Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Basir was released from jail in July after serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for conspiracy to commit the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people, mostly Western tourists, were killed.
On Thursday he was cleared of those charges by the Indonesian supreme court - a decision condemned by the Australian government. It says Bashir was the spiritual leader and a founding memeber of Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qaida-linked group blamed for the attacks.
In September, as Bashir prepared to begin a speaking tour of Indonesia, he gave an interview to Al Jazeera’s Hamish MacDonald. The following is an edited transcript:
Q: Why are you going on this speaking tour of Indonesia?
Bashir: As a Muslim person I have an obligation to uphold sharia law. Especially in Indonesia, and generally all over the world, but so far my ability is still limited to Indonesia. So my main purpose is to do these obligations given by god, upholding sharia law, so things will go on in Allah’s way.
|Bashir says he is fighting |
"to uphold Allah’s law" [EPA]
Q: It seems that you’ve become somewhat of a celebrity. Why do you think that is?
Bashir: All this time the Americans and the Jews and their allies have been telling lies about me. In the Koran, it was mentioned that they’ve made up these lies to bring down Islam’s fighters. But Allah returns their lies.
They want me to be infamous, as a bad person, that’s the American purpose - they accuse me of being a terrorist, because they don’t like me fighting for sharia law. So they tell lies about me saying I am a bad person so the Muslims will stay away from me, that’s their main purpose, but Allah turned things around.
The Muslims understand that my goals are righteous, that I want to uphold sharia law. I’m not trying to convert them into Muslims, but I’m just trying to uphold sharia law for all human beings.
So Allah turned things around, they are trying to make people see me as a bad person, but now all the Islamic people see me as a good person and I get support from everywhere, but of course we have to admit that there are one or two muslims who actually listen to their lies.
Q: By accusing you of being a terrorist, has the West made you something bigger than what you were before?
Bashir: Like I said before they aren’t helping me, because their purpose is to make me look bad. That’s their purpose and they succeeded in the West, in America, in Australia and in Britain, people see me as a terrorist, but in Indonesia Allah turned things around.
So they (the West) don’t help, because their purpose is to put me down, but Allah just turns things around, that is also stated in the Koran. They committed treason, but Allah returned their treason, do you understand?
Q: Being in prison has therefore made you much more popular hasn’t it?
Bashir: People have sympathy for me, not because of who I am, but because they understand the purpose of my fighting. I fight to uphold Allah’s law. Allah’s law will bring good not just to the Muslim people, but also to the non-Muslims, but its just that the non-muslims believe the lies of their leaders, so they are against it.
People want to get blessings from Allah. They understand my good purpose, my good intention, that’s why they have sympathy for me.
Q: When did you first start develop your views and your opinions about the world?
Bashir: Whatever I have said, they are not my own thoughts, but they are the concepts of Islam. Since I went to school, then I began to understand Islam. I only tell people my understanding of Islam, so it is never my own thoughts.
I’m just telling people what our prophet Mohammad said about Islam, you have to understand that these things are not coming from my thoughts. I’m delivering what Islam is according to Mohammad and his friends.
Q: George Bush has described "the great civilization struggle of the 21st century", who do you think is winning that struggle?
Bashir: The greatest civilisation that save human beings is only the civilization that comes from Islam. Whatever civilisation George Bush is talking about is a destructive civilisation. So all these ideas from America, especially the Jews, they will only destroy human beings – that’s their purpose.
So there is no other way. If human beings want to have good things, then they have to return to Islam, because that’s the concept from God. And what George Bush has been telling people, is the concepts of Jews and criminals and that will destroy human beings. You can prove that in reality later on.
Q: Do you think Nassir Abas [who trained the Bali bombers, but now works for the Indonesian government] is a traitor?
Bashir: I knew Nasir Abas when he was a student in Jemaah Sunnah (prayer group), but it seems like he is being hired by the police at the moment (laughs), that’s what it seems,
I don’t know what his purpose is. But that’s the way it is, he’s been hired by the police now. But as far as I know he was a student in Jemaah Sunnah.
Q: Could he be hibernating, waiting to return to the fold?
Bashir: I hope that he can be really honest in defending Islam and then I hope he doesn’t cause any losses to the Muslims, that’s my wish for him. I hope he will return to the right path. I feel sorry for him, because right now he is being hired by the police and he doesn’t dare to tell the truth.
Please give my message to the leaders in the West, Tony Blair, George Bush tell them to stop fighting Islam. Islam will win, definitely. You can kill Muslims, but Islam cannot be killed. You will be destroyed if you fight Islam. Advise them to convert to Islam, so they will be saved. That’s my message.