Indonesian Theocrats Unlikely to Win Sharia

Indonesian Theocrats Unlikely to Win Sharia

Abu Bakar Bashir might be the "Teflon teacher." Since the 1970s, he has preached Islamic theocracy in Indonesia, and lived 13 years in exile to avoid a jail sentence for his beliefs under the secular dictator Suharto. Even in Indonesia's new, more liberal political climate, he has been hauled before Indonesian courts for involvement in bomb attacks on churches, the 2002 Bali bombings, a Jakarta attack, and for being the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

But the charges haven't really stuck. Prosecutors have had limited success linking him with JI, convicting him only of being part of a criminal conspiracy related to the Bali attacks and giving him 30 months in jail.

He was released from prison ahead of schedule in June 2006 and immediately returned to work with one of his organizations, the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI). MMI is a coalition of Indonesian groups that favor sharia. Its website says the May 27 Yogyakarta earthquake was divine punishment for the country's ignoring Islam and turning to secularism. In early August, the group held a recruitment drive in several cities for young men to volunteer as mujahideen fighters in southern Lebanon. Thirty men signed up in one day in just one city.

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