In July, a picture of extremist Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in his maximum security prison in Nusakambangan, Central Java, with an ISIL flag as its background, was widely circulated on Indonesia’s social media. Ba’asyir had also called on his followers to support their “fellow brothers” who were part of the IS group. Another jailed jihadi leader, Aman Abdurrahman, had also conveyed support for IS and has been translating and distributing IS publications over the Internet. A video by the IS recently featured an Indonesian fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi delivering an impassioned appeal to fellow Indonesians to ‘join the ranks’. A growing number of young individuals are drawn to the IS’ cause among them Abu Muhammad, a 19 year old Indonesian who studied in Turkey and later joined the IS in Syria.
Malaysian authorities say that the IS sympathisers are attracting a small number of Malaysians from a wide variety of backgrounds through social media, particularly Facebook, and have also managed to raise funds through such channels.
The primacy of the IS’ theological arguments feature strongly in the Indonesian militants’ motivations to fight in Syria. The activities of Malaysian IS supporters on Facebook on the other hand points to a more complex mix of reasons motivating Malaysians to join the IS, most of which are political, financial or ideological.
According to the IS’s radical narrative, Syria is said to be the epicentre of the Last Caliphate. The IS believes that the Final Battle against the false prophets will ensue in the ongoing battle in Syria.
Following the 2002 Bali bombings Indonesia has stressed a hard approach to countering the threat of terrorism, primarily through the lens of law enforcement. Under Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism unit Detachment-88 Jakarta has successfully captured hundreds of terrorist suspects across the archipelago and confiscated their weapons.
Amid reports that four new Malaysian militant groups, identified by their acronyms BKAW, BAJ, Dimzia and ADI, are bent on creating a “super” Islamic caliphate in parts of Southeast Asia, including secular Singapore, Malaysia has stepped up its counterterrorism efforts and arrested several individuals. The BKAW was reportedly recruiting through Facebook and rallies. One of its members is said to be Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, a 26 year old factory worker and the first Malaysian IS-linked suicide bomber, who killed 25 soldiers during the attack in Iraq on May 26.
So far, the emphasis on hard approaches has brought some success in apprehending terrorists and disrupting terrorist plots. But the IS has mounted a sophisticated online campaign to spread its propaganda worldwide. The Internet provides the perfect medium for terrorist groups like the IS to recruit, disseminate their ideology and get financing from individuals in Southeast Asia.
According to 2011 statistics from Techinasia, Indonesia has the second-largest population of Facebook users in the world and the fourth-largest population of Twitter users in the world, with a growing number who use other social media platforms. According to the International Telecommunications Union, Malaysia has also seen an increase in Internet users since 2000, from 21% to 65% in 2012. Developments in the Arab world today can easily enter the country and pose a legitimate concern for Indonesian and Malaysian governments due to the ubiquitous presence of the Internet.
Source: ISN, RSIS