Indonesia and ISIS
If ISIS becomes a real state, something like the Taliban but with more violent jihad ambitions, would Indonesia establish formal diplomatic ties? Already some Indonesians have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight. With the Indonesian government struggling to manage the domestic terrorist danger, it would be hesitant and certainly not the first if ever to recognise IS, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL. Especially if IS still maintains its bloodlust and hatred for everyone else. Already politicians have called for censure of IS propaganda, rightly so as IS goes against Pancasila.
Heeding Concerns of the Spread of ISIS Across Indonesia
The national and international media continue to report the rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, but now often referred to as the Islamic State. It is creating an opinion here that ISIS as an entity should not deserve support from any walk of life.
In the weeks that followed extensive discussion on the impact of ISIS the Indonesian government decided to officially ban ISIS, arguing that the militant outfit should not be allowed to spread its teachings in the archipelago.
The declaration on the ban of ISIS was made in the presence of high-ranking officials from certain ministries and other government security apparatus including Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Marciano Norman, Justice and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Moeldoko, and National Police chief Gen. Sutarman.
It is not at all clear how ISIS could pose a real threat to the country’s national stability and security nor whether there is one who is perceived to be in charge of the ISIS movement in Indonesia. But the presence of key officials from those ministries and state agencies during the declaration has confirmed the government’s position that ISIS will not be given any room to maneuver itself and spread its teaching here.
Aside from that, the presence of the key officials is also a reflection that the government means to focus on ISIS and that the issue needs to be addressed through effective interagency cooperation.
The policy of countering the ISIS movement, if such a movement has already been far-reaching here, is not only about effective intelligence. It is also about the reliability of interagency cooperation and effectiveness. Weeks after reports that ISIS has garnered support from certain members of society here, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono chaired limited cabinet meetings on the issue, leading up to the announcement of the government’s decision to ban ISIS.
The government realized that closer cooperation, coordination and sharing of information between agencies is indeed necessary if the negative impacts of the ISIS link is to be prevented.
One report had said that the government had from the very beginning monitored the activities of ISIS here. The government is of the opinion that ISIS is an ideology that runs counter to Indonesia’s state ideology of Pancasila on pluralism and religious freedom. The government, however, stopped short of mentioning ISIS as a threat to national security.
The government can make an assessment at any time and they can also create scenarios on what might happen in the future. But there will always be surprises, no matter how carefully the government protects its national security.
This is to say that government is in a position to determine whether ISIS, perhaps inspired by Al Qaeda’s ideology, poses an imminent threat to national security. A series of terrorists acts here, from the first massive Bali bombing in 2002 to the relatively small scale of terrorist activities — not to mention casualties resulted from such an activities — simply started from the spread of improper teaching of Islam.
The case is evidence to the realities that people were being exposed to the dangerous national environment, if one were to believe that ISIS’s link here had a strong basis for any activities prohibited by law.
As ISIS garnered more support from a certain group of societies in many parts of the world, including that from Indonesia, there was reason for the government to be alarmed by a possible jihadist movement run across the country.
What surprised many was that the imprisoned terrorist convict Abu Bakar Ba’asyir officially pledged his allegiance to join the jihadist movement of the militant group.
The militant group of ISIS has metastasized. Perhaps it is against such background that the government has declared the banning of ISIS. The question then is how can one understand the ISIS threat to Indonesia’s national security.
The lineup of officials during the government’s declaration in banning ISIS indicated it as a confirmation that ISIS activities may have some repercussions, short or long term, for national security.
First, as the government strongly believes that ISIS runs counter to Pancasila ideology, ISIS-related activities or movements may jeopardize one of the elements of national security, namely societal security, which emphasized the ability of our society to persist under possible threats of the spread of ISIS teaching.
Second, sociopolitical stability may be eroded, if peace and harmony among the people here, regardless of their ethnic origin and political background, are torn by ISIS ideology.
Security risk resulting from the negative impacts of the spread of ISIS ideology calls for broad security measures to be undertaken. In the case of a real threat to national security posed by ISIS, the government can employ the following regulations: Presidential Instruction Number 2/2013, which emphasizes the cooperative mechanism between civic and security authorities to respond to and resolve domestic security disturbances caused by the ISIS movement; and the Anti-Terrorism Law Number 15/2003, if there is a strong evidence of ISIS terrorism-related activities.
The ISIS issue is already here. In the end, the new government of Indonesia will continue to face and need to address effectively the long-term security implication of the ISIS movement, if the government is not to be seen moving at a snail’s pace to address the issue.
Bantarto Bandoro is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Defense Strategy, Indonesian Defense University and founder of Institute for Defense and Strategic Research (IDSR) in Jakarta.