It is believed that most of the up to 200 Southeast Asians fighting in Syria and Iraq are from Indonesia. The Indonesian government has forcefully spoken out against the Islamic State group, as have mainstream Muslim organizations in the country. Security officials fear those fighters could take part in terrorism on their return to the country, as those trained in Afghanistan did in the 2002 Bali bombings. However, according to the article, Indonesia is limited in what it can do to stop suspected militants from traveling abroad.
10/6/2014 CIANJUR, Indonesia (AP) — A businessman who proclaims himself leader of the Indonesian chapter of the Islamic State group says he has personally overseen the departure of scores of fighters from this Southeast Asian nation to Syria and Iraq. Police detained him for a night recently, but were unable to charge him with a crime.
Chep Hernawan reflects both the success IS has had in attracting support in the region, and the challenges Indonesia faces in responding.
The government, home to most of the up to 200 Southeast Asians believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, has forcefully spoken out against the Islamic State, as have mainstream Muslim organizations in the country. But Indonesia is limited in what it can do to stop suspected militants from traveling abroad.
The country lacks the sort of laws that neighboring Malaysia and Singapore have, allowing for detention without trial or criminal charges under limited, legally defined circumstances. It also does not ban speech that could incite hatred and intolerance.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said his force could only monitor IS supporters.
“If they have no record of terrorism activities then they can’t be charged under our criminal law,” he said.
Any changes will be a challenge given the fractious nature of the new Parliament and other legislative priorities, according to a recent report into the evolution of the Islamic State group by the Institute of Policy Analysis for Conflict.
For the first time since the 1990s and the Afghan jihad, Indonesians, Malaysians and other extremists in Southeast Asia are traveling abroad in an organized fashion to join a global militant movement, picking up battlefield skills and militant contacts.
Security officials fear they could take part in terrorism on their return to Southeast Asia, as those trained in Afghanistan did in attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Radicals at home also could heed the Islamic State group’s exhortations to carry out revenge attacks on Western targets.
In response to the threat posed by foreign fighters, the United Nations Security Council last month adopted a resolution demanding member states prevent the recruitment and travel of people to join militant groups like IS.
Hernawan’s brush with the law has not stopped him from campaigning on behalf of the group or defending its actions, including the beheading of journalists and opposition forces.
“I’m convinced that these are religious acts based on Islamic teachings (permitting acts) that strike fear in the hearts of enemies of Islam,” he told The Associated Press recently at his white, colonial-style house, which stands prominently on the edge of Cianjur town’s main road. His home’s decor includes a real stuffed tiger, and at the time of his interview he had a pile of warm clothes and blankets ready to be delivered for refugees in the Gaza Strip.
Hernawan, 63, owns hotel and manufacturing companies and is a longtime public supporter of radical Islam. He said he was appointed the head of IS head in Indonesia at a meeting of radicals on March 16.
While he is a well-known for speaking on IS’s behalf in the country, two experts on militancy in Indonesia said it was unclear or even unlikely whether he had any structural links to the group’s leadership in Syria.
Like some other radicals in Indonesia, he says violent jihad within Indonesia is not justified because the country doesn’t meet the conditions required under Islamic law. Not so elsewhere.