An in-depth study emerged recently that leveled accusations against Arab organizations and individuals and claimed that that they are trying to control ideology in Indonesia and alter its society from one that is known for tolerance to one that is religiously fanatic and politically extremist. The study argued that the spread of Arab extremists in Indonesia was an organized and comprehensive plan that focused deliberately on penetrating all aspects of life in Indonesia.
This study sounded the alarm for the Indonesian government, suggesting that it should confront this crisis created by the infiltration by these Arab groups into Indonesian society. As a matter of fact, Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in terms of population, has always been known as the mother of Islamic societies, organizations and schools. However, Indonesia is also known for being different to Islamic societies in the Arab world. Up until very recently, Indonesia was renowned for its tolerance; but this changed when extremist groups began to surface within a state of political unrest. These groups fundamentally are associated with spreading the ideas of the Al Qaeda network, which calls for rising up against the current political status.
At the beginning, violence in Indonesia was attributed to Middle Eastern groups only, particularly Al Qaeda, until it was discovered that many of the activists belonging to these groups were actually natives. The most famous figure among them was Abu Bakr al Bashir. Nevertheless, al Bashir and his group represented a tiny minority within Indonesian Muslim society. Indonesia was described as a fortress of moderation that no extremists could break through; but it seems that the situation in Indonesia is growing similar to that of Asian communities in Britain. These communities in Britain of Pakistani and Indian origin were known for being tolerant and peaceful until extremist ideology pervaded. Today, these communities are considered a source of danger in the United Kingdom.
Whilst the leader of the Muhammadiyah organization, the second largest Islamic group in Indonesia, attributes part of the problem to external political pressures, namely the conflicts in the Middle East region, which are being transferred to Indonesian soil, he also remains confident that Indonesian faith, which is based upon moderate teachings, and the lengthy experience of the country are capable of confronting extremist elements.
This vast country is not unfamiliar with Islamic institutions and schools that are spread among its population of 230 million people. Associations and organizations are age-old in this country and have always been known as a source of promoting tolerance and moderate Islam. Nahdatul Ulama in Indonesia has been around for over 35 years and the number of its followers exceeds the overall population of the Gulf States combined.
This recent study claims that Gulf and Egyptian influence is also a problem. It might be true that the extremist ideology that is prevalent in the Arab world today is the source of the problem in most parts of the Islamic world. However, holding it entirely responsible suggests that some parties are not willing to take responsibility. Extremism has become a general issue; its main channels are the modern means of communication popular among our youth, such as the Internet for example. Therefore, would it be logical to say that the United States is responsible for the spread of Islamist extremism because the internet is US based?
Extreme religious ideology is a crisis that all Islamic countries are facing and accusing one another of being the source of this crisis will only lead to its growth rather than its reduction.