Rise of the Women Radicals in Indonesia
Zubaidah Nazeer – Straits Times
Some Muslim women in Indonesia are stepping up to a more active role in radicalism as the country’s terror cells regroup, with analysts warning the authorities to strengthen anti-terrorism measures.
Discarding their erstwhile background supporting role to the men, these women have taken to promoting pro-radical narratives online, and even offering shelter to the families of jailed terrorists, analysts say.
Radical Indonesian women have interviewed the wives of convicted terrorists, including the wife of a British Muslim extremist, and these interviews are posted on extremist websites.
The interviews were done to encourage “support for terrorist activities and raising funds,” said Taufik Andrie, a researcher at the Institute for International Peace Building (YPP), who has been monitoring their activities.
One of these women writers uses the pen name “Ummu Fauzi”.
In an interview with the wife of Abdullah Sonata, an Indonesian jailed for 10 years for planning mass attacks targeting foreigners and high-profile targets, Ummu Fauzi wrote that her objective was to highlight the “bravery” of these wives.
Such examples show how, despite Indonesia’s success in cracking down on terrorists, radical groups are finding new ways to advance their cause.
To prevent the radicals from portraying the families of convicted terrorists as suffering heroes, observers urge the authorities to include these wives and other family members in deradicalization programs.
They should be provided with welfare support to break the circle of radicalism.
Taufik also came across advertisements on a radical website put up by women offering to rent out their homes to those serving the mujahideen (Islamic warriors) cause.
The International Crisis Group’s senior adviser, Sidney Jones, said the Internet has helped to broadcast other roles women can play.
“In general, the Internet has become a medium where women who have been restricted in other forms before can actively play a much more prominent role.”
While Indonesia’s counterterrorism efforts have been lauded — more than 820 terrorists captured, 80 killed to date and no major attacks since 2009 — the emergence of lone rangers and smaller home-grown groups with loose affiliations to one another have proved deadly.
These have exposed the weakness of the state’s deradicalization program and lack of tougher laws to counter radical groups.
Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism analyst and founder of the YPP, said the authorities are often too caught up with tracking the leaders of terror networks.
They forget that the groups’ couriers or the wives also can play an important role.
“They are the dot-connectors who play a crucial role to keep the networks going.”
Voices of Radical Women
Ummu Fauzi, who interviewed the wives of convicted terrorists, said she did so to make radical women “realize there are other women out there who have made the sacrifice and pledge in the name of jihad.”
The original interviews were done in Arabic and translated into Bahasa Indonesia before being posted on extremist Indonesian websites. Some of her interviews were with:
• Madam Nusaibah, wife of Abdullah Sonata, a terrorist jailed for 10 years for planning mass attacks. “When my children see reports on their father on television, which say that their father is a terrorist, they say (while pointing to the screen), ‘You are the terrorist!’ to the picture of the policemen,” Nusaibah said.
• Madam Ruhban, another wife of Abdullah Sonata, asks radical women to “always remain firm in your support for your husband to uphold our cause.”
• Madam Osama, wife of Sheikh Omar Bakri, leader of a banned radical group in Britain which has ties to Al-Qaeda and who fled to Lebanon in 2005.
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times