Counter-Terrorism: Nationalism and Islamic Radicalism

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April 25, 2007: One reason Indonesia has come down hard, but carefully, on local Islamic radicals, is because the goal of the radicals has some disturbing political implications. The main Islamic radical group in Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiya, doesn't just want to turn Indonesia into an Islamic religious dictatorship, but also wants to create a new nation that grabs territory from neighbors (parts of the Philippines and Thailand, as well as all of Malaysia). This bit of nationalism, for a "Greater Indonesia," has a certain popular appeal, and the Indonesian government doesn't want to do anything that would turn this fever dream into a widely publicized one.

The Indonesians are also moving carefully with the increasing amount of evidence they have about the involvement of wealthy Saudi Arabians and local Islamic terrorists. Much of the cash that Jemaah Islamiya needs to keep its key people in action, comes from these Saudi Arabians, and the Saudi government seems unable, or unwilling, to stop it. The Saudis don't see it that way, and insist that they have persuaded the wealthy, pro-Islamic radical Saudis to stop sending cash to killers. But the Saudis won't release any details, and no one is releasing, or even has, reliable data on just how much cash is coming out of Saudi Arabia, and headed for Islamic terrorists. Indonesia, and its neighbors, have caught a few of the couriers, and the cash they were carrying. Counter-terror experts in the region also note that, before 2001, this cash was moved via Pakistan and Afghanistan. Back when the Taliban gave al Qaeda a home in Afghanistan, there was an effort to hide the origins of the Saudi cash by moving it out using couriers moving via Pakistan.

Indonesian counter-terrorism efforts have kept the local terrorists on the move, and unable to launch many attacks. Same deal in Malaysia. But in the Philippines and south Thailand, the violence is growing. What is unique in the Philippines and Thailand is the presence of non-Moslems. This makes it easier for the Islamic terrorists to kill someone and not offend the local Moslems so much. When terrorists kill people in Malaysia and Indonesia, they can't easily avoid creating lots of Moslem victims. This is very bad for their image, and recruiting prospects.

The Islamic radicals are quick to exploit the "them versus us" angle. Islam makes much of that, which is something most Moslems don't like to dwell on. The rest of the world has largely gotten beyond religious wars. But not Islam, and the core beliefs of al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiya, and similar organizations is the need to kill and oppress non-Moslems. You can get away with this, up to a point. But in the end, you have to confront the fact that the non-Moslems possess most of the military power, and nearly all the nukes.

 


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