Authorities say ISIS-linked family conducted suicide bombings at Indonesian churches

K9 police examine the scene following attacks outside the Surabaya Pentecostal Church (GPPS) in Surabaya, East Java, on May 13. A series of blasts struck three churches in Indonesia on Sunday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in the deadliest attack in years in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. (AFP/Juni Kriswanto)

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 13, 2018:

A family of Islamic State supporters carried out suicide bombings at three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya earlier today, according to authorities. “We have identified the bombers. It is highly likely that they shared a familial background,” Indonesian police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said, according to the The Jakarta Post.

According to Gen. Tito’s account of events, the father of the family “allegedly dropped off his wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 12,” at the Indonesia Christian Church. The mother reportedly blew herself up in the company of her children. The father set off to bomb the Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church, driving his minivan at the building. Meanwhile, two of the couple’s sons attacked the Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the bombings, but did not identify the terrorists in its first statements. “Three martyrdom attacks result in at least 11 Christians and church security guards being killed and 41 being injured in the city of Surabaya located in the region of East Java in Indonesia,” the group’s Amaq News Agency reported. Amaq’s casualty claim was generally consistent with independent reports. The number of people killed has reportedly risen to 13, while more than 40 were wounded.

The Islamic State then issued a longer claim as well, describing the perpetrators as “soldiers” of the so-called caliphate. The claim did not indicate any familial bond between the terrorists, nor did it provide the level of detail offered by the police.

“After putting their trust in Allah, several Khilafah soldiers set out towards three Crusader temples located in Surabaya city in East Java region in eastern Indonesia,” the Islamic State’s claim reads. “The first istishhadi targeted the Pentecostal Central Church with his explosive vehicle, while the second one detonated his explosive vest in the Santa Maria Catholic church. Meanwhile, the third attack targeted the Indonesian Christian Church with an explosive motorbike.” The self-declared caliphate describes the victims as “Crusaders.”

According to Tito, the family was associated with Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD), and some reports indicate that members of the family may have spent time in Syria.

The US State Department designated JAD as a terrorist organization in Jan. 2017. The US government noted at the time that JAD “is a terrorist group based in Indonesia that was formed in 2015 and is composed of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that pledged allegiance to” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Foggy Bottom also noted that JAD provided the personnel for the Jan. 2016 attack in the capital of Jakarta. That plot was orchestrated by Bahrun Naim, an Islamic State cyber planner who has remotely directed a series of plots in Indonesia. [For more on Naim and JAD’s role in the Islamic State’s network, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: Indonesian authorities hunt Islamic State operative’s cyber recruits.]

The church bombings came just days after other Islamic State-affiliated militants orchestrated a prison riot in Depok, south of Jakarta.

The Islamic State and its predecessor organizations have long targeted churches in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere.

The cover story (“The Ruling on the Belligerent Christians”) of the ninth edition of the group’s Rumiyah (“Rome”) magazine, released in May 2017, contained a lengthy defense of operations aimed at Christian civilians. The author concluded that “targeting these churches with ruin and destruction is a matter that is permitted in the Shari’ah, and it is allowed to use this as a means of attaining closeness to Allah.” That is, the jihadists argued that “martyrdom” attacks aimed at churches would allow the perpetrators to achieve divine glory. Rumiyah’s authors told readers that even the blood of Christian women and children is permissible. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State leader in Egypt says church bombings aren’t popular.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Indonesia: Jakarta’s Christian governor guilty in “blasphemy” trial, gets two years prison

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, May 9, 2017:

Ahok committed the cardinal sin of being a Christian in a position of authority. Islamic law forbids non-Muslims to hold authority over Muslims. That Ahok was governor of Jakarta made something like this show trial inevitable. That Islamic supremacists got him on blasphemy, and had to get him in the first place for the crime of being a Christian in authority, is an indication of how far Indonesia has moved from its supposedly “moderate” character.

“Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty in landmark Indonesian blasphemy trial,” by Ben Westcott, CNN, May 9, 2017:

(CNN)Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, has been sentenced to two years in prison, after being found guilty of blasphemy in a trial seen as a test of Indonesia’s religious tolerance.

In April, prosecutors had called for the blasphemy counts to be dropped in exchange for a lesser charge of “spreading hate,” but the judges appear to have ignored that recommendation.

The controversial Chinese Christian politician was put on trial in December over accusations that he insulted Islam while campaigning for re-election. He repeatedly denied the charges.

Ahok was detained immediately after the verdict and taken to the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta, local media reported. He said he would immediately appeal the court’s decision.

The Jakarta governor sparked controversy in late 2016 after quoting a verse from the Quran to prove to his supporters that there were no restrictions on Muslims voting for a non-Muslim politician.

Almost no one who has been charged under the blasphemy law has ever escaped conviction, associate professor of Indonesian politics at the Australian National University Greg Fealy told CNN.

“The blasphemy law has really been a blight on the rule of law and democracy in Indonesia for decades,” he said, adding that “the fact that Ahok was charged at all was really a product of massive street demonstrations that frightened the government into acting.”

Growing conservatism

…While Indonesia has built a reputation as a tolerant, diverse nation, experts say Ahok’s conviction is the latest example of the country’s growing conservatism.

Recent years have seen large anti-LGBT protests in Jakarta in early 2016, a push to criminalize homosexual sex and passionate reactions to allegations of blasphemy.

An estimated 200,000 people converged on the center of the Indonesian capital to demand the arrest of its minority-Christian governor on November 4.

Since an edited video of Ahok’s remarks was released, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Indonesians have protested against him on the streets of Jakarta, with many calling for his jailing or even execution.
Roads near the Agriculture Ministry where the verdict was due to be delivered were closed from Monday evening in preparation, local media reported….

The U.S. Embassy’s Problem in Indonesia Isn’t Scheduling

Fireworks for the Fourth of July in Washington D.C.

Fireworks for the Fourth of July in Washington D.C.

Fourth of July celebrations were re-scheduled out of respect for Ramadan. This approach highlights Western inability to engage constructively with the Islamic world.

Clarion Project, by Elliot Friedland, June 8, 2015:

This year the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, celebrated the Fourth of July a month early so as to avoid clashing with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Not only is this absurd, but what could have been a beautiful and respectful intercultural moment instead became a case study of the problematic and wrong-headed way Western leaders often engage with the Muslim world.

The Fourth of July, as America’s Independence Day, should be marked on that day by members of its diplomatic corps, who are America’s representatives around the world. After all, it is the job of American ambassadors to represent their country. That includes proudly celebrating American holidays and presenting the best of America to the world.

Moving Independence Day, on the other hand, belittles America’s standing in the world and shows others that America’s traditions, customs and festivals are negotiable.

The baffling part is that the Fourth of July is not in any way incompatible with Ramadan. One is a religious holy month that Muslims believe commemorates the first revelation of the Quran by Mohammed. The other is a national holiday celebrating independence.

Fourth of July celebrations could easily have been combined with an iftar dinner, the traditional Muslim post-Ramadan feast, taking place after dark and after the fasting has ended. Fireworks are better at night anyway.

Such a thing would have been an appropriate and encouraging demonstration of two cultures coming together in mutual respect to honor each other’s traditions.

Celebrating iftar and the Fourth of July one after the other should also have been no problem, if celebrating them both together seems too much like celebrating neither. If that would not have worked, a more low-key (and foodless) celebration during the day could easily have been arranged.

Many countries around the world celebrate such days and there is no indication that celebrating them causes offense to Muslims (or other faith groups).

Radical Islamists find national holidays offensive because they don’t believe in nations, holding instead that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone and power should be wielded in his name by the caliph. No doubt they will be overjoyed at the decision of America to move the Fourth of July.

But radical Islamists are not the group with which that America needs to be ingratiating itself. On the contrary, they have to be firmly and resolutely opposed to this group.

In and of itself, moving Independence Day is purely symbolic and some might argue, trivial.

But in diplomacy, symbols are very important. This is symptomatic of a broader unease and inability of Western leaders to engage constructively with Islam. In this case they simply negated the American in deference to the Islamic – a pointless gesture which only serves to embolden radicals, infuriate anti-Muslim bigots and confuse moderates.

In other cases, such as Dutch MP Geert Wilders’ preposterous call to ban the Quran, Westerners have demanded that Muslims negate their tradition, religion and culture.

Both approaches are fundamentally flawed.

If we are serious about combatting radical Islamism and supporting open and tolerant Muslim societies then we have to be confident in the ability of two cultures to interact together.

Rather than being a fine example of cultural sensitivity, this moving of Independence Day sends the message that the organizers themselves do not believe that American Independence is compatible with Islam.

That is a far bigger problem than mere scheduling.

Images of Religious Equality, Realities of Islamic Inequality

20080925_Christianby ANDREW E. HARROD:

Indonesia has appeared “for a long time as a role model” for Muslim-majority societies seeking to maintain equality before the law for all believers, Christian Solidarity Worldwide‘s (CSW) South Asia expert Benedict Rogers stated at a Hudson Institute briefing on September 12, 2013.  Yet the past and present of the world’s largest Muslim community belie in reality rhetoric of Islamic religious tolerance, a troubling fact for Christians and others worldwide seeking domestic peace in the lands of Islam.

Rogers addressed the topic “Pluralism in Peril in Southeast Asia:  Radical Islamism in Indonesia and Militant Buddhism in Burma.”  To exemplify Indonesia’s traditional measure of interfaith coexistence, Rogers showed slides of Jakarta’s Catholic cathedral adjacent to, and sharing parking space with, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, the Istiqlal (Independence) Mosque.  Yet Rogers presentation emphasized that this religious pluralism is “increasingly under threat” in Indonesia and Buddhist-majority Burma as well.

Rogers referenced grassroots Sunni Islamic supremacist developments in Indonesia previously discussed by him in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).  Mayors responding to local political pressures, for example, had blocked the building of churches under a “zero church” policy.  This occurred even after successful defenses of their building permits all the way to Indonesia’s Supreme Court, making religious freedom a “rule of law issue.”  A 2010 International Crisis Group study, meanwhile, documents how fears of “Christianization” in the form of this faith’s growing influence and number of converts have become a rallying cry for hardline Indonesian Muslims.

The Front Pembela Islam (FPI or Islamic Defenders Front), described by Rogers as “essentially a vigilante mob” and “protection racket,” adds terror to the pressures faced by non-Sunni Muslim communities.  “There is no religious freedom here anymore,” one female pastor said to Rodgers during his May 2012 visit.  Indonesia’s Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims, the latter deemed heretical by orthodox Muslims yet having an “extremely peaceful interpretation of Islam” according to Rogers, are likewise under threat.  “Let the outside world know that we are not safe in our own homes any longer,” an Ahmadiyya said in a quotation in both the WSJ article and the briefing.  “It is not free anymore for us to believe what we want, to live a normal life, because there is always someone who wants to force us not to believe what we want to believe.”

Read more: Family Security Matters