Don't join ISIS, religious affairs minister tells Indonesians

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia's religious affairs minister made a strong appeal to its citizens on Friday, August 1, not to join the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the wake of another call for Indonesians to join it.

An 8-minute video recently released by the Islamic State titled "Join the Ranks" shows a group of men, most of whom are carrying rifles, exhorting Indonesians to join them.

"We ask you, where's your faith? Why are you worried? What's the reason for your fear? Are your wives and children the reason that you're prevented from jihad?" one of the men identified as Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi says in Bahasa Indonesia. English subtitles are provided in the video.

"Are your homes, businesses, and wealth more beloved to you than Allah, His Messenger, and jihad in His path?" the man says.

The video goes on to declare the "good news" that "the Islamic State implements the Sharia of Allah in the entire land," and that social issues are addressed and help are provided to those who need it.

It concludes with a call to join them and pledge allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State straddling Iraq and Syria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim

In the statement released on Friday, Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin called the ISIS a violent and radical group whose ideology runs counter to the Pancasila, the 5-point philosophical foundation of Indonesia that includes democracy, justice, and humanity.

"Swearing an oath and pledging allegiance to a foreign nation or part of a foreign nation could make an Indonesian lose his/her citizenship," said the minister, who comes from the mainstream Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Islamic organization. 

He also reminded Muslims that preaching should be carried out peacefully, not violently, and asked ulemas, or Islamic scholars, to reinforce the concept of Islam as rahmatan lil alamin or a blessing for mankind.

The video is not the first call made to Indonesians to join the ISIS. Jailed Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and founder of its reincarnation Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), last month instructed his followers to support the ISIS. (READ: Support ISIS, jailed Indonesian terror leader tells followers)

On June 9, the day ISIS began its march to capture Baghdad, a video of Indonesian men in Syria was posted on YouTube. Speaking in Bahasa Indonesia with snippets of Arabic, they urged their countrymen to join ISIS: “Let us fight in the path of Allah because it is our duty to do jihad in the path of Allah.” (Read: Southeast Asian recruits join jihadist ISIS)

Indonesian National Police chief General Sutarman said last month that at least 56 Indonesian citizens have joined ISIS. Ansyaad Mbai, the chief of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), told Rappler some of them have returned from Iraq.

Terrorism experts warn that returning jihadists from Syria and Iraq would reinvigorate local radicals, the same way returning jihadists from Afghanistan led to terrorist attacks in the country. Most of the bombers behind the deadly 2002 Bali bombing, for instance, were Afghan veterans.

A source told Rappler in June that recruitment for ISIS in Indonesia was being carried out by a foundation located just a hundred meters from Ngruki, Central Java, where Ba’asyir ran the Al Mukmin pesantren that was also said to have recruited jihadists.

“All militants going to Syria or to Iraq are recruited by NGOs,” Ansyaad said in a recent interview. “They use various names, but we know these are just covers. The main sources are linked to JI or JAT or NII (Negra Islam Indonesia or Indonesian Islamic State).”

“Once they launch the issue of caliphate, there is no more difference between them. This is their common goal,” he said. – Rappler.com