Jemaah Islamiyah’s infiltration of society raises concerns
Two arrests last November highlighted how the al-Qaeda-linked group has consolidated its political wing. Its recruitment and proselytising activities have been reduced, but the group has an estimated six to seven thousand members.
Singapore (AsiaNews) – In Indonesia and neighbouring countries, victims of violent protests in the past, the evolution of Jemaah Islamiyah[*], which is estimated to have six to seven thousand members, is cause for concern.
The region’s governments, starting with that of Singapore which recently raised the alarm, fear that the movement aims, in different ways, to impose Shari'a (Islamic law) indiscriminately, linking local Muslims to international extremist Islamic groups, in an unstable area made even more permeable to jihadism by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Traditionally, radical groups have found greater support among the poorer classes of the population, but lately Jemaah Islamiyah seems to have made inroads among the urban middle classes and young people in particular.
This became clearer with the arrest, last November, of Farid Ahmad Okbah, a member of the group’s advisory council and president of Partai Dakwah Rakyat Indonesia (Indonesian People's Da'wah Party), which is dedicated to proselytising, social outreach and philanthropy.
The arrest showed how the organisation is consolidating a “third”, political front in addition to its propaganda and armed wings, which it has developed since its foundation in 1993.
The arrest, also in November, of Ahmad Zain An-Najah, a member of the Fatwa Commission of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia), is another example of how Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to infiltrate the country’s main institutions, in this case, its main religious body.
Last year, Indonesian special forces carried out a number of operations that decimated the group’s military leadership, undermining recruitment activities in many Qurʼānic schools. Not only that, proselytising (da‘wa) was also heavily affected by the arrest of a number of religious leaders.
However, arrests and raids have confirmed that Jamaah Islamiyah is changing from of a movement based of struggle to one seeking “political consolidation” (tamkin siyasi) in order to gain influence in society and political institutions, an aggiornamento that started in 2009 under the leadership of Para Wijayanto, who was arrested in 2019.
[*] Islamic Congregation.