Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jemaah Islamiyah Briefer: Evolution, Organization and Ideology

a)    Evolution

Though many works have already been written about the Jemaah Islamiyah ( JI), there has been no single literature describing the precise origin of the group.[1]   Most studies traced the origin of JI from the Darul Islam (DI or “House of Islam”), a  separatist rebel movement organized in 1948 in Indonesia by Soekarmadji Maridjan Kartosoewirjo who is said to have a dream of establishing a Islamic state in the archipelago (Negara Islam Indonesia or NII).   The demise of DI in 1962,  as result of vigorous counter rebellion operations against the group by the Indonesian military,  prompted its remaining members to hide using several Islamic schools as covers. 

In 1972, two DI leaders, Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Bashir, established the Pesantren al-Mu ’min —an Islamic boarding school in Solo, Central Java.  This school continued the propagation of DI ideology, particularly the concept of   NII.     In 1973, the school was transferred to the village of Ngruki to escape police and military surveillance in Solo.  It was in Ngruki where the school became popularly known as Pondok Ngruki.[2] Because of continued persecution against remaining DI members, particularly during the repressive Suharto Regime, Sungkar and Bashir fled to Malaysia where the original plan to establish JI was said to have taken place.  These two DI leaders only returned to Indonesia after the fall of Suharto in 1998.  However, Sungkar died in 1999 and left the leadership to Bashir.  Because of his fanatical adherence to Wahhabi/Salafi ideology of Al-Qaeda, Bashir was regarded as the “Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia.”[3]

Sungkar and Bashir were considered as key JI founders.  They were accused by Indonesian intelligence agencies as responsible for establishing JI ties with Al-Qaeda.

But the evolution of JI as a “terrorist movement” remains obscure to date.   Even JI terminologies vary as it is sometimes called Jama’ah Islamiyah, Ja’maah Islamiyyah, Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyyah, and Jemaah Islamiah.[4]  But some scholars refer to DI and the Ngruki network as forerunners of JI.[5]  It may be argued that JI is the reincarnation of DI in the post-9/11 era.

 One study said that Sungkar and Bashir organized the JI sometime in 1993-1994.[6]  But another study said that JI was founded in 1996.[7]  There are, therefore, competing claims on the exact founding of JI.  When Sungkar died in 1999, it is argued that Bashir took the helm of JI leadership using the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), a legal Islamic organization, as a cover.  While heading the MMI, Basher organized a regional coalition of jihadist groups in Southeast Asia called Rabitatul Mujahidin (RM). 

Among scholars writing on JI,  Elena Pavlova provided the most accurate description of the origin of the group.  She said that JI was founded on 1 January 1993 as result of factionalism within DI.[8] JI’s first recorded terrorist attack was the bombing of Medan church on 28 May 2000.  JI’s involvement in terrorist activities prompted Bashir to resign as Amir in 2000.  Abu Rusdan, who believed that JI should wage armed Jihad, took the helm of JI. He masterminded the Medan church bombing in 2000 was supported by Hambali, Azahari and Noordin Top who all endorsed JI’s terrorist operations.[9] Abu Rusdan was eventually replaced by Abu Dujana.[10]

The   Internal Security Department (ISD) of Singapore discovered the existence of JI in Southeast Asia only after 9/11 with the arrest of 15 Muslim militants in December 2001 and the arrest of 21 others in August 2002.  These two major arrests yielded significant information on the JI and its regional network.  This information is found in Singapore White Paper on JI.[11]  But it has been argued that the Singapore White Paper “missed many other important developments that eventually led to the DI elements” to establish the JI.[12]

b)    Organizational Structure

There is utmost scholarly difficulty in describing the organizational structure of JI being a clandestine organization. The known organization structure of JI is based on the Singapore White Paper.  The discovery of a JI document entitled “The General Guide for the Struggle of Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyah (Pedoman Umum Perjuangan-Al-Jama-ah Al-Islamiya)” of PUPJI also gave insightful information on the origin, organization and ideology of JI.  

The Singapore White Paper and PUPJI state that JI is headed by an Amir who is guided by the members of Regional Shura or the Regional Consultative Council.  Below the Regional Shura are four Mantiqis spanning the whole archipelagic Southeast Asia including Australia and Southern Thailand, to wit:

1.       First Mantiqi (M1) based in Malaysia, Singapore and Southern Thailand;
2.      Second Mantiqi (M2) based in the whole of Indonesia (except Sulawesi and Kalimantan)  particularly in Solo and central Java;
3.      Third Mantiqi (M3) based in Southern Philippines (particularly in Maguindanao),  Brunei, Indonesia (particularly Sulawesi and Kalimantan)  and Malaysia (particularly in Borneo, Sabah);  and,
4.      Fourth Mantiqi (M4) based in Irian Jaya and Australia

It is interesting to note that the Manitiqi structure of JI coincides with JI’s idea of Islamic State in Southeast Asia.  Each Mantiqi, divided into different wakalahs or branches, also has its own consultative council called Majilis Shura.   This organizational structure was adopted from a Hezbollah model of social organization “in which most of the group's activities are overt charitable work and provision of social services even as a component of the organization clandestinely pursues terrorism.”[13]

Recent discoveries, however, have indicated that the JI’s Mantiqi structure has been dissolved as a result of various police and military operations against the group.   According to the revelations of Zarkasih and Abu Dujana, who were arrested in Indonesia in March and June 2007, respectively, JI is now organized into the following functional groups:

·         Dakwah (Islamic proselytization and outreach)
·         Education
·         Logistics or Economics
·         Information or Media
·         Military Affairs[14]

At present, JI has two major factions:   the structured faction, also known as the mainstream group and the unstructured faction, otherwise known as the “bombing” group.  The structured faction has concentrated on ideological outreach, proselytization and recruitment.  Thus, the structured faction is also called the Propagation Group or the “trainors”.  The unstructured faction, on the other hand,  remains involved in bomb-making operations, thus members are called the “bombers”. 

c)    Political/Ideological Adherence

JI ideology is based on Wahhabi or Salafi Islam, which believes in the concept of Islamic state and the implementation of Sharia.  Informed by Wahhabi/Salafi ideology, JI aims to establish an Archipelagic Islamic State in Southeast Asia called Daulah Islamiyah Nusantara, which connects the four JI Mantiqis. Maria Ressa calls Daulah Islamiyah Nusantara as the realization of the JI dream of the Islamic Caliphate of Southeast Asia.[15]   Based on the idea of an Islamic state in Southeast Asia, JI adopted 10 major ideological principles in which all of its activities are said to be based:

1.       Our aim is to seek Allah’s pleasures in the ways prescribed by him and his messenger;
2.      Our Aqidah (belief) is based on the Aqidah of the Sunnis subscribed by the Salafus Solih (Pious predecessors);
3.      Our understanding of Islam is comprehensive based on the understanding of Salafus Solih;
4.      Our objective is to make man submit to Allah only by resorting to Khalifah (Caliphate) on earth.
5.      Our path is Imam (faith), Hijrah (migration), and Jihad Fie Sabilillah (Jihad in the cause of Allah);
6.      Our resources are:  knowledge and taqwa (piety), confidence and tawakkal (resign to the will of Allah), thankful and perseverance, leading zuhud (renunciation of worldly life and pleasures) and giving priority to the hereafter, and Jihad Fie Sabilillah and martyrdom;
7.      Our love is for Allah, the messenger and the faithful;
8.     Our enemies are Satan and evil men;
9.      Our Jama’ah is bound by unanimity of objective, Aqidah and understanding of Islam; and,
10.  Our practice of Islam is pure and total starting from the Jama’ah followed by Daulah and Khilafah.[16]

Abdullah Sungkar, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, Hambali, Abu Jibril, Mukhlas, Dulmatin, Omar Patek, Zulkarnean and Dujana are known key JI ideologues.[17]  All of them are avid disciples of Wahhabi/Salafi Islam, which is advocating for the purification of Islamic faith not only in Southeast Asia but also in the entire world.  Thus, JI ideology is closely connected with the global jihadist ideology of Al-Qaeda aiming to establish an Islamic state worldwide.

The main document articulating JI ideology is the PUPJI or the General Guide for the Struggle of JI.[18]  Believed to be written in the early 1990s, PUP-JI reveals JI desire to establish a puritanical Islamic organization in Southeast Asia.  Issued by JI’s Central Executive Council, the PUPJI urges its members to wage armed Jihad against the infidels in order to realize their vision of creating a pan-regional Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia.

Scholars analyzing the ideology of JI contend that JI’s philosophical and religious beliefs are hallmarks of Al-Qaedaism, a politico-religious thought preaching Jihad as an obligation of each capable individual Muslim.[19]    Al-Qaedaism is derived from the Islamic religious interpretations of Abdullah Azzam, a famous Palestinian Islamic scholar regarded as the mentor of Osama bin Laden.  Azzam wrote a fatwa (religious proclamation) entitled Defense of the Muslim Land where he urged all Muslims in the world to wage Jihad against the enemies of Islam.[20]  Azzam also wrote Join the Caravan to explain the following reasons for Jihad:
·         In order that the Disbelievers do not dominate.
·         Due to the scarcity of men.
·         Fear of Hell-fire.
·         Fulfilling the duty of Jihad, and responding to the call of the Lord.
·         Following in the footsteps of the Pious Predecessors.
·         Establishing a solid foundation as a base for Islam.
·         Protecting those who are oppressed in the land.
·         Hoping for martyrdom.
·         A shield for the Ummah, and a means for lifting disgrace off them
·         Protecting the dignity of the Ummah, and repelling the conspiracy of its enemies
·         Preservation of the earth, and protection from corruption
·         Security of Islamic places of worship
·         Protection of the Ummah from punishment, disfiguration and displacement
·         Prosperity of the Ummah, and surplus of its resources
·         Jihad is the highest peak of Islam.
·         Jihad is the most excellent form of worship, and by means of it the Muslim can reach the highest of ranks.[21]

[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia:  How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].
[1] See for example Greg Barton, Jemaah Islamiyah:  Radical Islamism in Indonesia (Singapore:  Singapore University Press, 2005); Kumar Ramakrishna, Constructing the Jemaah Islamiya Terrorist:  A Preliminary Inquiry (Singapore:  Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, 2004);   International Crisis Group, Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia:  Damaged But Still Dangerous (Jakarta and Brussels:  International Crisis Group, 2003); and Barry Desker, “Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Phenomenon in Singapore”, Contemporary Southeast Asia, vol. 25, no. 3 (December 2003), pp. 489-407.
[2] Peter Chalk and Carl Ungerer, Neighborhood Watch:  Evolving Terrorist Threats in Southeast Asia (Canberra:  Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2008), pp. 9-10.
[3] Banlaoi, War on Terrorism in Southeast Asia, p. 24.
[4] Singh, The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, p. 51.
[5] See International Crisis Group, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia:  The Case of “Ngruki Network” in Indonesia (Jakarta and Brussels:  International Crisis Group, 2003).
[6]Chalk and  Ungerer, Neighborhood Watch:  Evolving Terrorist Threats in Southeast Asia, p. 8.
[7] Hasan, “Transnational Islam in Indonesia”, p. 128.
[8] Elena Pavlova, “Jemaah Islamiah According to PUPJI”, in Tan, Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia, p. 76.
[9] Ibid., p. 77.
[10] Zachary Abuza, “Abu Dujana: Jemaah Islamiyah's New al-Qaeda Linked Leader”, Terrorism Focus, vol., 3, Issue 13 (4 April 2006), p. 2.
[11] Ministry of  Home Affairs, The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism, pp. 3-11.
[12] Singh, The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, p. 62.
[13] Zachary Abuza, “Jemaah Islamiyah Adopts the Hezbollah Model Assessing Hezbollah's Influence”, Middle East Quarterly (Winter 2009), pp. 15-26.

[14] National Counter Terrorism Action Group, “Present JI Structures and Activities” (Briefing Manuscript,  December 2008), p. 2.
[15] Ressa, Seeds of Terror, pp. 124-142.
[16] Quoted in Singh, Talibanization of Southeast Asia, p. 73.
[17] Ibid, p. 76.
[18] Elena Pavlova, “From Counter-Society to Counter-State:  Jemaah Islamiya According to PUPJI”, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies Working Paper, no. 117 (14 November 2006), pp. 15-36.
[19] Edwin Bakker and Leen Boer, The Evolution of Al-Qaedaism:  Ideology, Terrorists and Appeal (Amsterdam:  Netherlands Institute of International Relations, 2007), p. 25.
[20] Abdullah Azzam, Defense of the Muslim Land at <accessed on 11 June 2009>.
[21] Abdullah Azzam, Join the Caravan at

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