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2 INTERVIEW The voice of the Bali blast
speaks Abu Bakar
Ba'asyir Interview by Philip Smucker
SOLO, Indonesia - Even as Indonesia has
gained the upper hand against religiously-inspired
extremism, the spiritual mentor behind the Bali
bombings, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, says he is confident
that both time and Allah are on his side. He says
that events across the Islamic world are
conspiring to destroy the "crusade" of his
greatest enemy, United States President George W
"Bush is a very stubborn man," says
Ba'asyir, reclining in a white
shirt and plaid waist wrap on
a couch in the reception hall of his religious
boarding school, al-Mukhmin, a series of dingy
concrete classrooms set on the grounds of a former
commune in Central Java. "Bush doesn't really know
that he is losing this war and this is one of
Allah's ways of undermining his crusade to destroy
Islam," he adds.
successful anti-terrorism efforts should give
Ba'asyir and his associates pause. Jemaah
Islamiyah (JI) radicals have been sidelined
politically and ostracized in Indonesia for their
inspirational roles in the Bali bombings.
Ba'asyir, 69, who has consistently claimed that JI
does not exist, recently served over two years in
prison when Indonesian judges said that while he
had not been involved in the Bali attacks, he had
given his approval for the plot.
temporary setbacks do not stand in the way of
final victory in this long war of attrition, he
insists. Ba'asyir, a man who couches his diatribes
to avoid the appearance of inciting direct
attacks, refers to the Bali bombers on death row
as "counter-terrorists with good intentions gone
awry", and also claims to take his own inspiration
from al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Excerpts from
his recent interview with Asia Times Online
contributor Philip Smucker follow:
Asia Times Online: What kind
of pressure has the Indonesian government put on
your al-Mukhmin school and your religious
is certainly pressure from the government in the
form of the police, particularly the special
police force Number 88. This body of the police
force was established in part by the US and has
also been funded by the US and is basically a US
tool to fight Islam in Indonesia.
ATol: What role does the US
play in the war against radical Islamic groups in
Indonesia and beyond?
The US is a tool for the Zionists. The US
has a program and has a crusade that is being
carried out in an unfair way, which is by
spreading the message that there is Islamic
terrorism in this world and basically all the
enemies, all the terrorists are Islamists and all
the people who fight for sharia law. Everyone who
is active is left with the stigma that they are
terrorists. They are being arrested and
Yes, there are cases when some
persons in some Islamic groups carry out bombings
here in Indonesia. It is also unfortunately the
case that they are bombing places that are
relatively safe. It is easy for them to become
prey to US efforts to stigmatize all Muslims.
ATol: Have you rethought
your initial approval of the Bali bombings?
Ba'asyir: The bombers were
carrying out their acts in Indonesia, a relatively
safe place. When events occur, they [are] taken as
justification by the government and US. They say,
"See what the Muslims are doing, this is why we
have to fight terrorism!"
ATol: So you are saying that
bombings in safe places - like Bali and at the
Marriot Hotel in Jakarta - are bad ideas that give
ammunition and fuel to the Americans?
ATol: Are there young
Indonesian Muslims bent on engaging in jihad
against the United States? How strong is this
the youth, many want to fight the US because of
the aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. And in
Indonesia they attack US interests, but I think it
is a mistake to do that here in Indonesia against
US interests because Indonesia is a safe place, a
safe country, safe from conflict.
for instance, I prefer that it be done through
dakwa, through preaching. America is
instigating a war of ideas, therefore we should
fight back with our own war of thoughts, issues,
preaching. ATol: So you are
condemning the Bali bombers?
Ba'asyir: No. The bombers
are actually counter-terrorists because they are
opposing US terrorism. They are mujahids.
ATol: How do you fight back
against what the US government is doing and
saying? What is your strategy?
Ba'asyir: What we try to do
is counter the lies, break down the lies. We want
to uncover the truth that the Koran teaches. This
activity in and of itself is much more productive
and efficient than