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International Crisis Group: Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah’s Publishing Industry

February 28, 2008



A handful of members and persons close to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Indonesia’s most prominent extremist organisation, have developed a profitable publishing consortium. The consortium has become an important vehicle for the dissemination of jihadi thought, getting cheap and attractively printed books into mosques, bookstores and discussion groups. The publishing venture demonstrates JI’s resilience and the extent to which radical ideology has developed roots in Indonesia. The Indonesian government should monitor these enterprises more closely, but they may be playing a useful role by channelling JI energies into waging jihad through the printed page rather than acts of violence. Examining the titles printed permits tracking of a lively internal debate within JI over the desirability of al-Qaeda tactics. That debate seems to be taking place spontaneously, without any assistance from the government “deradicalisation” program, and it is important that it continue. Banning the publishers or their books would be counterproductive. But more scrutiny of the publishing activities would be desirable for several reasons.


Islamic publishing is a thriving industry in Indonesia, and publishers associated with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) have established a small but growing niche in the market. They have become a major channel for dissemination of jihadi thought, and it is possible to track trends in internal debates by examining new releases. Their importance, however, goes beyond the material they publish. The network of printers, translators, designers, marketers and distributing agents is one of many webs binding the organisation together. JI has proved to be extraordinarily resilient, and the publishing web helps explain why. Book production also crosses the ideological divide, bringing individuals close to Noordin Mohammed Top - the fugitive bomber committed to the al-Qaeda line of attacking the U.S. and its allies wherever possible - together with men from the JI mainstream, opposed to attacks on Indonesian soil and focused on rebuilding the organisation.

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