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Dakwah before Jihad: Understanding the Behaviour of Jemaah Islamiyah.

Today, the strongest and most influential Jihadi-Salan network in Indonesia is Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). With an estimated membership of 2,000, (1) it is recruiting among professionals and on college campuses. (2) It has learned from the mistakes of its founding generation and continues to eschew violence in favour of dakwah (Islamic propagation). Ever prioritizing opportunities for training, it sent members to Syria for three- to six-month training programmes with the then Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. However, JI continues to hold fast to the principle that Indonesia, at least under current conditions, is not an appropriate venue for amaliyat (attacks or actions) or for jihad. While some members, disgruntled by the lack of action, have defected to join groups that support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), these defections do not represent a significant portion of the network. And while members of JI or one of its splinter factions were responsible for most of the terrorist attacks in Indonesia in the 2000s, this is no longer the case.

This article argues that JI's move away from violence should not be understood as disengagement because JI did not demobilize and disarm. Instead, it cohered around the principle of postponing the use of violence until it had built up a sufficient base of support--what it termed dakwah before jihad. Since JI's inception, there has always been a major stream within the network that advocated dakwah before jihad. However, between 1998 and 2004, there also existed a far smaller but influential subgroup within the network that was committed to the use of violence in order to expedite the implementation of an Islamic state. Consolidation of support behind the dakwah before jihad strategy occurred as a result of three outcomes: first, the realization in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombing of the costs that such attacks exacted on the network; second, the splintering off of the pro-bombing wing of the group; and third, the arrests that followed the disruption of its project to build a secure base in Poso.

A movement's decision to turn away from terrorism is typically discussed in terms of disengagement or deradicalization. (3) Audrey Cronin is an exception, examining how the campaigns themselves end. Cronin identifies six pathways via which terrorist campaigns come to an end, including decapitation of the leadership, achievement of aims, transformation into a criminal organization or insurgency, massive state repression, entry into the political process, demobilization via negotiation, and implosion. (4) In exploring disengagement at the organizational level, Omar Ashour identifies four factors: leadership; selective inducements; repression; and interaction with individuals outside the network that engender demobilization and disarmament. (5) He asserts that when a movement possesses a unifying charismatic leadership, it can react to the state's selective inducements to disengage and may be more willing and able to interact productively with individuals from outside the jihadi circle that can introduce new perspectives. (6)

However, what happens if a movement or network's leaders are in competition with one another, with different factions holding differing views on the appropriateness of utilizing violence, which types of violence to use, the timing of such violence, and the conditions under which violence is suitable? What happens if a group neither transforms nor implodes but learns through its setbacks and revises its strategy to account for changing conditions? In these instances, our existing understanding of how campaign-level and organization-level disengagement occurs is limited.

The literature on disengagement among JI members has focused primarily on the individual level. (7) Organizational-level analysis has attributed de-escalation to the interplay of organizational dynamics, leadership, public attitudes and political context. (8) However, this approach is not entirely correct as public attitudes towards terrorism were documented to have shifted after JI ceased participation in terror attacks and the pro-bombing factions had already left the group. While the logic and strategies of the pro-bombing wing is well documented, JI leaders who opposed bomb attacks, and those who were largely ambivalent but gravitated to the anti-bombing position over time, is comparatively under-studied. (9)

This article first highlights the divisions between the pro and anti-bombing wings of JI and the role of Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa in solidifying those divisions. It then explores how the 2002 Bali bombing prompted a reassessment regarding the costs and benefits of launching terrorist attacks against civilian targets in non-conflict zones. Third, it addresses the departure of the pro-bombing wing and the consolidation of JI's identity as a group that legitimates participation in jihad but not the bombing of civilian targets. Fourth, it briefly addresses why JI departed from the antiviolence perspective in the district of Poso. Finally, it addresses how the confluence of these factors prompted JI leaders to focus on dakwah, tarbiyah (education), recruitment and consolidation in order to build its capacity and that decision's implications for the network.

Jemaah Islamiyah: A Network Divided

Throughout its 25-year history, JI has shown itself to be adaptable in responding to changing conditions on the ground. Founded in 1993 as a breakaway faction of Darul Islam--an underground Islamic extremist network also dedicated to building an Islamic state in Indonesia--JI's founding documents set process-oriented goals and a long timeline for its aim of transforming Indonesia into an Islamic state. The General Guidelines of Struggle (PUPJI) outlined how JI would build an Islamic state in Indonesia by first cultivating a leadership "who possess true faith, knowledge, leadership skills and adaptation mechanisms", (10) and then building a solid base of followers who would be obedient and dedicated to the group's cause. Dakwah and tarbiyah were key components of this initiative, as was the effort to establish a qoidah aminah (secure base) that would be governed by Islamic law and from which it could embark on an armed struggle. (11) Only when all these pieces were in place could JI mount operations for an Islamic state. For most of the 1990s, JI's leaders adhered to this strategy. Jemaah Islamiyah was organized hierarchically during that period, bound by loyalty to its charismatic leader, Abdullah Sungkar. The network focused on capacity building, emphasizing dakwah, recruitment and paramilitary training. It had a lean administrative structure with two divisions: the first comprising Indonesia, tasked with recruitment, and the second Malaysia and Singapore, charged with fundraising. These "Mantiqis" as they were termed were expanded in 1997 to include a "training division" comprising Sabah in East Malaysia, the Southern Philippines, East Kalimantan and Sulawesi in Indonesia. (12) Members of its Malaysia-based Mantiqi 1, at the instruction of Abdullah Sungkar, played minor roles in the failed Operation Bojinka, a plot to blow up 12 US commercial passenger jets over the Pacific, led from Manila by the 1993 World Trade Center attacker Ramzi Yousef. They provided safe houses and procured syringes to be used for making detonators for improvised explosives. (13) Otherwise, JI members were not involved in terrorist activities during that period and the network appeared fairly cohesive.

In 1998, however, this changed when Osama bin Laden released his fatwa calling on Muslims to kill Americans wherever they could find them. The fatwa revealed fissures within the upper ranks of JI's leadership. JI founders Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir took an ambiguous position, disseminating the fatwa throughout Darul Islam and JI ranks and calling for leaders to read the fatwa to members during regular study circles. (14) However, they neither endorsed the fatwa nor spoke against it. (15) Without clear guidance from Sungkar, the regional or Mantiqi leaders found themselves on opposing sides. The more internationally oriented, Malaysia-based Mantiqi 1, led by Hambali and Mukhlas, responded enthusiastically to the fatwa. By contrast, the leaders of the Indonesia-based Mantiqi 2 believed it was unsuitable for Indonesia, favouring instead adhering to the pathway delineated in the PUPJI, prioritizing the cultivation of devoted cadres through dakwah prior to carrying out any amaliyat or jihad activities. Among the most strident supporters of the fatwa, Hambali took it upon himself to foster ties with Al Qaeda, through his relationships with Khaled Sheikh Mohamed and Osama bin Laden, who he knew from his time fighting against Soviet-occupying forces in Afghanistan. Within a year of the fatwa, Hambali had established a training programme for his Mantiqi 1 members in Al Qaeda's Al Faruq training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Within two years, he had begun a bombing campaign against civilian targets, financed in part by Al Qaeda and inspired by Bin Laden's fatwa, in an attempt to ignite a civil war between Muslims and Christians in order to establish an Islamic state. (16)

By contrast, Indonesia-based Mantiqi 2 leaders like Abu Rusydan and Achmad Roichan, and some members of the Philippines, Sulawesi and East Malaysia-based Mantiqi 3, were more cautious. While they supported the fatwa in principle globally, they did not see it as applicable to Indonesia. (17) Four lines of reasoning were put forward to support this position. First, if the goal was to build an Islamic state in Indonesia, as stated in the PUPJI, then conducting attacks on Western targets was a waste of resources. (18) Second, JI needed to focus on building up its jamaah (community) and the capacities of its cadres before it could consider showing its power. (19) Third, JI had to educate Muslims about the importance of jihad before the network could launch one. (20) Finally, jihad was an individual obligation only in areas where Muslims were being attacked and the enemy and operational targets were clear. (21) Those arguing in favour of this latter perspective had no issue with violence against civilians in areas where Christians were attacking Muslims, such as on Ambon Island or in the district of Poso, or in places where Muslims were being oppressed like Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir or Mindanao. (22) However, as no one was attacking Muslims in Jakarta or Bali, amaliyat was deemed unnecessary. (23)

As Mantiqi 1 embarked on a bombing campaign, their rank and file members held a range of opinions. So did the rank and file members of Mantiqi 2 who were pulled into the attacks. These ranged from clear positions of support or opposition to ambivalence. One founding JI member who had been part of Mantiqi 1 took clear measures to distance himself from Hambali's actions, fleeing to Indonesia from Malaysia, when he learned about the bombings. He explained:
You know Samudra? He was one of my men. He said, "Let's return to
Indonesia and do jihad there with wealth and our souls?" Do they have
money? No money. Then, I heard he had been robbing people in Banten. I
felt apprehensive. I was sorry for him but what could I do? He had
chosen his path. Over a year later, he launched the bombing campaign in
Jakarta. The church bombing until the Bali bombing.
I had already returned to Indonesia from Malaysia at the time of the
Bali bombing. [After the Bali bombing], Ali Imron... he came to Jakarta
to seek protection. I kept quiet. I did not want anything to do with
it. (24)

Others were opposed to or ambivalent on the issue of bombings, but they cooperated because they were "pushed to" or because they were part of the team responsible. Thus, in-group ties or obligation, rather than ideological affinity, drove compliance. In a 2015 interview, JI member and Bali bombing participant Umar Patek asserted that when he learned about the plot, he opposed it due to the indiscriminate nature of the attack, the location and the potential for mass destruction. According to Patek:
I went there and Imam Samudra told me this programme was to blow up a
nightclub. I did not agree. I refused. I told him this is Bali, not
Palestine. The conditions are different. [Moreover], the [plan of
attack] is wrong. If you blow up a nightclub with a one-ton bomb, this
will not only destroy or kill people inside the club but also other
buildings. There were banks, shops, people passing by on bikes and in
cars. Whether or not they were Westerners, everyone would be
affected.... [but then] I went along because they pushed me to. (25)

Ali Imron also had reservations. However, unlike Patek, who was brought into the Bali bombing plot at a late stage by Dulmatin, a friend since childhood, Ali Imron was part of the planning team, assigned to do the survey. He expressed concern to his elder brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi on several occasions, raising questions regarding the appropriateness of the target, whether the attack was true jihad and what the implications of the attack would be for the network. He suggested that if they must attack foreigners, they should target a warship using a speedboat to conduct a suicide bombing. (26) Yet ultimately, he too went along with the attack, because in his words, "I was a junior member and also a younger brother.... At the time, I did not win the argument with them, so I had to follow them. My hope was at the time that the bombing would have a positive impact on our fight. I followed because I trusted my seniors in JI." (27)

Another JI member, this one from Mantiqi 2, who was recruited into Hambali's group, echoed Patek and Imron's sentiments, as well as their decisions to go along with an attack irrespective of personal conviction:
In Afghanistan, there were four ustads [religious teachers]: Syeikh
Abdullah Azzam, Syeikh Abu Thoiban, Syeikh Abu Burhan and Syeikh Abdul
Rosyid Sayyaf. These ulama gave us input and encouraged us. Ustad Abu
Sayyaf did not emphasize bombings or jihad. He called to us students,
"later when you return to Indonesia, you have to pursue gentle dakwah
in your communities". So when Hambali plotted violent actions based on
the Osama bin Laden fatwa, we tried to respond with the opinions of Abu
Thoiban, Abu Sayyaf and Abu Burhan. I believed the Osama Bin Laden
fatwa was suitable to legitimate fields of war like Afghanistan, Iraq
or Palestine or Ambon or Poso. In my view, if we could have...
implemented fatwas by those ustads (Thoiban, Burhan, Sayyaf), there
would have been no problem. However, I was part of Ustad Hambali's
group and we were already moving. I could not reject the Bin Laden
fatwa. (16)

In short, JI was not ideologically unified behind the Bin Laden fatwa and the bombing campaigns. There were clear divisions from the start. Among the leadership, those in Mantiqi 2 sought to follow the pathway laid out in the PUPJI, while those in Mantiqi 1 were emboldened by the Bin Laden fatwa and ties between Hambali and members of Al Qaeda to mount terrorist attacks against civilian targets. However, it should also be noted that while pro-and anti-[Florin]atwa wings in Indonesia and concurrently pro- and anti-bombing positions among leaders were clearly delineated, there was more ambiguity and ambivalence among the operatives and the rank and file. Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the Bali bombing, when the consequences for the network became so readily apparent, more of those JI members began migrating to the anti-bombing side.

Cost-Benefit Assessment

On 12 October 2002, JI members launched the deadliest terror attacks to date on Indonesian soil. One suicide bomber exploded a backpack bomb inside Paddy's Bar, while another detonated a car bomb in front of the Sari Club, resulting in the deaths of 202 people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 11 Hong Kongers and seven Americans. More than 300 people were wounded. The Indonesian police response was massive, with some 400 officers assigned to investigate the incident and apprehend those responsible for the atrocity. (29) Police from around the world, notably officers from the Australian Federal Police, the UK's Metropolitan Police and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, provided assistance to their Indonesian counterpart. (30)

That investigation publicly revealed JI as a network. (31) The crackdown that followed netted the perpetrators of the attack (Mukhlas, Imam Samudra, Amrozi, Ali Imron, among many others); those who were indirectly involved; and other JI members who had prior knowledge of the attack, participated in meetings where the attack was discussed, or helped the perpetrators flee or provide refuge. (32) The clampdown then extended to other JI members who had no involvement, including Achmad Roichan, Abu Rusydan, Abu Tholut and Nasir Abas. (33) The masterminds of the attack were given the death sentence, the perpetrators life sentences and individuals identified as having played a tangential role long prison sentences. These arrests, and the imprisonment of much of the network's leadership, devastated JI.

Some of those in the pro-bombing wing, including the masterminds of the attack Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Amrozi, as well as Hambali and Malaysians Noordin M. Top and Dr Azhari Husin, remained firm in their belief that the attack was justified. In Imam Samudra's view, the attacks were revenge for what US troops had done in Afghanistan. (34) Moreover, of the targets, he asserted, "There is not a single Western tourist that comes without a minimum mission to destroy morals and character." (35) Imam Samudra and Mukhlas would continue to radicalize others via social media from their prison cells until they were executed in 2008. However, several perpetrators, including Ali Imron, Sawad, Mubarok and Umar Patek, went through a process of reassessing whether the attack had been justified in the first place.

For Ali Imron, in particular, the aftermath of the attack, the arrest of his elder brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi, and the decimation of JI as a network, convinced him that he had been correct in his opposition to the attack. He contends older brother Amrozi's arrest on 5 January 2003 prompted that conviction:
When Amrozi was caught after the Bali bombing, this was a sign our
jihad was wrong. Why? Because jihad needs to generate something
positive, just like what the Prophet did. From the start to the end,
because the jihad was right, the Prophet won positive results. But with
the arrest of Amrozi, it meant the jihad was wrong. I became more aware
that this kind of fighting had to stop. After Imam Samudra was
arrested, I became more and more aware. That really showed me that we
had made a mistake in jihad. (36)

He broke from his elder siblings and began cooperating with the Indonesian authorities. He started leading discussion groups in prisons to socialize his new anti-bombing viewpoint among those JI members who had been arrested for direct or indirect participation in terror attacks. In 2007, he published Ali Imron, Sang Pengebom [Ali Imron, the Bomber), an autobiography and account of his reassessment of his actions. In it, he reiterated that jihad is an individual obligation in areas where Muslims are under threat. (37) However, he delineated between legitimate jihad and the actions undertaken by the pro-bombing wing, which, he contended, had adverse consequences for the network and the Muslim community as a whole. He explained:
Jihad in the name of Allah, which should promise glory, in fact caused
the bombers and those who assisted them to be vilified, because they
had to be searched for, pursued, imprisoned. And jihad in the name of
Allah, which should be a means of eliminating discord, in fact, caused
discord. All of this was because we made mistakes in our path and
conduct of the obligations of jihad in the name of Allah. (38)

It is important to note that reassessment by Ali Imron and others involved in the attacks occurred gradually, with some JI members arriving at this view more quickly than others. Echoing several of these themes, Sawad, another perpetrator of the Bali bombing, explained:
While helping, I felt jihad was probably like this. Carried out in
Indonesia. The [global] conditions are bad. Afghanistan has been
attacked. At the time, I believed that to strike back was a must.
Afterwards, I thought it over deeply. I felt that probably it would be
best that the jihad movement in Indonesia not do things at random. When
observing after the Bali bombing, we know that the Muslim community is
not too supportive. So there must be dakwah first on the importance of
jihad. The community has to be able to accept it. Jihad actions can be
carried out but some important requirements must be observed. For
example, location, target. (39)

Over the coming years, the movement--from pro-bombing members and ambivalent members to the anti-bombers--continued as they weighed the costs and benefits for themselves, interacted with disengaging JI members like Ali Imron and Nasir Abas and internalized JI's anti-bombing dakwah before jihad narrative through discussions.

Departure of Noordin Top's Group

As ambivalent JI members were arriving at the conclusion that the costs of bombings outweighed the benefits, unrepentant pro-bombing members, led by Noordin M. Top and Dr Azhari following the arrest of Hambali in Thailand in 2003, continued to launch attacks against Western targets. They justified their actions on the grounds that jihad did not require the permission of an emir or an organization, because defensive jihad was obligatory for all Muslims. (40) Although they considered themselves to be JI members, they were following Hambali and Mukhlas' precedent of a secret team pursuing jihad outside of formal organizational channels. (41) They conducted one bombing a year between 2003 and 2005. The first, at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in August 2003, was planned by Azhari and Top and orchestrated by JI members, primarily alumni from the Ngruki, Darusysyahadah and Luqmanul Hakim boarding schools. (42) While JI's central command was apprised of the Marriott attack, it is unclear whether they endorsed it. (43)

By the Australian Embassy attack in 2004, however, opinion within JI had shifted more solidly away from the pro-bombing view. JI leaders tried to send an unambiguous message to Top and Azhari urging them to halt their attacks. A ruling was issued stating that if Azhari and Top ceased their attacks, they would be protected, but if they continued no one in the network should assist them. (44) Around this same time, JI's leaders told their members they could inform the police of the whereabouts of Top and Azhari, if they had information on their locations. (45) It is important to note that irrespective of what JI's leaders said, members with personal ties to Azhari and Top continued to assist them.

In 2005, Azhari and Top broke from JI on their own accord. However, both still considered themselves to be members of JI. (46) They called their new breakaway unit, Al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago, a name pointing to admiration rather than affiliation. Al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago was less a formal organization and more a cell of 10-15 persons with an ever changing membership. (47) That, according to Solahudin, was the key to their success: if cell members were arrested after a bombing, Top and Azhari recruited new ones. (48) The Australian Embassy bombing, the second Bali bombing in 2005 and the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton attacks in 2009 relied more heavily on operatives from the margins of JI and outside of JI, including members of Mujahidin KOMPAK, Ring Banten (a violent offshoot of Darul Islam), the Subur Cell (a radical study group in Semarang led by a JI member), and even a group based in Palembang that was fighting Christian missionary efforts among Muslims.

With the shedding of their pro-bombing wing, JI as a network moved solidly away from the bombing of civilian targets in non-conflict zones. Thus, JI members no longer had two competing streams within one movement regarding bombings, but rather separate but related groups with significantly different views on the conditions under which violence was permissible, the location in which attacks should take place and acceptable targets. On the one hand, Top, who fashioned himself as the Indonesian Abu Musab al Zarqawi, (49) carried out qital nikaya, or iterated attacks to weaken the enemy. (50) On the other hand, JI, as well as other jihadist groups who saw Top's actions as overzealous, drew on a 2006 article by the popular Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi cleric, Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, which criticized bombings as causing too many Muslim casualties, and stated that jihadists must consider the costs to and benefits for the Muslim community, thus echoing many of the points JI members had long been making among themselves. (51)

Al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago ended with the death of Top in 2009. It did not have enough supporters and members to survive the death of its leader. There was no second generation leadership within Al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago to take the group forward. However, the ideas they put forward regarding the use of violence continued to be adopted by takfiris (those who declare fellow Muslims as apostates, particularly those who fail to subscribe to their particular rigid understanding of Islam and appropriate behaviour for Muslims) from outside the JI network.

Decimation by Arrests Again: The Case of Poso

While JI members diverged over whether or not the bombing of civilian targets outside of conflict areas was permissible, all agreed that attacks carried out in the context of a legitimate jihad where Muslims were under threat was allowed. In fact, it was an obligation to come to their rescue. JI members involved in Poso would command teams that would carry out amaliyat, including bombings and assassinations of Christian civilian targets during this period. In Poso, therefore, the Mantiqi 1 and Mantiqi 2 delineations or the pro-bombing and anti-bombing division had less significance. It was Mantiqi 3 that was in charge in Poso, and its leaders were permitting attacks on civilians. Their leaders were directing the teams. After the Mantiqi structure collapsed and JI was decimated by arrests, JI members on Java continued to funnel weapons to their counterparts in their local affiliate, Tanah Runtuh, in Poso. Thus, while a majority of JI members was moving away from violence in non-conflict areas, in conflict zones JI was still using violence until the police counter-terrorism team raided their headquarters at the Tanah Runtuh compound in January 2007. It was the mass arrests following the 2007 raids that prompted another reassessment of strategy, culminating in the conclusion that JI had to turn away from violence in Indonesia in order to survive.

JI's involvement in the Poso conflict followed the massacre of a hundred people, mostly women and children, at a mosque and Islamic centre at Walisongo by Christian militiamen in May 2000. In the weeks after the Walisongo massacre, then head of Mantiqi 3, Abu Tholut, came to assess the situation and relayed back to JI central that at least a hundred experienced fighters were required. (52) JI then sent Achmad Roichan, Firmansyah and Muhammad Qital to Poso to meet with Haji Adnan Arsal, a hardline Islamist leader in the area to inquire about their needs--did they want preachers or fighters? (53) Arsal replied that they needed both. However, to the surprise of Arsal and Abu Tholut, Mantiqi 2 only sent six to ten members, to act as trainers. Some were assigned to dakwah, while others were tasked to focus on tadrib (paramilitary training]. (54) They set up a base of activities at Tanah Runtuh, the area where Arsal's home, pesantren (boarding school) and mosque were located.

Upon arrival, JI invested heavily in recruitment. Initially, JI members went into neighbourhoods, identified young people and told them to invite their friends to the pengajian (study sessions) that JI had begun holding in local mosques. (55) JI then monitored regular attendees. "B.R.", a former commander in Tanah Runtuh who asked to use these initials as a pseudonym and who was part of the first batch of recruits, reported that "after maybe about seven times", attendees at Islamic studies sessions were invited to join in tadrib. (56) That was followed by dauroh (group Islamic studies sessions) and eventually taking bai'at (the oath of loyalty). (57) When they took the bai'at, the initial recruits swore their oaths before JI ustads, thus becoming inducted into JI. (58) However, they were not, in fact, apprised that they had joined JI. (59) Instead, they referred to themselves as Tanah Runtuh, perceiving themselves as a local group with local goals, despite the fact that JI members were at the apex of their structure and critical to their ability to launch operations.

Between 2000 and 2007, Poso became the most valuable staging ground for JI paramilitary and economic activities. In the first year and a half after the arrival of the "ustads from Java", as the Poso jihadis termed them, the focus of JI activities centred on paramilitary training to help Muslims wage war on Christians alongside efforts to provide religious instruction in order to cultivate a mass base for JI. (60) After the Malino Peace Accord in December 2001--a negotiated agreement between representatives of the national government and the Muslim and Christian sides in the conflict--JI's focus shifted towards transforming Poso into a qoidah aminah (secure base) that could serve as a "beach head", a refuge, a paramilitary training ground, an area where Islamic law could be applied, a revenue generating area, and eventually, an area from which JI could launch jihad. Poso was an ideal location for a secure base. Strategically, their investments in developing a base of support were paying off as Poso's Muslim community supported their presence. (61) Geographically, the mountainous terrain offered solid defences, the soil was fertile and the sea and rivers promised abundant resources. (62) The secure base as a concept was of great importance: it was highlighted in the PUPJI as a necessary step prior to launching a jihad. Thus, building and maintaining a secure base was not only of practical importance to JI but an ideological booster as well.

Initially, in the aftermath of the Malino Peace Accords, the Poso-based jihadists obeyed the call by Nasir Abas and other senior leaders for a halt to violence, despite their belief that the peace accords were a humiliation. (63) However, following the arrest of Abas in 2003, Hasanuddin, head of the Poso wakalah [subdivision], sanctioned terrorist attacks against Christian targets, fuelled by the desire for revenge among the Tanah Runtuh members under his command. Between 2003 and 2006, this wing within Tanah Runtuh --effectively its hit squad--carried out dozens of attacks in and around Poso, including bombings, robberies and assassinations, culminating in the murder in October 2005 of four schoolgirls, three of whom were beheaded, an attack that dismayed even hardline JI members. (6) Hasanuddin approved the attacks. This was no rogue operation, however. JI's leadership on Java continued to send senior teachers to Poso, and business meetings of the JI executive council centred on how to get arms, ammunition and explosives to Poso from Ambon and the Philippines. (65)

Why was JI so deeply involved in events in Poso? First, Poso provided much needed revenue from fa'i (religiously sanctioned robbery) at a time when JI was short of funds and struggling to assist the families of their imprisoned members. (66) Second, Poso was beneficial for morale; JI structures may have been crumbling on Java, but was still strong in Poso. JI may have banned amaliyat in Indonesia, but they carved out an exception for Poso. (67) Thus, following the rift between Noordin Top's faction and JI, Poso was one of the last remaining places in Indonesia where JI members could see progress towards their goals.

In January 2007, raids on the Tanah Runtuh compound by the police counter-terrorism detachment, Densus 88, brought an end to JI's efforts to build a secure base in Poso. The ten-hour siege resulted in the death of 14 jihadis and one police officer. The raids had massive consequences for JI. In the subsequent months, the police arrested 64 JI members, including its interim Amir Zarkasih, and Abu Dujana. Initially, Dujana and his team had considered a retaliatory strike, but after two meetings they concluded that it was unwise as they were unprepared. (68) The lack of a retaliatory attack marked a decisive strategic shift among JI's members, including Abu Dujana who had previously been supportive of continued operations.

The loss of the secure base in Poso, and the lack of a retaliatory attack, dealt a severe blow to JI morale. However, it also reinforced the conviction that the network needed to focus on dakwah, education and capacity building, if it ever hoped to achieve its goals in Indonesia. Thus, in the years that followed the loss of the secure base in Poso, there was, perhaps, even more receptivity to arguments that spoke to the need to postpone armed attacks and think rationally about their targets, timing, location and conditions. Such arguments were made by Ali Imron in his 2007 autobiography, in which he asserted that Muslims were too weak to confront the state at this time--it was necessary to undertake i'dad (preparations) prior to considering amaliyat. (69) He also explained how bombings were counter-productive to their overall goals, and he pointed out that the attacks lacked community support and thus only served to divide the umma. (70) JI's spiritual leader, Abu Rusydan, also spoke to these same points in a 2010 article in the JI-affiliated magazine, An Najah, where he highlighted that when conditions did not allow for jihad, and when Muslims were not capable or strong enough, it was an obligation to undertake i'dad. (71) Interviews conducted by the author with 17 JI members between 2010 and 2016 repeatedly echoed Ali Imron's points about the lack of community support and the counter-productiveness of attacks, implying that the arguments were spreading among the operatives and rank and file members who were coming into contact with Imron. (72)

Another text from the same period that contributed to the anti-bombing discourses within JI was "They are Mujahidin but They Made Mistakes" by Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi cleric Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi. Maqdisi declared it was not acceptable to kill Muslims and that one can contribute to the eventual Islamic victory by methods other than suicide attacks. (73) One can see the impact of Maqdisi's points, particularly those regarding the necessity of avoiding Muslim deaths, in a posting in 2010 by a new JI above ground dakwah affiliate, Majlis Dakwah Ummat Indonesia (MDUI) that was established in 2009 to spread the call for an Islamic state and the implementation of Islamic law:
You can learn from the bombings in Jakarta that caused Muslim deaths.
Just imagine a da'i (preacher) having to support jihad in front of
ordinary people. What Quranic verse or hadith can a preacher use to
support you? Have we reached conditions here that are so dire that we
don't even have to take Muslim deaths into consideration? Are we in a
situation where, if Islamic forces don't attack the enemy with the risk
of Muslim casualties, the enemy will defeat the faithful with even
worse consequences? In such conditions, shedding Muslim blood can be
justified. But you must answer this question honestly: is there no way
to oppose the US or the West in Indonesia other than by shedding Muslim
If the answer is yes, then we have reached a state of emergency. But if
there are other means, for example if you become a sniper who can
guarantee that your victim will fall, or use poison or hitting a car or
other such methods, then we have not reached such conditions. This
means you are an egotist, you are not taking into consideration how
difficult it is for scholars and preachers to defend you. You are happy
living with your own logic, as if you're on another planet. You feel
resentful when we don't come to your defence. When we say this isn't
jihad by law, you become angry. (74)

Here, the post echoes both points by Maqdisi and Ali Imron, highlighting the necessity to avoid indiscriminate Muslim deaths and how such attacks only serve to divide the umma. Likewise, it also resonates with another point made by Abu Rusydan regarding the egoism of those that rush to martyrdom. (75)

In sum, by 2010 JI had resolved to commit itself to dakwah, education and rebuilding its economic and human resource capacities. The network learned from the mass arrests that followed the 2007 Densus 88 raids in Poso that it could not conduct amaliyat in Indonesia without risking the decimation of the network via imprisonment. They could either change strategies or be arrested into irrelevance. Thus, JI became more proactive in socializing arguments for dakwah before jihad, for why Indonesia at that juncture was an inappropriate place for jihad, and why those who disagreed with this position needed to examine the root of their motivations.

JI Reemerges

In the decade since the 2007 Densus 88 raids on the Tanah Runtuh compound, JI has remained committed to the principle that it will not use violence in Indonesia, given the current conditions. While terrorist attacks continue to occur in Indonesia, they have largely been perpetrated by pro-ISIS groups. By contrast, JI members have held fast to the position that they first need to cultivate a mass following via dakwah prior to embarking on jihad. In short, they have postponed it. Evidence that JI has not abandoned jihad can be found in the activities of its military wing which is engaged in activities that Abu Rusydan described as i'dad (preparations). (76) To that end, they are collecting weapons to be used in the future, at such a time as they are ready to take on the state. They are holding training activities centred on physical fitness, which include running, self-defence, swimming, martial arts, archery, swordplay, knife-throwing and horseback riding. (77) A 2014 training course also included assembling and dissembling an M-16 assault rifle, although there was only one actual gun available. (78) Internationally, JI sent members to Syria for three- to six-month tours with then Al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. While there, they learned how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47 assault rifle and an FN pistol; studied the M-16 and hand grenades; and how to fire AK-47s. (79) Of those who returned, none have launched terrorist attacks.

Instead, JI has been focusing on building up its network. In 2009, it established MDUI to spread the message of the importance for Muslims to implement Islamic law. (80) According to the MDUI spokesman in Klaten, as of 2011, they had sent preachers to 65 locations outside of Java, including majority Christian provinces like East Nusa Tenggara and Papua. (81) JI members have also participated in mass protests such as the 2017 demonstrations against then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (also known as Ahok), in so doing allying with other like-minded Islamist groups. (82) They continue to build a network of schools, now estimated to include more than 60 boarding schools, as well as elementary schools that act as feeders. (83) They are also recruiting on college campuses.


JI has not disengaged from terrorism per se because the terrorist organization never demobilized and disarmed. JI always contained within it a stream that advocated and practised dakwah before jihad. What has taken place over the past decade and a half has been the consolidation of dakwah before jihad as the dominant view within the network; the ambivalent members' gradual adoption of that perspective; and the realization by that subset of members that the costs of terrorist attacks in the form of public revulsion, arrests, imprisonment, seizure of materials and loss of manpower exceeded any benefits. This was a lesson that JI's pro-bombing members had to learn repeatedly, first in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali and 2003 Marriott bombings, and then again in the arrests that followed the 2007 raid on the Tanah Runtuh compound in Poso. They could commit to dakwah, education and capacity building or be arrested into irrelevance.

Thus, we should not think about JI's strategic shift as disengagement per se but instead as a result of its learning. In order to ensure their survival and to achieve their long-term goals, understanding what the state apparatus will and will not tolerate became essential for the group. JI has learned over the past two decades that the dakwah before jihad strategy followed by Mantiqi 2 may be less attractive to zealous members eager to engage in amaliyat, but it was, and continues to be, the pathway via which the network can survive, build its capacity and spread its influence.


(1) Sidney Jones quoted in Randy Fabi and Kanupriya Kapoor, "As Indonesia Hunts Down Islamic State, Homegrown Jihadists Regroup", Reuters, 14 February 2016, available at <>.

(2) Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, "The Reemergence of Jemaah Islamiyah", #36 (27 April 2017), p. 9, available at <>.

(3) Daniel Koehler, Understanding Deradicalization (London, UK: Routledge, 2017), p. 28.

(4) Audrey Kurth Cronin, How Terrorism Ends (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011), p. 8.

(5) Omar Ashour, The Deradicalization of Jihadists (London, UK: Routledge, 2009), pp. 14-17.

(6) Ibid.

(7) See Julie Chernov Hwang, Why Terrorists Quit: The Disengagement of Indonesian Jihadists (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2018); Julie Chernov Hwang, Rizal Panggabean and Ihsan Ali Fauzi, "When We Were Separated, We Began to Think for Ourselves Again: The Disengagement of Jihadists in Poso, Indonesia", Asian Survey 53, no. 4 (2013); Najib Azca, After Jihad (Amsterdam Institute for Social Research, 2011).

(8) Ioana Emy Matesan, "Organizational Dynamics, Public Condemnation, and the Impetus to Disengage from Violence", Terrorism and Political Violence (January 2018), available at <>.

(9) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2013); Quinton Temby, "Jihadists Assemble: The Rise of Militant Islam in Southeast Asia", unpublished PhD thesis, Australian National University, July 2017.

(10) Elena Pavlova, "Jemaah Islamiyah according to the PUPJI", in A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia, edited by Andrew T.H. Tan (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2007), p. 82; Markaziyah of Jemaah Islamiyah, "The General Guidelines of Struggle of Jemaah Islamiyah", 1996, p. 5.

(11) Markaziyah, "The General Guidelines of Struggle", op. cit., p. 30.

(12) Hwang, Why Terrorists Quit, op. cit., p. 31.

(13) Temby, Jihadists Assemble, op. cit., p. 181.

(14) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 172.

(15) Temby, Jihadists Assemble, op. cit., p. 191.

(16) Author interview with Nasir Abas, former commander of JI Mantiqi 3, Jakarta, Indonesia, March 2006.

(17) Author interview with Ahu Rusydan, JI's spiritual leader and former Amir, Kudus, Indonesia, July 2018.

(18) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 172.

(19) Author interview with Abu Rusydan, JI's spiritual leader and former Amir, Kudus, Indonesia, July 2018.

(20) Ibid.

(21) Temby, Jihadists Assemble, op. cit., p. 193.

(22) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 171.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Author interview with Abdul Kohar, former member of Mantiqi 1, Jakarta, Indonesia, January 2012.

(25) Author interview with Umax Patek, JI member, Porong Prison, outside Surabaya, July 2015. One might suspect Umar Patek was simply telling a Western scholar something they wanted to hear, but long before I met Patek, I had interviewed Ali Fauzi, the half-brother of Ali Imron, Mukhlas and Amrozi who fled to the Philippines in the aftermath of the Bali bombing despite not being involved in any bombings. He feared guilt by association. He was there when Patek arrived and said that they discussed the Bali bombings at some length. He said that Patek had opposed to the bombings but felt obligated to go along.

(26) Author interview with Ali Imron, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2011.

(27) Author interview with Ali Imron, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 2015.

(28) Author interview with JI member, Jakarta, 2011.

(29) Greg Barton, Jemaah Islamiyah (Singapore: Ridge Books, 2005), p. 8.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Hwang, Why Terrorists Quit, op. cit., p. 41.

(32) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 190.

(33) Hwang, Why Terrorists Quit, op. cit., p. 41.

(34) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 188.

(35) Ibid.; for more information on the background of Imam Samudra, see also Angus MacIntyre, Imam Samudra's Revenge (Melbourne, Australia: MUP Academic, 2016).

(36) Author interview with Ali Imron, Jemaah Islamiyah member, POLDA Metro, Jakarta, Indonesia, June 2011.

(37) Ali Imron, Ali Imron Sang Pengebom [Ali Imron, the Bomber] (Jakarta, Indonesia: Republika, 2007), pp. 179-82.

(38) Ibid., p. 221.

(39) Interview with Sawad, JI member and Bali bombing perpetrator, Semarang, Indonesia, January 2012.

(40) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 196.

(41) International Crisis Group, "Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin's Networks", Asia Report 114 (May 2006), p. 3, available at <>.

(42) Ibid., p. 4.

(43) Ibid.

(44) Author interviews with multiple members of Jemaah Islamiyah in July and August 2018.

(45) Sidney Jones, "The Changing Face of Terrorism in Indonesia: Weaker, More Diffuse and Still a Threat", speech delivered at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 15 September 2005.

(46) International Crisis Group, "Terrorism in Indonesia", op. cit., p. 1.

(47) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 196.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Abu Musab al Zarqawi was the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006.

(50) Sidney Jones, "Countering Extremism on Indonesian Internet Sites: Substance, Style and Timing", CTITF Conference, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 24 January 2011.

(51) Solahudin, Hoofs of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 197.

(52) Author interview with Abu Tholut, former commander of JI Mantiqi 3, Bekasi, Indonesia, July 2018.

(53) International Crisis Group, "Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi", Asia Report 74 (3 February 2004), pp. 7-8, available at <>; Kirsten Schulze, "From Ambon to Poso: Comparative and Evolutionary Aspects of Local Jihad in Indonesia", Contemporary Sout0heast Asia 41, no. 1 (April 2019).

(54) Author interview with Abu Tholut, former commander of JI Mantiqi 3, Bekasi, Indonesia, July 2018.

(55) Ibid.

(56) Author interview with B.R., former trainer with Tanah Runtuh, Palu Indonesia, August 2017; Julie Chernov Hwang and Kirsten Schulze, "Why They Join: Pathways into Indonesian Jihadist Organizations", Terrorism and Political Violence (6 July 2018), available at <>.

(57) Ibid.; author interview with B.R., former trainer with Tanah Runtuh, Palu Indonesia, August 2017.

(58) Hwang and Schulze, "Why They Join", op. cit, p. 10; author interview with B.R., former trainer with Tanah Runtuh, Palu Indonesia, August 2017.

(59) Hwang and Schulze, "Why They Join", op. cit., p. 10.

(60) Solahudin, Roots of Indonesian Terrorism, op. cit., p. 193.

(61) Ibid.

(62) Ibid.

(63) Hwang, Why Terrorists Quit, op. cit., p. 39.

(64) Interview with "Abdullah Ahmed", former head of JI's wakalah in Palu, Solo, Indonesia, August 2018.

(65) Sidney Jones, "The Fall and Rise of Jemaah Islamiyah", unpublished manuscript, p. 2.

(66) Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, "The Reemergence of Jemaah Islamiyah", op. cit., p. 2.

(67) Jones, "The Fall and Rise of Jemaah Islamiyah", op. cit., p. 4.

(68) International Crisis Group, "Indonesia: Tackling Radicalism in Poso", Asia Beport 75 (22 January 2008), p. 2.

(69) Jones, "Countering Extremism on Indonesian Internet Sites", op. cit., p. 5.

(70) Ibid.

(71) Abu Rusydan, "Bukan Pengecut Tapi Siasat [Not Cowardly But Tactical]", An Najah Edisi 56 (May 2010).

(72) Author interview with members of Jemaah Islamiyah in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2010-16.

(73) Jones, "Countering Extremism on Indonesian Internet Sites", op. cit., p. 4.

(74) Ibid.

(75) Ibid.

(76) Rusydan, "Bukan Pengecut Tapi Siasat", op. cit.

(77) Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, "The Reemergence of Jemaah Islamiyah", op. cit., p. 7.

(78) Ibid.

(79) Ibid.

(80) Ibid, p. 4.

(81) Ibid.

(82) "Jakarta Rally Descends into Chaos; Jokowi Urges Protesters to go Home", Straits Times, 4 November 2016, available at <>.

(83) Numbers on schools come from Noor Huda Ismail, August 2018. Note on elementary schools come from a JI member in Semarang, August 2018.

JULIE CHERNOV HWANG is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Goucher College, Baltimore. Postal address: Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204, United States; email:

DOI: 10.1355/cs41-1b
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Author:Hwang, Julie Chernov
Publication:Contemporary Southeast Asia
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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