Intelligence a Shield Against Islamic Hard-Liners
When Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie rose to power after Suharto’s exit in 1998, he immediately installed his confidante Lt. Gen. Zaini Azhar Maulani as head of the powerful National Intelligence Coordinating Body (Bakin). Habibie thought Zaini could revive the spy agency to support his policies. But alas, Zaini failed to play the role of his predecessors in curbing the rise of hard-line Islamic ideals. The fall of Suharto also saw the collapse of intelligence as the economic crisis at that time stripped funding, leaving Bakin a lame duck.
Habibie’s time on top was short before he was replaced by Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, who reorganized the state intelligence body in 2000 under a new name, Lembaga Intelijen Negara (State Intelligence Institution). But the intelligence network became disorganized without strong leadership, providing room for extreme Islamic teachings to flourish. In 2001, LIN underwent a transformation and was renamed Badan Intelijen Negara (State Intelligence Body), which still exists today.
During the New Order regime, Suharto established military intelligence, BAIS, headed by LB Moerdani, who never compromised the state ideology of Pancasila nor allowed the greens to emerge. Green refers to hard-line Muslim idealism and its pursuit of an Islamic caliphate. Moerdani did not allow this idea to infiltrate political or educational institutions. Moerdani and his special breed of intelligence officers and counterterrorism units infiltrated the hard-line Islamic camps to keep them at bay.
BAIS also nurtured excellent relations with world intelligence organizations including the Israel’s Mossad despite absence of formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. This provided Indonesia early warnings about the activities of extremists and terrorists at that time. Under Moerdani, the goal of intelligence shifted from spying on communists and East Timorese, to focusing on religious extremists — especially the revival of the Darul Islam movement, which became the embryo of the second generation Indonesian Islamic State (NII).
The first generation of NII was founded in 1949 by Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosoewirjo, after Indonesia gained its independence. The movement then split into 14 factions, including Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia and another which is headed by today’s much talked about figure Panji Gumilang, or Abu Toto, who — according to political scholar and former NII member Al Chaidar — is the head of the Al-Zaytun Islamic School. The NII splinter factions, most of them hard-line in nature, also inspired the birth of Jemaah Islamiyah, the radical Southeast Asian terrorist network with the goal of unifying the region under Islamic rule.
Now the BIN has transformed once again under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The intelligence body is headed by former Police Gen. Sutanto, breaking a tradition of military leaders commanding the agency. Pundits agree that despite the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, the danger of terrorism remains. But to what extent current intelligence agency, headed by a police general, could surpass military intelligence capability of the past is a question in itself.
Muhammadiyah leader Din Syamsudin has expressed concern that the government is not doing enough to curb NII’s infiltration into the schools, universities, political parties, government institutions and even the House of Representatives. Din said the government was failing to curb the NII, which is now engaged in crime, extortion, stealing and brainwashing the young. According to Din, the NII is illegal as it is dogmatic about establishing an Islamic state and therefore should be outlawed because it violates the state philosophy of Pancasila. He is also worried that if the NII movement had infiltrated the House, there is a danger that the intelligence bill will favor the hard-liners.
Unless the government takes a hard stance against the NII and keeps Islamic extremism at bay, the movement’s network will surely entangle the larger part of society. And once that happens, it will be too late to go back.