6/28/11 Indonesia (WallStreetJournal) – Indonesia notched another victory in its war on Islamic terror this month when a court sentenced Abu Bakar Bashir for 15 years. Mr. Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al Qaeda affiliate behind the 2002 Bali bombings, was convicted of supporting a terrorist training camp. But while Jakarta has gotten serious about the legal prosecution of this war, it still lags in the ideological struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.
Indonesia’s counterterror forces, notably the elite Detachment 88, have pursued radical groups with commendable tenacity, killing top JI leaders like Noordin Mohamed Top. Detachment 88 also disbanded Mr. Bashir’s training camp in Aceh, Sumatra, so it’s no wonder he dubbed the unit “God’s enemies.”
While Mr. Bashir is safely behind bars, his hateful teachings continue to spread. Extremists are harassing the Ahmadiyya sect, which orthodox Muslims consider heretical, as well as Christians. In Cikeusik, Banten province in February, a mob attacked the local Ahmadiyya community, killing three; in Cisalada, West Java, an Ahmadiyya mosque was burned in October.
In February, a Muslim mob set two churches on fire and ransacked a third in Temanggung, Central Java. Their provocation? A Christian charged with insulting Islam was sentenced to only five years imprisonment, instead of getting the death penalty. More attacks have been foiled by the police.
Indonesia’s legal system emboldens radicals. In 2008, the central government decreed that the Ahmadiyya couldn’t spread its teachings. Recently, some provincial governments have taken away the sect’s freedom of public worship altogether—an open invitation for Islamists to attack. A 2008 antipornography law also casts a fundamentalist veil over culture and expression.
In some cases of violence, the police have literally stood by. In others, officials have delivered weak justice. A court sentenced the perpetrators of the Temanggung violence for a few months’ imprisonment, or a year at most. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has spoken out against violence, but has done little to curb it.
Unless Mr. Yudhoyono gathers the political will to move ahead with ideological counterterrorism, Indonesia is in danger of sliding in the direction of Pakistan, as Benedict Rogers of the London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide warned on these pages this month. As in Pakistan, terrorism and vigilante attacks against minorities both stem from the same preachers of intolerance.
Jakarta can take comfort that moderate Islam remains the mainstream and the population is broadly supportive of the antiterrorism offensive. Whether that’s true a generation from now remains an open question.