07 June 2017

News Report: Survey Finds Sentiment Against Islamic State Rising in Indonesia

Noor Zahid
Fathiya Wardah

JAKARTA/WASHINGTON — Opposition to Islamic State is growing in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, according to a new opinion poll.

While an overwhelming majority of Indonesians hold negative views of the Islamic State group, a significant portion of the population said it was not a threat to the country, a new survey finds.

Ninety percent of the 1,350 adults polled nationwide viewed IS as a threat to the country and even more, 92.9 percent, favored banning the group in Indonesia, according to the May 14-20 survey by the Jakarta-based Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting.

Two years ago, a Pew Research Center poll found 79 percent of Indonesians had unfavorable opinions of IS, and only 4 percent favored the group. That survey was conducted in 11 countries with significant Muslim populations, including several in the Middle East and Africa.

The new survey, however, showed that 10 percent of those surveyed do not see IS as a threat to Indonesia, and many have never heard of the group.

Future of Islamic State

Despite the fact that IS has shown signs of expanding in the country of 258 million people, analysts in Indonesia say the group does not have a future there.

“This is very encouraging. The survey makes us hopeful because the number of people who oppose ISIS is pretty big,” said Thamrin Tamagola, a sociologist at the University of Indonesia, who used an acronym for the group.

The government and the public, however, should remain vigilant because IS and other militant groups could undermine the republic, pluralism and the authority of large Muslim organizations in the country, Tamagola said.

An ongoing battle in the southern Philippines between the military and IS-endorsed militants has raised concerns about a resurgence of Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia.

The region has made significant inroads since the early 2000s against al-Qaida-linked groups such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia.

Azyumardi Azra, a Muslim scholar and former president of the State Islamic University in Jakarta, said that unlike the Wahabi or Salafi movements, Indonesia's inclusive form of Islam and multicultural society are too strong to be defeated by the ideologies of radical Islam.

“Islam Indonesia is an Islam inherent in the culture, and Indonesian culture is basically a tolerant culture,” Azra said. “Even if IS pushes itself on Indonesia, the people of Indonesia, according to history, will rebel.”

Attacks threatened

Indonesian authorities also point out that IS has repeatedly threatened to attack the country. IS claimed responsibility for coordinated bomb and gun attacks in central Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including the four attackers.

IS has been recruiting in Indonesia, and as many as 384 people had joined by January, according to the country's counterterrorism agency. Most of those have traveled to Syria and Iraq. Government reports last year suggested as many as 169 to 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home.

Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University who studies terrorism in Indonesia, said the IS terror threat in Indonesia has been rising since mid-2014.

U.S. Treasury authorities in March sanctioned Bahrun Naim, a prominent Indonesian national, and added him to the global terrorist list for providing financial and operational support for IS in Indonesia and funneling money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.