Terrorist Affiliations and the Journey to Cosmic War

Ali Jafar | CRCS | Wednesday Forum Report

Maurisa, a CRCS alumna from the batch of 2011, presented her award-winning paper in Wednesday forum of CRCS-ICRS in 11th November 2015. Her paper entitled “The Rupture of Brotherhood, Understanding JI-Affiliated Group Over ISIS”, was awarded as best paper in IACIS (International Conference on Islamic Studies) in Manado, September. Maurisa was glad to share her paper with her younger batch. To all the audiences, Maurisa told that winning as best paper was not her high expectation, and it makes her proud.

The presentation began with Maurisa’s statement that the issue of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are quite to understand in relation to modern terrorism, because we always misread them and sometime we cannot differentiate between ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Maurisa continues her explanation that there are many groups in Iraq and Syria struggling for their power, terrorism is not single but many. ISIS also has supporters in Indonesia such as Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI-Islamic Group) which is considered as a big terrorist organization in Southeast Asia. This group (JI) has disappears from public consciousness, but actually its members have been spreading out. The most fascinating thing that she found is that JI in Indonesia. JI was separated into two, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) and Jama’ah Anshar at-Tauhid (JAT), and surprisingly JAT itself has internal conflict and divided into two; JAT and JAS (Jama’ah Anshar as Syari’ah).

Maurisa’s paper focused on questions about how does the conflict in Syria resonates with Jihadists in Indonesia, and how does political struggle within MMI show belief in a master narrative. Maurisa used Juergensmeyer’s perspective about cosmic war and the logic of religious violence. In the Juergensmeyer perspective, an ordinary conflict could become religious conflict when it is raised into cosmic level. One of the ways is demonization or Satan-ization of the enemy. In the context of Syria, the demon is Shia group which is blamed for chaotic situation within Sunni community. The master narrative was also about the same language. It is about sadness, it is about the sad feeling of being discriminated and persecuted by Shia.

According to Maurisa, not all jihadist groups support ISIS, indeed MMI was supporting Jabhat an-Nusra. The rupture of this affiliation was based on their differences in the perspective of takfirism (Apostasy). JAT and MMI have different perspectives in defining  what Takfir Am (general apostasy) and takfir Muayyan (specific apostasy) is.

In seeing terrorist movements, although Maurisa saw that Jihad-ism is not monolithic, she revelas that there are five elements which are related each other. There are ideological resonance, strategic calculus, terrorist patron, escalation of conflict and the last is charismatic leadership. Terrorists also use social media, such as Facebook, Youtube and so on, to promote their propaganda, and as soft approach to other Muslims. Based on Maurisa’s research there are 50000 social media accounts to spread ISIS propaganda, but only 2000 are used to spread out propaganda. The most popular social media is Twitter, because a message can be retwited..

In the discussion session, Nida, a CRCS student asked about the current issues in which governments have banning Shi’a celebration in Indonesia, and whether there is any relation with ISIS, and how an Indonesian can be involved in the terrorism. Maurisa answered the question by explaining that Indonesia is about to change. It can be seen in Islamization created room for Islam in the public sphere. Indonesia is vulnerable since Wahabis and Iran have their political goals here and both want to establish their domination to spread out their agenda. Cases in Sampang, Madura, Pakistan and so on cannot be separated from international case. There are long story for transformation of Saudi and Iran. Our country is like something too.  In talking about the entrance gate, Turkey is good entrance from Indonesia to go to Syria. If we see Turkey’s position is also questionable. They deny Isis, but they also support Isis.

Subandri also asked about the ways we interpret jihad are accessible. Therefore there are many interpretations of Jihad. That is what looks like for young Muslim now. Along with Subandri, Ruby also asked about the genealogy of Indonesian Jihadist movement. Like the connection between Indonesia and middle east that coming and potential realignment and the effect of JAT over ISIS.

In seeing connection and global phenomena, a relation between Islam and Middle East, Maurisa explained that in the United State for instance, there is relation if you wear jilbab, you are Muslim, and when you are Muslim, you are ISIS.  “Here we can see the idea about securitization is like Islamophobia”, said Maurisa with showing slide about relation between Indonesia and Middle East. As she explained again “If we look at voice of Islam, we can see that there are solidarities for Syria. It is reported that medical mission in Indonesia, they have collected 1.6 million. For Syria suggesting support for the movement of mujahidin”. Maurisa also explained that globalization is the most responsible for this case. For example many Indonesia Muslims have easy access to Saudi, Iranian, Jihadist web, because of technology and so on. Young Indonesian have a lot of curiosity and they don’t ask to other.

In responding the interpretation of jihad, Maurisa gives a feedback, how do we interpret this? What makes cosmic war happen? And how to deal with them?. Maurisa began her explanation that in Islam, although there are many verses for killing, but it not necessary to do in violence. We have many steps in interpretation. There are many reasons for what make Muhammad approve of killing and in what context he did so. There are many possibilities to interpret jihad and there are many verses of good thing about Jihad. In talking about cosmic war, she said that “as long as we consider our enemy as Satan, or evil, meaning it is cosmic war”. At the end of discussion session, Maurisa concluded that the factor of jihad is not monolithic; there are many factors, even in ISIS and Al-Qaeda have different perspectives about jihad.

(Editor: Gregory Vanderbilt)

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