There's growing support for the Islamic State in the country with the world's largest Muslim population and authorities are getting concerned.
Indonesia is a long way from Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State militants have slaughtered thousands of people, seized large amounts of territory, declared an Islamic caliphate, and established an illicit economy that's bringing in big money. But the extremist group has found strong support among many hardline Muslims in the archipelago that's home to the largest Muslim population in the world.
Indonesia has long struggled against terrorism, and the rise of the Islamic State could open a new chapter in that violent history.
For more than a decade, Indonesian authorities have been battling terrorist networks, and they’ve scored some major successes. Hundreds of terrorist suspects have been arrested and groups considered major threats, such as Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, which was blamed for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, have been weakened.
But the shadow of terrorism continues to hang over the country of 240 million people and authorities are now bracing for possibly that the Islamic State could create new domestic security threats.
There are already signs that the concerns are justified. Some Indonesian men have already made the trip to Iraq and Suria and are now fighting with the Islamic State. Estimates vary between 50 and 500, but authorities are concerned that many more could plan to join them.
Radical Indonesian groups have reportedly declared their allegiance to Islamic State and are raising money to support its violent campaign.
The Islamic Sate has also received the high-profile backing of radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah who is serving a 15-year sentence for terrorism offenses.
A recruitment drive is also under way. A video surfaced on YouTube in July purportedly showing Indonesian men carrying weapons and the the Islamic State flag, calling on their countrymen to “join the ranks” of the extremist group.
Indonesian authorities are taking this very seriously.
Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last week the actions of the Islamic State were “embarrassing” and “humiliating” to Islam, the Jakarta Post reported.
"We do not tolerate it, we forbid ISIS in Indonesia," Yudhoyono said in an interview conducted the day after a graphic video was released showing the execution of American journalist James Foley. "Indonesia is not an Islamic state. We respect all religions."
The government also made it illegal for Indonesians to support or endorse the Islamic State and is censoring YouTube videos like the one above.
"The government rejects and bans the teachings of (the Islamic State) from growing in Indonesia. It is not in line with state ideology ... or the philosophy of (diversity) under the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia," Djoko Suyanto, the government minister for coordinating political, legal and security affairs, was quoted as saying.
Authorities have also proved that they'll respond to targeted threats. Indonesian police have reportedly tightened security at the Borobudur Temple in Magelang in Central Java following an apparent threat made by Islamic State supporters on social media to destroy the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
t’s a big challenge. But perhaps a bigger concern for Indonesian authorities — and their neighbor Australia, which has provided assistance in tackling Islamic militancy in the region — is what happens when Indonesian jihadists return home from Syria and Iraq.
"The danger lies maybe three to four years ahead, when people come back from Syria with increased weapons expertise, greater international context, deeper ideological commitment and combat experience," said Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. "They'll take the recruits who are so easy to come by in Indonesia and fashion them into a lethal force."
Another concern for the Indonesian government is the release of extremists who've served out prison sentences for terrorist activities. Hundreds have been freed in recent years and dozens more could walk out of jail this year.
What does the Islamic State's rise mean for them?
And what does it mean for Indonesia?
The Global Post