War Far From Won

As events in this country keep showing, the battle against Islamist extremism is one that is far from over almost a decade since terrorists blew up nightclubs on our island, killing hundreds; their follow-on attacks in Bali; and deadly bombings in the capital, Jakarta.

Ten years since the militant Islamist and the Western worlds were ostensibly pitted against each other after the attacks on the United States, many analysts have been quick to declare the war won, that Al-Qaeda and their offshoots such as Jemaah Islamiah in Southeast Asia are beaten and on the run. The reality is very different.

The horrific suicide bombing on Sunday of a packed church in Solo, Central Java, Bali’s near western neighbour, in which only the bomber died but 27 worshippers were injured, is a violent reminder of the militancy that is festering in this country.

It is a hatred not only of Western nations and their people, but one which has been allowed by the Indonesian authorities to expand to loathing of fellow Indonesians. With unending deadly attacks by hardline Islamist groups on Indonesians of other faiths, the government has stood idly by. The freedom that Indonesia fought so valiantly for, first from the Dutch colonisers and later from the iron-fisted rule of president Suharto, is now under severe threat because of the growing might of these Islamist hardliners.

That they feel they can act with impunity is bolstered by the outrageously light sentences dished out to those who attacked members of the Ahmadiyah sect in February, killing three. Worse still, an Ahmadi injured in the bloody assault was jailed for six months for defending himself.

Following Sunday’s church bombing, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lashed out at the attackers, saying: “On behalf of the country and my government, I strongly condemn terrorist acts as an extraordinary evil.” The president said he had ordered a “thorough investigation” into the little-known group that carried out the strike.

He should also ensure there is no blatant favouritism towards any group that claims to act in the name of Islam, and that all religions recognised in the constitution are protected. There must be no tolerance of intolerance.

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