Will terrorism end democracy in Indonesia?

As the manhunt for Top hits one dead end after another, Yudhoyono’s top security personnel have floated some controversial ideas for improving their terror-fighting capabilities, ones that if fully implemented would have serious implications for Indonesia’s burgeoning democracy. For example, police recently announced that they would begin to monitor sermons delivered by certain Muslim clerics in an effort to identify any incitement to hatred or violence in the name of religion.

Is preaching in favour of murdering people in terrorist attacks considered “freedom of expression”?

Police later backtracked on the announcement after a backlash from religious groups and people arguing for freedom of expression, and they denied that security officials had already instituted the surveillance scheme. However, according to reports, police in Batam, an island near Singapore, have already started watching over sermons as part of stepped-up security measures during the holy month of Ramadan.

More controversial was the announcement by Inspector General Ansyaad Mbai, head of the government’s anti-terrorism desk, that he would seek legal power to increase from five days to two years the length of time for which suspected terrorists could be detained without charge.

This could be more worrying, specially because of the Suharto’s dictatorship (1 million killed in anti-communist purges) and the memories the population has of those times:

While a military approach to hunting terrorists might be more effective than sleuthing police work, proposed tougher anti-terror measures, including the suspension of habeas corpus, raise images among many Indonesians of the Suharto era’s worst abuses, as well as the excesses and torture perpetuated by US forces against Muslim terror suspects at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba

Surprisingly, they have not heard about Mesbah-Yazdi.


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