Dakwah before Jihad: Understanding the Behaviour of Jemaah Islamiyah.

AuthorHwang, Julie Chernov

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...

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