Indonesia Becoming Terrorist Complacent; Malaysian Government Fuelling Radical Islam - Study
Security experts Dr Carl Ungerer and Dr Peter Chalk also warn that Malaysian ruling party polemics, designed to win the ethnic Malay vote, appeared to be producing an environment conducive to the emergence of Islamic extremism.
The study, released on Wednesday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) surveyed the evolving terrorist threat in Southeast Asia.
That includes Muslim radical movements in the Philippines and southern Thailand, but most importantly for Australia, the activities of JI in Indonesia.
JI is blamed for terrorist attacks on Bali in October 2002, which killed 202 people including 88 Australians, and in October 2005 which killed 23 including four Australians.
JI also is blamed for the attacks on the Jakarta Marriott Hotel in August 2003 and on the Australian embassy in Jakarta in September 2004. Each attack killed 11.
The study said JI had been hard hit by Indonesian security forces, assisted by Australia, with key members captured or killed. It had now split into a small pro-bombing group and another, more moderate group.
Dr Ungerer and Dr Chalk said JI could still count on a hard core of 900 militants and continued to represent a significant threat to Australian and regional security interests.
"Complacency will remain one of the biggest challenges Australia faces in pursuing its counter-terrorism strategies in the region. There are already some signs of this in Indonesia," they said.
"According to one Indonesian analyst, elements of the political leadership in Jakarta believe that the terrorist problem has diminished and that further counter-terrorism initiatives against JI are unwarranted or, at the very least, are unnecessary.
"Moreover, there appears to be little genuine effort across the Indonesian government to understand the underlying support dynamics or the continuing role of religious schools associated with the JI movement and affiliated jihadist groups."
Dr Ungerer and Dr Chalk said Australia needed to pay close attention to the internal dynamics of states not presently afflicted by Muslim conflicts.
Cambodia had been identified as a potential extremist logistics hub because of lax border controls, endemic corruption, entrenched criminal activity and the presence of a substantial Muslim population.
They said another state to watch was Malaysia, praised for its effective counter-terrorism stance, but which produced some of JI's most infamous leaders. "It has become increasingly apparent that radical Islam is being fuelled, somewhat paradoxically, by the policies of the central administration," they said.
"Various commentators have observed that a troubling enabling environment for extremism may have begun to surface as a result of the polemics of the ruling United Malays National Organisation, which aims to give institutional expression to a more fundamentalist ideology in order to win the Malay ethnic vote and, thereby, outflank the Parti Se-Islam Malaysia opposition." (THE AGE, Australia)
***** The irony is that Pak Lah's much touted Islam Hadhari was to supposed to usher in a more moderate face of the religion. Instead, like the state of our politics, the reverse seems to be the reality. What our PM had intended to do and what really happened are glaring opposites. Eliminate corruption he said, but we are deeply entrenched in slime at the moment. He talked the talked, but when push came to shove he didn't walk, he balked. And therein lies the tragedy of good intentions, roughly wrestled down and shattered by a lack of genuine leadership.