In the wake of the attacks last week in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the archipelago, the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world, is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings. The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist and Facebook pages, and Islamic State has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort. Indonesia is a country of thousands of islands with porous borders, and many soft targets: The militants launched bombs and opened fire in broad daylight in one of the busiest shopping and office neighborhoods in downtown Jakarta. And Indonesians have fought in Syria and Iraq and returned. The Soufan Group, a consulting security consulting group, believes that at least six hundred Southeast Asians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and then come back to their home countries. Indeed, the alleged ringleader of last week’s Jakarta attacks, a militant named Bahru Naim, is currently living in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s hub.
But in reality, Indonesia has enjoyed far more success than most nations against Islamist militants, including those linked to the Islamic State. The country has witnessed numerous militant attacks over the past fifteen years, but unlike in some of its neighbors, the Islamic State and other militants have not gained broad public support, and the Indonesian government has not resorted to draconian measures in an attempt to crush militant cells. In many ways, Indonesia’s political leaders, security forces, and religious leaders offer lessons for combating the appeal of the Islamic State.
For more on Indonesia’s successes, read my new Bloomberg piece.