for radical Islamism in Indonesia and points out the unmistakable if not all-important links from Jemaah Islamiyah to Al Qaeda. Interestingly, JI might not have arisen if not from an elaborate sting operation mounted by the ABRI (Indonesian Armed Forces) in 1977 to flush out radical Islamists. Elections were coming up, and it’s believed then-President Suharto might have ordered the sting in order to demonstrate his hard-line stance against extremism (and likewise to garner votes), but the exercise ended up renewing and forging new bonds between radical groups that previously were not linked. Where once there were many separate groups, now coalesced a cohesive Jemaah Islamiyah.
This is very interesting for me as it parallels the whole George W ‘Mission Accomplished‘ Bush approach to re-election. Nothing seems to rally a nation better than a war, and noone commands more respect than the Commander-in-Chief. But the forced occupation ends up radicalising previously moderate Muslims and creates a increase in terrorist numbers. This is a cycle that’s been repeated ad nauseum, but governments just don’t seem to care beyond the next election.

To Barton’s credit, there is an entire chapter dedicated to radical Islam and how it’s very separate from mainstream Islam, and a constant emphasis that radical Islamists are really a minority and do not reflect the views of the populace. However, the current global climate is starting to create a ‘blowback’ effect on the US and its anti-Islam stance. Radicals are gaining ground with the moderate mainstream in Indonesia, not least due to the US’s bullying ways. If Iran is next on their hitlist (despite no nuclear weapons capability anytime soon), it won’t take a leap of faith to presume that Indonesia’s substantial though declining oil reserves are next on George Bush’s shopping list.

Jemaah Islamiyah: Radical Islamism in Indonesia
(ISBN No: 9971693232) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Liz Jensen’s The Paper Eater.


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