24 Sep 2014

The threat posed by Indonesians fighting for IS

A new report links the development of the IS support network in Indonesia to the teachings and online “study sessions” organised by the banned British extremist group Al Muhajiroun.

At first glance it looks like something from the fringe, a report about Islamic militancy in a far-away place that can safely set aside for a few years.

But respected analyst Sidney Jones’ new report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) deserves to be read by anyone concerned about the spread of the Islamic State organisation’s extremist ideology.

“The Evolution of ISIS in Indonesia” delves into the origins of a number of jihadi groups in Indonesia who support the IS group’s objectives and activities. In a compelling example of the power of social media on the internet, Ms Jones links the development of the IS support network in this south east Asian nation to the teachings and online “study sessions” organised by the banned British extremist group Al Muhajiroun.

Al Muhajiroun was founded in the 1990s by two UK-based individuals; the cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad (expelled from Britain in 2005) and former solicitor Anjem Choudary.


Choudary (above left) and Bakri Muhammad (above right), who also founded a number of off-shoot organisations, supported the introduction of sharia law and the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

The IPAC report lists a number of young Indonesians who were inspired by Bakri and Choudary’s activities, including a young activist called Tuah Febriwansyah – alias Muhammad Fachry – who discovered Al Muhajiroun on a video chat forum in 2005.

Fachry started up his own study group and invited others to come and study Bakri’s sermons. Later, he began a grassroots campaign called “Sharia4Indonesia”, modelled on a project called “Islam4UK” that Anjem Choudary started in the UK in November 2008.

In 2010, Fachry invited Choudary to Indonesia, and the one-time British lawyer made an  appearance promoting “Sharia4Indonesia” at the 9th Annual Islamic Book Fair in Jakarta.

One of Fachry’s closest friends – a man who calls himself Muhammad al Indunisi – is also thought to have been inspired by Al-Muhajiroun. You can see him in a variety of militaristic poses in a slick IS recruiting video called “Joining the Ranks”.  Al Indunisi (real name Bahrum Syah) urges other Indonesians to follow his example and join the jihad in Syria.

Ms Jones estimates that roughly one hundred Indonesians have travelled to the Middle East with the express purpose of fighting with IS and believes the risk of violence from extremist groups based at home remains low.

“There have been three suicide bomb attacks in the last few years,” she told me, “and in each case the bomber has managed to blow himself up.”

However the director of IPAC says the situation could change. IS sympathisers in Indonesia lack training and leadership but the return of just “ten or twenty militants” could pose a very real threat to Indonesia.

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