Jakarta: radical Muslim leader recognizes Pancasila
by Mathias Hariyadi

Abu Bakar Baasyir had taken part in organizing the 2002 Bali bombings. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014. After participating in the government's deradicalization program, he recognized the nation's founding doctrine, which has among its cornerstones harmony among the religious denominations in the country.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Abu Bakar Baasyir, one of Indonesia's most uncompromising Muslim leaders, has acknowledged the Pancasila, the five-point philosophy on which the nation is founded and which has among its cornerstones the unity of the country and harmony among the different religious denominations living there.

In a short video message released Aug. 17, Baasyir says he "agrees" with the Pancasila because the first point of the doctrine (belief in one and only God) "is based on tawhid," the Islamic principle that postulates the unity and oneness of God. Another surprise came yesterday when Baasyir celebrated Indonesian Independence Day by proposing to hold the flag-raising ceremony inside Ngruki Islamic College.

This event is highly significant given the personal history of the Muslim cleric, who for 17 years during the Suharto presidency was an exile in Malaysia precisely because of his radical views.

According to local and international intelligence agencies Baasyir can be considered the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist organization linked to al-Qaeda and best known for the 2002 attacks in Bali in which more than 200 people died. In 2005 Baasyir had been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for his role in the attacks, and in 2011 he was jailed again and sentenced to 15 years for setting up a jihadist training camp.

In August 2014 he had pledged allegiance to former Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In 2019, current President Joko Widodo had considered early release in an effort to win votes from radical Muslims in the elections, but Baasyir had refused to recognize Pancasila, one of the conditions required for release. 

However, the Muslim leader received a discount on his sentence and was released last year. Immediately he was included in the Indonesian government's deradicalization programs, which appear to have worked. "This reflects the fact that those detained for terrorism have seriously abandoned their religious extremism," claimed the head of the National Agency for the Eradication of Terrorism, General Boy Rafli Amar, who attended the flag-raising ceremony and the taking of the oath of allegiance to the Unitary Republic of Indonesia yesterday.