In the early 2000s, Indonesia witnessed a proliferation of militant terror activity in the wake of Suharto’s downfall. Whilst not wanting to downplay the risk posed or the appalling loss wrought by multiple attacks, the worst of the threat predictions largely failed to materialize, at least strategically. It is a situation that raises interesting questions about the ways in which Indonesian policymakers and agencies responded to extremism and diminished their macro-threat environment. By situating militancy in historical and cultural context, this paper explains the long run counter-productive consequences of persistent state-level punitive action. Authorities realized that on their own, the latter measures run too high a risk of alienating and further polarizing the attitudes of oppositional minorities toward the state and wider society. The paper further details the preventative and rehabilitative steps that are now critical components of a more nuanced policy approach. Despite ongoing concerns especially around returnees from Syria, the Indonesian case demonstrates a development in policy that is willing to chart a course between punishment and persuasion. One that is better placed to counter extreme thinking and limit the conditions under which it reproduces.
Paul Carnegie, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei