Home Nonmilitary action The big read: Jemaah Islamiyah comes out of the shadows and plays the long game

The big read: Jemaah Islamiyah comes out of the shadows and plays the long game


The evolution of JI’s strategy at the time led some observers to qualify the group as “Neo-JI”.

“The JI under Para Wijayanto focused on religious awareness and less on jihad, because the lesson from the perspective of the JI was that global jihad and violent activities led to a backlash that decimated them,” said Professor Assoc Ramakrishna. “They wanted a long gestation period.

Wijayanto planted the seeds of rebuilding and regrouping the organization, into an organization that would bide its time by developing a solid political base in the community before re-engaging in jihad.

“This is the kind of ‘strategic patience’ that Para Wijayanto created – some would call it a ‘jihad-later’ approach,” said Prof Assoc Ramakrishna.

ISD Singapore said the regional JI network has remained “quietly active” in Indonesia, expanding its base of support through outreach and recruitment activities as well as rebuilding its military capabilities.

“The security forces’ concern over the threat of Isis in recent years has also given the JI space to regroup,” ISD said, referring to the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis ).

Isis’s ideology of creating a global caliphate centered in Iraq and Syria, through military conquest of territory, conflicted with the goals of JI and its Al-Qaeda and Taliban affiliates in Afghanistan, who among others , wanted to establish an Islamic state. based on Sharia law in their respective countries.

In Indonesia, Isis-aligned groups such as the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah and the Mujahedin in eastern Indonesia deflected authorities from the OMC threat from mid-2014. Both had carried out bloody attacks such as bombings, including against a church in Sulawesi this year, while JI ceased all violent actions.

Associate Professor Andrew Tan, Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University in Australia, said the sudden and disorderly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 – which paved the way for the return of the Taliban, another fundamentalist Islamist group – was, in fact, a blow in the arm for JI and its supporters.

“The re-emergence of the Taliban has greatly boosted the morale of activists around the world. It seems to prove to them that if you are persistent, even in the face of great odds, you can ultimately achieve victory.

“It is too early to say how this event would change the position and tactics of JI, but it would certainly comfort them,” he said.


While JI has directed his reconstruction efforts towards proselytizing his cause through above-ground entities such as corporations and charitable foundations, a notable change during Wijayanto’s reign was to participate in Indonesian politics as well.

This was a change from JI’s past stance towards participating in democracy. For the group, democratic elections are a man-made system and anathema to Islam.

In an article published in June on the JI hierarchy, V Arianti, associate researcher at RSIS, described Wijayanto’s new approach as a strategy that “emphasizes the methodical acquisition and consolidation of influence over the territory and to strengthen support ”.

Besides jihad or armed struggle, the strategy would emphasize political consolidation by winning the hearts and minds of Indonesian Muslims, through the group’s existing sermons and religious studies sessions, aligned Islamic boarding schools. on IJ, as well as by wooing community leaders to I cause.

In 2016, JI would also be involved in mass political protests, including the “212 movement” rallies against then-Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, noted the searcher.

Basuki was charged with blasphemy against Islam in a speech in 2016 and lost the governorship the following year, and was also sentenced to two years in prison.

Reports at the time indicated that JI members joined the rallies, and Wijayanto encouraged its members to vote in the elections.

Since the incident, Mr. Adhe said there has been a growing wave of conservative Islam among Indonesians, with some perceiving Joko Widodo’s current government as anti-Islam.

“This wave of Islamization is inseparable from the impact of the Jakarta governorate elections in 2017… The negative sentiment that then led to the massive demonstration did not stop when the elections ended,” Mr. . Adhe.

Assoc Prof Ramakrishna agreed, adding that the Ahok incident probably signaled to JI that people’s views may change in his favor, and may be more open to the more extreme ideas of the group.

In this context, the creation of a political party which is in effect the OMC in disguise is the natural next step for the terrorist group.

“It’s something worth watching. If you had asked me 20 years ago, I never would have expected JI to enter politics,” he said.

He pointed out that whenever Islamic extremist groups enter politics and succeed in gaining dominant political legitimacy, one of two things can happen: it could end up pushing the entire political system to the extreme, but on the other hand, it could also force the group to recognize the political realities on the ground and moderate its position further.

In the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon, its victory in the polls did not mean a formal takeover of state functions by the group, as it faced the reality of meeting the needs of citizens as it had little capacity to do so.

Since the Beirut port explosion last year, many Lebanese citizens have singled out Hezbollah for causing the country’s longstanding problems, blaming the Lebanese state’s mismanagement and corruption on the group.

Professor Assoc Ramakrishna said: “When (extremist groups) get involved in politics, they realize that life is very complicated. There’s no black and white, it’s actually very gray, and now they have to actually work with people.

However, some experts believe that JI’s political debut may have been the result of a lack of options caused by the massive crackdown on the group, rather than a deliberate change of course by JI leaders.

Assoc Prof Tan of Macquarie said of the founding of the PDRI by an alleged JI insider: “This is probably a necessary tactical decision given the loss of operational capabilities as a result of counterterrorism operations and the constant monitoring of the Indonesian counterterrorism police. “

Mr. Raffaelo Pantucci, Terrorism Analyst at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute and Senior Researcher at RSIS, noted that the question of whether JI’s recent measures are the result of strategic patience or effective deterrence on the part of the authorities remains a subject of academic debate.