JI members say spreading the group's ideology is now more important than planning attacks

The recent arrest by Indonesian anti-terrorist forces of senior members of Jemaah Islamiyah has cast doubt on the network's capacity to organise violent attacks.

 

Even before last week's arrests, analysts say the group blamed for the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005, among others, had been shifting its tactics away from large scale violence.

 

JI members run religious
classes for local youngsters
 
But while some JI members fear its leadership has been dented, it seems the organisation's resolve to spread its message is not.

 

In the wake of the arrests Al Jazeera gained exclusive access to a JI religious education centre in eastern Indonesia and found that the group is still busy recruiting new members but appears divided over how to attain its goal of a global Islamic caliphate, governed by Islamic law.

 

In one small town we visited about 20 women who belong to the JI network run religious education classes every day.

 

They say that spreading the organisation's ideology is now more important than planning attacks.

 

"Our aim to establish Sharia not only here but all over the world," one JI member, who did not want to be identified, told us.

 

'Bad name'

 

The JI member said: "To achieve that we are teaching people the real meaning of Islam. Killing non-Muslims with bomb attacks, I think, is not the right way because it gives Muslims a bad name."

 

Several JI leaders have been arrested in
raids by anti-terrorist police
 
But he says: "I am still helping my friends who do these kinds of things. Because what the West does to Muslims is much worse than what my friends have done in Indonesia."

 

Bomb attacks in Bali and Jakarta between 2002 and 2003 divided JI, particularly because many of the victims were Indonesian Muslims.

 

A founding member of JI, who also did not want to named, admitted to us that the organisation is in disarray.

 

The recent arrests of Zarkasih, whom officials described as the group's "emergency head", and Abu Dujana, the group's military commander, have hurt its members he told us.

 

'Brothers'

 

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for the 2002
Bali bombings and other attacks
 
"We are all confused while waiting for further instructions from the leadership," he said.

 

The arrests last week have made me very sad because they are like brothers to me. The situation could become more dangerous now because some members will be getting impatient without clear instructions from the top."

 

It is in small towns all over Indonesia like the one we visited that Jemaah Islamiyah has its base.

 

And despite most of the leadership being in prison, the group's ideology seems very much intact.

 

This is why Indonesian authorities realise that arresting people alone is not enough and are now focused on what they call a de-radicalisation campaign.

 

"The most important thing is to neutralise their extreme way of thinking; their wrong perception of religious doctrine," Ansyaad Mbai, the head of Indonesia's anti-terrorist force.

 

"That is the key at the moment. The only ones who can do that are moderate Muslims in Indonesia."

Source: Agencies