August 2013

Essays

‘The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia’ by Solahudin

By Gillian Terzis
‘The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia’ by Solahudin
Trans. Dave McRae; NewSouth Books; $49.99

Conventional warfare assumes a self-evident mission and an obvious opponent, but the fight against terrorism is different: it is not an enemy in the conventional sense, but a methodology. Traditional metrics of military success do not apply.

As such, governments and terrorists alike are challenged by the questions of appropriate means and ends. The evolving nature and strategies of jihadist movements is the subject of The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia, written by Indonesian researcher and journalist Solahudin and translated by the Lowy Institute’s Dave McRae. Drawing on numerous interviews with members of Indonesian terrorist groups, Solahudin provides a dispassionate analysis of divergent terrorist ideologies, from Indonesia’s war of independence in the late 1940s to the Bali bombings orchestrated by Jemaah Islamiyah in 2002. 

Culminating in 202 deaths and more than 240 people injured, the Bali bombings were the largest terror attack in South-east Asia’s history – and the first that explicitly targeted foreigners on a mass scale. The attacks are the starting point for Solahudin’s fastidious and challenging historical analysis of the motivations of Indonesian jihadist movements. He begins by differentiating between the mainstream definition of jihad (“considered by mainstream Muslims as a war on a battlefield … and the killing of women, children and the elderly is forbidden”) and more radical interpretations (a war on all “unbelievers”). The latter view is in line with Salafist jihadism, a militant strand of activism that took hold in Afghanistan during its war with the Soviet Union in the late ’80s. It was there that hundreds of mujahideen from Darul Islam, Indonesia’s main Islamist network, received training and “ideological renewal” under the tutelage of Al Qaeda. Their local aspirations were subsequently recast as global objectives. This development, fostered by the Western invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s, Solahudin argues, was significant in spreading Salafist jihadism to Indonesia. 

But jihadist doctrine is hardly monolithic. The book explains, in exhaustive detail, how infighting over Al Qaeda’s influence caused the splintering of Darul Islam. As Solahudin notes, though the Bali bombings received considerable funding from Osama bin Laden’s men, the majority of Jemaah Islamiyah members did not believe bin Laden’s objectives to be “pertinent” to Indonesian interests. 

According to Solahudin, those interests – namely, the establishment of Islamic law in Indonesia – are fundamental to the resilience of jihadist groups. Indeed, whether confronted with authoritarian or democratic governments, jihadist ideology, in all its various forms, has never wavered. The book doesn’t provide neat solutions for extremist violence, but it certainly asks the right questions. 

From the front page

Image of Joseph Engel and Sara Montpetit in Falcon Lake, directed by Charlotte Le Bon. Photo by Fred Gervais, courtesy of MK2 and Metafilms

Cannes Film Festival 2022 highlights: part one

Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘One Fine Morning’, Charlotte Le Bon’s ‘Falcon Lake’ and Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s ‘Pamfir’ were bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming line-up

Image of a man updating a board showing a tally of votes during independent candidate Zoe Daniel’s reception for the 2022 federal election. Image © Joel Carrett / AAP Images

The art of the teal

Amid the long decline of the major parties, have independents finally solved the problem of lopsided campaign financing laws?

Image of Monique Ryan and family on election night

The end of Liberal reign in Kooyong

At the Auburn Hotel on election night, hope coalesces around Monique Ryan

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

OnlyFans and the adults in the room

The emerging OnlyFans community offering training and support to adult-content creators

In This Issue

© David Fitzgerald

Iggy Azalea and hip-hop’s bikini wasteland

Can the Australian-born rapper shake off the stereotypes?

Stories We Tell’s Sarah Polley

‘Stories We Tell’, ‘Frances Ha’ and ‘Upstream Colour’

New films from Sarah Polley, Noah Baumbach and Shane Carruth

‘The Night Guest’ by Fiona McFarlane

Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

In praise of Tony Windsor

Fan mail for the former MP


Online exclusives

Image of Joseph Engel and Sara Montpetit in Falcon Lake, directed by Charlotte Le Bon. Photo by Fred Gervais, courtesy of MK2 and Metafilms

Cannes Film Festival 2022 highlights: part one

Mia Hansen-Løve’s ‘One Fine Morning’, Charlotte Le Bon’s ‘Falcon Lake’ and Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s ‘Pamfir’ were bright spots in an otherwise underwhelming line-up

Image of a man updating a board showing a tally of votes during independent candidate Zoe Daniel’s reception for the 2022 federal election. Image © Joel Carrett / AAP Images

The art of the teal

Amid the long decline of the major parties, have independents finally solved the problem of lopsided campaign financing laws?

Image of Monique Ryan and family on election night

The end of Liberal reign in Kooyong

At the Auburn Hotel on election night, hope coalesces around Monique Ryan

Image of US President Joe Biden meeting virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, November 15, 2021. Image © Susan Walsh / AP Photo

The avoidable war

Kevin Rudd on China, the US and the forces of history