The Jakarta Post, January 07, 2002
No arrest of militants, Muslim leaders warn
Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesian Muslim leaders on Sunday called on law enforcement agencies not to
follow the example of Malaysia and Singapore in arresting militants, as it would not
help to improve the country's security situation.
Chairman of the country's second largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah,
Syafi'i Maarif called on the police to refrain from arresting members of groups fighting
for an Islamic state as it would only spark more problems.
"It's difficult for the government to act against them if it has no evidence of their violent
activities," Syafi'i said.
Syafi'i conceded that a number of militant groups in Indonesia were championing an
Islamic state for Indonesia, but thus far, their numbers were small and they had not
resorted to violence.
Secretary General of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) Dien Syamsuddin shared
Syafi'i's argument and said: "The police must not take any action as such action will
only spark more problems."
"I myself do not agree with the idea of setting up an Islamic state, but I would also
disagree if, in this democratic system, the police acted unfairly toward such groups,"
Both Syafi'i and Dien were asked to comment on the arrest of Indonesian Mujahidin
members in Malaysia.
Malaysian authorities stated on Friday that three of the 13 Muslim militants rounded
up between Dec. 9 and Jan. 3 under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention
without trial, were Indonesians.
They identified the three as Indonesian Mujahidin Council chief and founding member
Bakar Bashir and members Hambali and Mohamad Iqbal.
Chairman of the Council's Jakarta chapter Sayid Hamidan confirmed the identities of
the three, but said he doubted that Bakar Basir had been arrested in Malaysia as "he
just arrived from Mecca."
Hambali and Iqbal had been living in Malaysia for several years, he added.
Bashir and Hambali were specifically named by the Malaysian authorities as
"directing figures" of a new Militant Group of Malaysia wing possibly involved in the
struggles of Islamic militant groups around the world, including in the southern
Philippines, Afghanistan, Ambon, Chechnya and Kashmir.
Sayid Hamidan of Indonesian Mujahidin Council acknowledged that establishing an
Islamic state was an ambition of the organization, but it would be pursued through
A day after Malaysia announced the arrest of the 13 suspected militants, the
Singapore police announced that they had also arrested 15 Muslim militants who
were accused of having links with Osama bin Laden, the lead suspect in the Sept. 11
attacks in the U.S.
Syafi'i said that the situation in Indonesia differed from those in Malaysia and
Singapore, where radicalism might have reached an alarming level.
"The movement (to establish an Islamic state) is not significant here, and is not even
materializing," he said.
He said the government should not succumb to arguments that such groups posed a
danger to national stability, and then act unfairly against them.
According to Syafi'i, although the organizations could number in the dozens, radical
movements only involved a small proportion of Indonesian Muslims, therefore, they
were nothing to worry about.
"It will become our concern if large organizations like Nahdlatul Ulama and
Muhammadiyah support their movement," according to Syafi'i, adding that the
government needed to hold a dialog with them so that their movement would cause no
Radical movements, including the effort to create an Islamic state, are nothing new in
Indonesian history and they were inevitable in a country like Indonesia, where 85
percent of its 210 million people were Muslims, Syafi'i added.
Syafi'i reminded the government that radicalism, which is now still a minority
movement among Muslims, would grow larger if state leaders failed to create justice
in society and the law could not be enforced fairly.
"The government and other leaders of the nation should seriously deal with this
problems. If not, this country will become fertile ground for radicalism," Syafi'i told The
Jakarta Post by phone from Yogyakarta.
Referring to an incident in the East Java town of Ngawi, where a group of radical
Muslims attacked a gambling house last month, Syafi'i said it had been sparked by
the unwillingness of the police to stop gambling, which is prohibited by the law.
Instead of targeting small militant groups, Syafi'i suggested that law enforcers become
more serious in dealing with corruption by arresting and trying those who have stolen
large amounts of the state's wealth.
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