Radical Books Raise Fears in Indonesia of Spread of Militants’ Ideas

9 02 2009

SOLO, Indonesia — At a small, back-street bookstore here, the young employees, wearing matching green skullcaps and sporting wispy chin beards, stock books with titles like “Waiting for the Destruction of Israel” and “Principles of Jihad.”

Image

Peter Gelling for The International Herald Tribune
In Solo, a cluster of publishers have issued Islamist texts, which do not sell well but popularize radical ideology. One book was by a man involved in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

The New York Times

Solo is known as a bastion of a conservative brand of Islam.
They work quietly, listening to the voice of a firebrand Islamic preacher playing on the store’s sound system, his sermon peppered with outbursts of machine-gun fire.
Another young man, a customer, sifts through a pile of DVDs that chronicle the conflicts in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Sudan. T-shirts, stickers and pins on sale at the back of the store are emblazoned with slogans like “Support Your Local Mujahedeen” and “Taliban All-Stars.”
The jihadi books at the store, which is called Arofah, have been made available by a small but growing group of publishers in and around Solo, a commercial city known as a bastion of conservative Islam.
Many of the publishers openly support the ideological goals of Jemaah Islamiyah, a banned Southeast Asia terrorist network that has been implicated in most of the major terrorist bombings in Indonesia.
The publishers, about 12 so far, still have limited prospects for sales and influence. Radical books generally do not sell well in Indonesia, where a vast majority of the population of 240 million practice a moderate brand of Islam.
A book by one of the Bali bombers, whose attacks on nightclubs in 2002 killed 202 people, is considered a success for its genre but sold only about 10,000 copies.
Nevertheless, the publishers have caught the attention of some counterterrorism experts, who fear they are proof of how interconnected, and resilient, the Jemaah Islamiyah movement is in Indonesia.
By most accounts, the Indonesian authorities have had great success in weakening Jemaah Islamiyah’s militant arm since the Bali bombings, jailing or killing most of its top leaders. But they have been less successful in fighting the organization’s ideology, which counterterrorism experts say spreads within an informal association of groups operating in mosques, prisons and schools around the country, providing a continuing source of recruitment.

“The most interesting aspect is what the publishing operations reveal about the overlapping networks binding Jemaah Islamiyah together,” said Sidney R. Jones, an analyst with the nonprofit International Crisis Group in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.

“This organization is not some Arab import,” Ms. Jones said of Jemaah Islamiyah. “It’s an extraordinary social organization linked by family, schools, culture, training and now businesses.”
She notes that Solo is not only the base for the publishers, but also the site of Pesantren al-Mukmin, an Islamic boarding school that has educated some of the country’s most notorious extremists. Some of the publishers have taught at the school, and Abu Bakar Bashir, a militant Islamic cleric who helped found the school, originally conceived of the idea of opening publishing houses in Solo that could specialize in books on Islam, Ms. Jones said. Mr. Bashir served time in prison on conspiracy charges in several bombings, including those in Bali.
The International Crisis Group, an organization established to prevent or resolve deadly conflicts, says there is a chance that the growth in publishers of radical books could have an upside, possibly indicating that Jemaah Islamiyah is beginning to wage jihad through the printed page rather than violent acts.
“Some publishers may be playing a more positive than negative role, directing members into above-ground activities and enabling them to promote a jihadi message without engaging in violence,” said a report issued last year by the International Crisis Group.
But Indonesian authorities say that the message of jihad, once put into book form, often enters classrooms and Islamic study circles, ultimately helping to draw young people into Jemaah Islamiyah’s ranks. And that could allow the militants to regroup as a potent fighting force.
Most of the books celebrating radical Islamic thought are Indonesian translations of Middle Eastern works. But the publishers are also picking up the works of some local authors.
One was Imam Samudra, who was executed for his role in the terrorist attacks in Bali in 2002.
The publishers are also hoping to publish the work of another Bali bomber, Ali Ghufron, better known as Mukhlas, the former operations chief for Jemaah Islamiyah.
Before his execution last year, he wrote 10 books, including an autobiography that his lawyer says portrays the Bali bombings as justifiable acts of vengeance for the ill treatment of Muslims around the world.
Solo’s publishers can afford to print such jihadi books by piggybacking on a broader trend: the ballooning demand in Indonesia for mainstream Islamic texts.
Books that explore the Islamic faith — addressing issues like how to be a good Muslim woman, or Islamic beliefs about life after death — are the biggest sellers here now. One popular love story with an Islamic theme sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was recently made into a movie.
“The mainstream Islamic publishing industry is booming right now,” said Setia Darma Madjid, chairman of the Indonesian Book Publishers Association. “Writers and publishers recognize that these themes appeal to readers right now, and so they are rolling out hundreds of books on the subject.”

At least some publishers of radical texts say they, too, are just meeting market demand, not trying to spread an ideology.

One such publisher is Bambang Sukirno, who owns the Aqwam Group and its imprint Jazera, which got its start with Imam Samudra’s first book. He said he was only addressing a topical subject, just as “journalists and others around the world are doing.”

“We see that this ‘terrorism’ phenomenon, whether you like it or not, has seized space in this world,” he said.

So far, the government has taken no action against the publishers despite its crackdown on Islamists. Officials are worried about terrorist attacks but are also trying to nurture their young democracy and the freedoms that democracy guarantees.

“The publication of such material is an issue; we are not very happy about it,” said one senior counterterrorism official in the government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. “However, because we are in the process of democratization, it is problematic how we would be able to control the publication of such material.”

Mr. Sukirno said he was not worried that the government would shut down his company.
“Democracy in Indonesia is thriving, and if the government ever tried to interfere in the publishing industry, well, that would be dangerous,” he said. “Interference would just give birth to waves of resistance and undermine democracy.

“Books,” he said, “are a reflection of a civilized nation.”

Advertisements




Islamization crept in a long time ago

22 05 2008
Islamization crept in a long time ago
Source: http://www.trouw.nl/
Geen routekaart beschikbaar

Talking about the islamization of society is apparently taboo in the Netherlands, according to Muslima Nahed Selim. Why is that? “I think many Dutch people do not fully understand the term.” She hopes that many more warnings will follow Geert Wilders’ film.

In a broadcast by the Dutch Islamic Broadcasting organization (NIO) on March 30th we saw reactions to ‘Fitna’ from Egypt, one of them from a preacher. Apart from the usual talk about respect and causing offence he was also outraged about the title of the film. He wondered whether the ‘director’ realized what fitna meant.

The words of the director in Dutch newspaper Het Parool clearly showed that Geert Wilders does indeed know. Every Muslim knows the Arabic word fitna, says the leader of the Party fort Freedom (PVV). “It refers to situations in which the faith of the Muslims is put to the test. Everything that tests their faith is fitna: uncovered women, alcohol, non-Muslims, resistance against the authority of Islam. I use the term as a mirror image: to me the pernicious Islam is fitna.” Wilders was very pleased with his find “I was set on using a word from the Koran.”

The title is well-chosen for more than one reason. Fitna is a fascinating word. On the individual level it means ‘temptation’ and ‘testing of the faith’. Remarkably the temptation that emanates from women is also indicated as fitna. In addition the term is associated with unrest, civil war, and chaos. In classical-Islamic history there have been three great fitnas.

Between 656 and 661, following the assassination of the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan, a power struggle erupted in which Muslims for the first time took up arms against each other. The second fitna occurred between 683 and 685. This time it was also a political battle between the dynasties of the Ummayads and the Abbassids for control of the Islamic empire. The third fitna refers to the battle between army commanders and rulers during the final period of Islamic rule in Cordoba.

The fear of the concept of fitna – with its associations ranging from chaos and civil war to temptation and testing – is enormous among Muslim scholars. Almost like the spectre of World War II is for Europeans.

The Egyptian preacher, although a Christian, concluded his statement in the NIO broadcast with a spontaneous prayer to God to protect our countries and our civilizations from all types of fitnas and from their instigators.

It is debatable whether Wilders was aware of this historical dimension of the title of his film. Gilles Kepel certainly was. This French Islamic studies scholar, political scientist and authority on radical Islam was the first to use the term in his book ‘Fitna: guerre au Coeur de l’Islam’ (The War for Muslim Minds, 2004). In this fascinating book he describes the interaction between jihad and fitna. Today, very few people have not heard of jihad. Fitna is an equally important concept for Muslims, but it is almost unknown among non-Muslims. Wilders has changed that. Thanks to his film millions of people around the world are introduced to this fascinating concept.

The leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) intended this film as a final warning to the Netherlands against Islamization. Why the final warning? I hope there will be many more. Every country that has seen total islamization has gone downhill. The more islamization, the more unrest, material and cultural poverty, civil conflicts, bloodshed and other woes. Look at Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia. The society we have now is much better; for everyone.

Talking about the islamization of society is apparently taboo in the Netherlands. I think many Dutch people do not fully understand the term. Islamization does not only mean the increase of the Muslim population, or the military conquest of the country by Muslims, or the founding of an Islamic state. Islamization is a process in which religion will insidiously start dominating all aspects of life.

Turkey is an Islamic country, the majority of the people are Muslims, but the country is not completely islamized. It has a substantial group of seculars, who are completely different in the way they live and think. It is a group that continues to refuse to bow to the Muslim majority. And it is a powerful group, as they are represented in the army and the elite. It remains to be seen how long the seculars will be able to hold onto that power.

A few months ago 140,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Turkey to protest. They id not want the ban on wearing headscarves at universities to be lifted. They feared the social pressure on all women to start wearing the scarf, when the ban was a support and great excuse for many women and their families. They could always say that the state did not allow it. They also feared that lifting the ban would be an important element in the process of islamization.

The seculars in Turkey understand much better than our government what islamization entails. Islamization is also the process, no matter how slow, that gradually leads to the islamization of thought. The islamization of thought will mean the end of all creativity, originality and creative power, for creation is a divine quality patented by Allah. He will not tolerate competition from man. Islamization is the process by which Islamic values eventually gain the upper hand over all other value systems, in all aspects of life.

This process has been going on in the Western world for quite a while. And it is demonstrated almost daily in a series of incidents.

For example when a Muslima pharmacist refuses to sell the morning-after pill or condoms, when a Muslim doctor refuses to treat aids patients or perform abortions, when medical students refuse to carry out those parts of their curriculum they claim are in conflict with their faith, when Muslim taxi drivers refuse to transport blind customers and their guide dogs because their faith tells them dogs are unclean, when it becomes almost impossible to criticize Islam or Muslims without being threatened; when youth welfare agencies have to enlist the help of imams to be able to do their job among Moroccan families, when municipal officers refuse to shake hands with women, when female teachers and other civil servants represent Islam during their work by wearing their headscarves when they should be representing the state; when Fortis bank scraps the little piggy bank they used to give to children as a present because it is an unclean animal to Muslims; when museums take down photographs and refuse paintings because they fear Muslim reactions, when it is no longer allowed to hang posters of classic nudes in the metro stations – and the list can be much longer.

These are all incidents that occurred in the Western world in recent years, also in the Netherlands. And they are all signs of the progressing process of islamization. Is a political party allowed to warn society against it? Of course it is. Indeed, it is part of their job to warn society about these dangers.

My criticism of the film ‘Fitna’ is that Wilders does not deal, or insufficiently, with this aspect of the gradual mental and institutional islamization while it poses a graver threat to the democratic, secular society than the terrorist danger.

Only one sentence in the film refers to this institutional islamization. Wilders presents a voice that says: “The mosque will become part of the Dutch system of government.”

I am afraid this has already started. What else does it mean when an official from the youth welfare services can only do his job when he is accompanied by an imam? In this way the state delegates part of its tasks to the mosque. This also proves that the loyalty of these Muslim families lies only with their clergy, not with the government or its officials.

It is a pity that Wilders did not focus more on these aspects. He would have been able to establish that the Muslims are not the only ones to blame. This institutional islamization is frequently enabled by native Dutchmen who already start self-islamizing because they do not have the faintest idea of the separation of church and state.

The most intense part of ‘Fitna’ is, of course, the first part where we are shown images of terrorist attacks, linked to sermons and verses from the Koran. Wilders wanted to demonstrate the link between the acts of the terrorists and their theological foundation – a link that is categorically denied by all commentators – Muslim or non-Muslim. However, I can still trace most of the sermons by those horrible imams, almost word for word, back to Koranic verses and statements by the prophet Mohammed. Every Muslim I have heard about it rightly distanced themselves, described them as radical and extremist interpretations. The point is, however, that these are not interpretations at all. They are literal quotations from authentic Islamic sources.

What is extremism?

Take Ramadan, for example. The normal principle of faith is that the fasting lasts one month. For that is what the Koran says. It is radical or extreme to fast all year round. Or take prayer. According to Islam prayers must be said five times a day. A religious movement that expects the believers to stay awake all night to pray continuously, can rightly be described as extremist or radical. It deviates too much from what is prescribed in the sources. A simple principle, I would think.

However. What if things were the other way around? I know Muslims who will not use certain medicines if they contain alcohol, because the Koran says you are not allowed to drink alcohol. Are they radical? Or is the Koran radical? The Koran also contains instructions for the believers to slaughter the unbelievers. This is too extreme for most Muslims. They refuse to carry out these prescriptions. It would seem to me that they are more sensible than their holy texts. But what if someone, for whatever reason, takes these commands seriously and acts upon them. Is he extreme or his text?

You don’t have to do everything the Koran says, I sometimes tell other Muslims, for example about the headscarf. The guaranteed answer is that you do, because these prescriptions are from a holy book.

There is a wonderful saying in English: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

People want to believe that the texts revealed by God possess a level of wisdom and beauty that is unique. They feel they have the right to profess everything it says literally, even if it deviates from the rules and regulations of this society.

The film ‘Fitna’ confronts them with a few cruel texts that possess no wisdom, beauty or ethics whatsoever. If the book did not bear the name Koran, the court would have prohibited it immediately. For a sincere believer the film may lead to a fitna, a testing of the faith. Most believers avoid that confrontation, put the blame on the interpretation, on the cleric who recites the texts or the director who makes a film about them.

Of course every person is responsible for his own actions. No text, holy or unholy, may serve as a license to kill another person. As no film or cartoon may serve to justify riots and attacks. How many people will have the courage to endure this confrontation?

In a previous article I wrote that there are moderate Muslims, just no moderate Islam. But anything can happen.

In the meantime I found Muslims Against Sharia, started over a year ago in the United States. This is a Muslim organization for Islamic reform, with thousands of supporters all over the world. Their motto is: acknowledge mistakes, accept responsibility, move on.

The goal of this organization is to raise awareness among Muslims and non-Muslims about the dangers of some Islamic religious texts. And they are against – and this is unique – the introduction of sharia law. On their website you can find a list of verses that the movement describes as ‘morally problematic’. Some verses are even described as ‘ethically unacceptable’.

Mulsims Against Sharia want to publish a version of the Koran from which all those problematic verses have been removed. No actual tearing out pages from the Koran, but rational evaluation which verses are worth keeping.

And so Wilders gets what he wants after all.