02/27/2007, 00.00
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Indonesia not doing enough against terrorism and Jemaah Islamiyah threat

US security expert warns that Jemaah Islamiyah is spreading its influence in the region. Catholic analyst explains reasons for rising fundamentalism and takes religious leaders to task.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – An international security expert warned the Indonesian government that it must do more to stop the activities of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. US-based Zachary Abuza made his case in a conference he addressed in Sydney today. Australia has been one of the countries most affected by al-Qaeda-related terrorism in South-East Asia. Most of the 202 victims in the 2002 Bali bombings by Jemaah Islamiyah were from Australia.

Professor Abuza did acknowledge that the Indonesian government had arrested a lot of Jemaah Islamiyah members. However, he noted that it has failed so far to realise that the organisation had morphed from a secret society into a broad-based group with strong appeal across the region.

Jemaah Islamiyah’s base is in Indonesia, especially Sulawesi Island, with preachers and militants recruiting young would-be terrorists who are then trained in Afghanistan and southern Philippines.

This is a growing phenomenon and its roots are in the “frustrations younger generations experience,” said inter-faith relations experts Fr Ignatius Ismartono, coordinator of the Crisis and Reconciliation Service of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia.

“Rising unemployment makes it easier for extremists to recruit amongst a generation that feels hopeless, without a future,” the Jesuit clergyman said. “Given the fact that the legal system has failed to stop corruption, fundamentalists call for religion to become the basis for the law of the land.”

To counter this, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist leaders as well as intellectuals have organised a campaign to improve morality in the nation as a way to fight against the use of religion as a tool of violence

“It is an attempt to send a message and bear witness that the escalation of violence and the attacks in the region are not the work of religions. Instead, religion nourishes a sincere desire to work for peace,” Father Ismartono said.

Luckily the point of no return has not yet been reached. “Inside the various religious communities the number of faithful prepared to take matters in their own hands to promote dialogue and resist fanaticism is growing,” he said.

“Conflicts that use the banner of religion are based on clashes of fundamentalisms. Now more than ever it is imperative that religious leaders understand the roots of these conflicts if they hope to avoid becoming instruments more or less conscious of the violence,” he added.

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