Democracy means legitimacy for Indonesia’s counter-terrorism policy



The case of Indonesia demonstrates that in countering violent extremism, democracy and serious efforts to gain legitimacy from the people before taking action are a necessary part of a grand narrative to counter ISIL, says Abubakar Eby Hara, Asia Studies Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington.

Indonesia’s counter-terrorism policy is the product of a political system that transitioned from authoritarianism to democracy, he writes:

Indonesia did not anticipate the emergence of terrorism but is able to develop a policy that uses hard measures to combat terrorism and at the same time does not ignore democratic principles that the country espouses. As a newly democratic country, it tries to ensure that the principles of democracy and efforts to tackle terrorism can be implemented simultaneously. Although there have certainly been several problems with this policy, it is nonetheless able to minimize the spread of jihadist ideology.

Democratic values such as dialogue, sharing values, peaceful conflict resolution, political openness, and pluralism need to be continually maintained, he adds:

When terrorist groups have emerged in Indonesia, they were certainly not born out of this tradition, but rather out of contiguity with international movements such as Wahhabism and ISIL. These movements try to offer a solution in the form of a Caliphate system to solve all problems of Muslims today that have been subject to marginalization and injustices by the West. To a certain degree, democratic values have been part of the tradition in Indonesian society which accepted Islam through an assimilation process and not through war. Tolerance and mutual respect have become a tradition in the religious life of the majority of Indonesians and extreme violence such as terrorism is not welcome.


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