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August 09, 2003

Indonesia: Marriott Hotel bombing

I am presuming that the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta is by the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyya. (Presume because that connection is contested. I also presume that the aim of the bombing is to hurt Indonesia's tourism and the flow of foreign investment. No doubt the combination of the current bomb blast with the Bali bomb a year ago is certain to reinforce tourist perceptions that Indonesia is a dangerous destination for a relaxing fun-filled holiday.

I presume the goals of Jemaah Islamiyya is to get the Indonesian state to back off from cracking down on militant Islamism, to destabilize President Megawati Sukarnoputri's administration, and to induce a rage against the West within the Islamic diaspora. Indonesia is difficult to secure against the worldwide anti-American jihad, as it is a string of islands spread out over the sea for more than 5,000 kilometers. That geography helps make Indonesia a prime target for al-Qaeda and a fragile link in the security terms of the US-led war on terrorism. As Richard over at Peking Duck reports Indonesian security can be improved.

I interpret Islamic fundamentalism of Jemaah Islamiyya as a Saudi-backed politics that uses some of tenets of Islam; a political ideology (Islamism) whose goal is an Islamic state and which uses the jihad as a weapon to achieve an Islamic state.

That arc of western security from the Middle East to Australia confronts a global al-Qaeda, and the conflict varies from the US facing a national liberation struggle in Iraq, that is led by Iraqi Sunnis and Shi'ites, daily attacks in Afghanistan to skirmishes in Indonesia. We are then warned that the regional terrorism in South East could spillover into Australia.

So what are Australia and the US going to do in terms of fighting the war on terrorism. Cooperate with the brutal Indonesia military (TNI), despite its appalling human rights record in East Timor and Aceh and hostility to democratic values? You don't hear much about Canberra putting pressure on Indonesia to reform the military, or bring the military officers who were responsible for the bloodbath in East Timor to justice Even Greg Sheridan acknowledges that the Indonesian military has bloody hands. So why cooperate them? Here are some more plausible suggestions.

My fear that is that the Marriot Hotel and Bali Bombing will only reinforce the traditional Western hostility towards Islam, and activate the sterotype of Muslims and Islam as menacing militant fundamentalists. It is all about threat, clash and confrontation between civilizations. From the western side, the sense of dread and hatred of Islam and Muslims has a tendency to view Muslim immigrants as isolationists and separatists and so hostile to mainstream Australian culture. This is how the great civilization divide between Islam and the West manifests itself within Australia.

Islamic fundamentalism is seen as being a negative reaction to the democracy, science and securalism of modernity with little by way of recognition of the similarities with Christian (Protestantism) fundamentalism that gazes at the modern secular western world as a hell drained of sacred and moral significance.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at August 9, 2003 09:50 AM

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