Salafism seems to be the new ‘buzz-word’ in The netherlands these days. Perhaps not completely comparable it might be helpfull to look at salafism in other countries such as Indonesia. On
International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) a report on Conflict prevention and resolution
Salafism may be more of a barrier to the expansion of jihadist activities than a facilitator.
I don’t know about that conclusion but it provides an interesting thinking excercise.
One result of the “war on terror” in Indonesia has been increased attention to the country’s links with religious institutions in the Middle East and the puritanical form of Islam known as salafism. Particularly outside observers but some Indonesians as well tend to assume that salafism is alien to Indonesian Islam, is growing by leaps and bounds, and is dangerous, because it promotes violence. All three notions are misleading. This report, the first comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon in Indonesia, concludes that most Indonesian salafis find organisations like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the group responsible for the Bali bombings of October 2002 and almost certainly the Australian embassy bombing of September 2004, anathema. Salafism may be more of a barrier to the expansion of jihadist activities than a facilitator.
The term salafism describes a movement that seeks to return to what its adherents see as the purest form of Islam, that practiced by the Prophet Mohammed and the two generations that followed him. In practice, this means the rejection of unwarranted innovations (bid’ah) brought to the religion in later years.
The strictest salafis in Indonesia:
are religious, not political activists;
eschew political or organisational allegiances because they divide the Muslim community and divert attention from study of the faith and propagation of salafi principles;
reject oath-taking to a leader — central to the organisational structure of groups like JI;
believe it is not permissible to revolt against a Muslim government, no matter how oppressive or unjust, and are opposed to JI and the Darul Islam movement because in their view they actively promote rebellion against the Indonesian state; and
tend to see the concept of jihad in defensive terms — aiding Muslims under attack, rather than waging war against symbolic targets that may include innocent civilians.
While some involved in terrorism in Indonesia, such as Aly Gufron alias Mukhlas, a Bali bomber, claim to be salafis, the radical fringe that Mukhlas represents (sometimes called “salafi jihadism”) is not representative of the movement more broadly.
The report examines the rise of salafism in Indonesia, noting that far from being alien to Indonesian Islam, it is only the most recent in a long history of puritanical movements, and looks at the role of Saudi funding in its expansion in the 1980s and 1990s. As important as funding is the close communication between Indonesian salafis and their Middle Eastern mentors, most but not all of them Saudis.
Indonesian salafi leaders rarely decide issues of doctrine or practice without consulting their teachers. Laskar Jihad, the militia established to wage jihad in Ambon was forced to disband after one important Saudi scholar concluded it had strayed from its original purpose. The fact that the Saudi sheikhs most frequently consulted by Indonesian salafis are themselves close to the Saudi government is another brake on any attraction within the movement to Osama bin Laden.
A major split within Indonesian salafism is between “purists”, who reject any association with groups or individuals willing to compromise religious purity for political goals, and more tolerant and inclusive groups willing to acknowledge some good even in deviant teachings. The “purists” categorically reject the Muslim Brotherhood and its Indonesian offshoot, the political party PKS, as well as organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jemaah Tabligh, and Darul Islam. Not only will they not interact with them, but they also reject funding from any source that has deviant organisations among its grantees.
Ironically, this means that the most “radical” of the salafis are the most immune to jihadist teachings, and the more “moderate”, those more open to other streams of thought, may provide slightly more fertile recruiting grounds for the jihadis.
That said, ICG’s information suggests that most salafi jihadis are not recruited from salafi schools but rather from schools linked to Darul Islam or JI itself; urban mosques; and areas with a history of communal conflict. The report examines the few concrete cases known of salafis who have crossed into or out of JI. Drawing on their own writings, it looks in depth at the difference between salafis and salafi jihadis.
More than ever, there is need for an empirical study of the educational backgrounds of known JI-members, but ICG concludes that salafism in Indonesia is not the security threat sometimes portrayed. It may come across to outsiders as intolerant or reactionary, but for the most part it is not prone to terrorism, in part because it is so inwardly focused on faith.