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Voice of radical Islam grows louder in Indonesia

Jakarta Protest
Anti-U.S. protests like this one in Jakarta on October 1 have been growing in intensity and participation  


By CNN's Atika Shubert in Jakarta

Ilhas Iliawan is the new face of radical Islam in Indonesia - a middle-class 30-year old father of one.

He and his wife Dian attend what has now become a daily event in Indonesia: anti-American demonstrations.

Toting their two and a half year old son, Nathan, Ilhas and Dian join thousands shouting for jihad, or holy war, against the United States.

"America has already started its so-called crusade. It's only natural that every Muslim should join in the jihad." Ilhas says as he bounces Nathan in his arms.

"This war by the United States is a war to demolish all Muslims and all Muslim countries. It's not for destroying terrorists."

When Dian and Ilhas are asked what they would like Nathan to be when he grows up, they answer quickly, "A Mujahedin" (or holy warrior).

Radical Islam Galvanized

Once confined to the fringes of militant youth organizations, radical Islam has gained a toehold among Indonesia's middle classes, galvanized by the September 11 attacks.

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More than 85% of Indonesia's 200 million people are Muslim. It is the world's largest single Islamic community and is characterized by tolerance and moderation.

But since the September 11th attacks, Indonesia's Muslims have been uniting under a more radical banner.

Last week, Indonesia's top Islamic authority, the Indonesian Council for Muslim teachers, called for a jihad or holy war against the United States pending a military strike on Afghanistan.

"We ask for all the Muslims of the world to unite and gather all their forces to fight in the name of Allah in a jihad if an aggression by America and its allies occurs against Afghanistan and the Islamic world." said Din Syamsuddin, spokesperson for the Council.

After a flurry of criticism from other religious leaders, Syamsuddin softened his initial hard stand, saying jihad did not necessarily mean taking up arms.

Justifying Threats

The Council's statement was enough to justify the threats of more radical groups, however.

Ayip Syafruddin, founding member of Indonesia's largest militant group, Laskar Jihad or Jihad Army, claims to have thousands of members ready to wage war.

"If there is an attack, then as based on the Council's declaration of a jihad, there will be a move for holy war to fight against America's arrogance and terrorism towards Muslims," Syafruddin told CNN through a curtained separator in order to avoid direct eye contact with female journalists.

"This will be a massive movement. A movement that is followed not only by Laskar Jihad, but by all Muslims."

Last weekend, a small Jakarta-based group, the Defenders of Islam, threatened to storm nightspots frequented by foreigners in order to search for and evict Americans.

Police were able to prevent the anti-American sweeps but that hasn't stopped embassies and multinationals from worrying about employee safety.

Non-emergency US Embassy personnel have been authorized to leave the country if they feel threatened, as per a State Department warning last week.

So far, no incidents of anti-American violence have been reported. But, as in the case of Nike Inc., the internationally known sports clothing manufacturer, many companies do not want to wait until it happens.

"It was part of precautionary measures." Nike's Director of External Affairs, Chris Helzer, told Reuters news aagency. "We asked family member expatriates who currently live in Indonesia to leave."

Other companies are mulling whether to follow suit.



 
 
 
 



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