The Emir: An Interview with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, Alleged Leader of the Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiyah Organization
Publication: Spotlight on Terror Volume: 3 Issue: 9
This interview was conducted on August 13 and 15, 2005 from Cipinang Prison in Jakarta. Questions were formulated by Dr. Scott Atran and posed for him in Bahasa Indonesia by Taufiq Andrie. The interview took place in a special visitor’s room, where Ba’asyir had seven acolytes acting as his bodyguards, including Taufiq Halim, the perpetrator of the Atrium mall bombing in Jakarta, and Abdul Jabbar, who blew up the Philippines ambassador’s house. The transcript follows the short introduction below.
In this interview, the alleged terrorist leader Abu Bakar Ba’asyir provides his justification for waging jihad against the West. He also explains the calculus of suicide bombers and discusses his interpretation of Islam concerning war and infidels. Despite accusations that he is head of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist organization and has planned the most lethal terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia, Ba’asyir has only been convicted on conspiracy charges in the 2002 attack on a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people. His 30-month sentence for his role in that bombing, which included scores of Australian tourists among the casualties, was recently reduced by four months and 15 days.
Just outside the visitor’s cell is Hasyim, who runs Ba’asyir’s daily errands. Hasyim is a member of Majlis Mujahidin Indonesian (MMI), the country’s umbrella organization for militant Islamist groups headed by Ba’asyir. Like many Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members, including Ba’asyir and JI founder Abdullah Sungkar, Hasyim originally came from Darul Islam, a post-independence group banned by the Suharto regime that has operated semi-clandestinely in Indonesian society much as the Muslim Brotherhood has in the Middle East.
In 1993, Sungkar split from DI, bringing with him most of the Indonesian Afghan Alumni that he and Ba’asyir had sent to fight the Soviets. Until Suharto’s downfall in 1998, Sungkar and Ba’asyir expanded their network of Islamist schools from exile in Malaysia, funnelling students to training camps in Afghanistan and the Philippines, and expanding JI’s influence across Southeast Asia. After Sungkar’s death in 1999, Ba’asyir became “Emir” of JI – a position and organization whose existence he publicly denies but for which there is overwhelming evidence, including from current and former JI members Dr. Atran has interviewed. Although Sungkar himself established direct ties with bin Laden, it is under Ba’asyir’s stewardship that JI has adopted key aspects of al-Qaeda ideology and methods, targeting the interests of the ‘far enemy’ (the U.S. and its allies) with suicide bombings (Bali, Marriot Jakarta, Australian Embassy) in support of global jihad.
Referred to as Ustadz (“teacher”), Ba’asyir is surrounded by visiting family and students who offer him a daily assortment of news magazines and foods, especially dates, his favorites. His disciples tend to be well-educated, often university graduates, and they wash his clothes. Ba’asyir’s wife visits him once a month, and Ustadz offers to share the food she prepared with his prison mates, including Christians. He is a lanky, bespectacled Hadrami (a descendent from the Hadramawt region of Yemen, like bin Laden and Sungkar) who fasts twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. He is 66 and seemingly in good health. Dressed in a white robe, red sarong and white cap, he is sitting on a wooden chair, one foot up perched on the edge. He exudes politeness and is all smiles, with a strong voice and easy laugh he answers questions as if teaching.
Q. You say that it is fardh ‘ain [an individual obligation] for Muslims to wage jihad against Infidels.
A. There are two types of infidels. The infidel who is against Islam and declares war on Islam is called kafir harbi [enemy infidel]. The second type is kafir dhimmi [protected infidel]. These are people who don’t fight against Islam, but don’t embrace it either and basically remain neutral.
Q. When in Cipinang, did Ustadz meet Father Damanik?  Is he kafir dhimmi?
A. Yes, I was visited and was respected by him. I have a plan, if Allah allows me, to pay a visit to his house. That’s what I call “muamalah dunia,” daily relations in the secular life. Because al-Qur’an sura 60 verse 8 says that “Allah encourages us to be kind and just to the people who don’t fight us in religion and don’t help people who fight us” so we are encouraged by Allah to be good and just to them. It means that we can help those who aren’t against us. On these matters we can cooperate, but we also have to follow the norms of Shari’ah. If Shari’ah says not to doing something, then we shouldn’t do it. Shari’ah never prohibited business in the secular world except in very minor things. So it is generally allowed to have business with non-Muslims. We can help each other. For example, if we are sick and they help us, then if they become sick, we should help them. When they die we should accompany their dead bodies to the grave though we can’t pray for them.
Q. What is the principle of Hudaybiyah [the covenant between prophet Muhammad and the People of the Book]?
A. Hudaybiyah means different things according to the legal situation. When Islam is strong, we come to the infidel’s country, not to colonize but to watch over it so that the infidel cannot plan to ruin Islam. Everywhere, infidels conspire to ruin Islam. There is no infidel who wouldn’t destroy Islam if they were given even a small chance. Therefore, we have to be vigilant.
Q. What are the conditions for Islam to be strong?
A. If there is a state, the infidel country must be visited and spied upon. My argument is that if we don’t come to them, they will persecute Islam. They will prevent non-Muslims converting to Islam.
Q. Does being a martyr mean being a suicide bomber?
A. As I explained [the day before] yesterday, there are two types of infidel terms for suicide: first, those who commit suicide out of hopelessness, second, those who commit suicide in order to be remembered as a hero. Both are types of suicide and there is no value in it.
In Islam there are also people who commit suicide out of hopelessness and we call this killing oneself. But if a person defends Islam, and according to his calculations must die in doing so, although he works hard in life, he will still go and die for Islam.
The consideration is: “if I do this, will Islam benefit or lose? If I must die and without my dying Islam will not win, then my dying is allowed.” If one can avoid dying that is better. But to die is also permitted. That we called istimata or istijhad. Istimata [to seek death, also istishhad to become a shaheed] means looking to become a shaheed [martyr] and istijhad [becoming a jihadi] means the same. Because to die in jihad is noble.
According to Islam, to die is a necessity because everyone dies. But to seek the best death is what we call “Husn ul-Khatimah,” and the best way to die is to die as a shaheed.
Q. Would it be possible for an act of martyrdom to be aborted if the same results can be assured by other actions? For example, a roadside bomb.
A. For sure, if there are better ways to carry out an action and we don’t have to sacrifice our lives, those ways must be chosen. Because our strength can be used for other purposes.
Q. Is it acceptable to postpone a martyrdom action in order to make the hajj [pilgrimage to Mecca]?
A. A martyrdom action cannot be postponed in this case because jihad is more important than making the hajj. For example one of most revered ulema, Ibn Taymiyya, was asked by a rich person:
“O Sheikh, I have so much money but I’m confused about donating my money because there are two needy causes. There are poor people who, if I don’t help, will die of starvation. But if I use the money for this purpose, then the Jihad will lack funding. Therefore, I need your fatwah [religious decision] O Sheikh”
Ibn Taymiyya replied: “Give all your money for jihad. If the poor people die, it is because Allah fated it, because if we lose the Jihad, many more people will die.”
There is no better deed than jihad. None. The highest deed in Islam is jihad. If we commit to jihad, we can neglect other deeds. America wants to wipe out the teaching of jihad through Ahmadiyah [an Islamic school of thought that believes that Pakistan’s Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the Prophet Muhammad’s successor]. Through this organization, America works. Why? Because Ahmadiyah prohibits its followers to undertake jihad because [they argue] jihad is the teaching of Christians. This organization originates from India. Its headquarters are in London, funded by America. Ahmadiyah is America’s tool to destroy Islam, including JIL [Jaringan Islam Liberal, Islamic Liberal Network], an NGO in Jakarta that advocates a liberal form of Islam. It is funded by USAID.
Q. So is the idea to postpone is not allowed in any circumstances, even in order to visit sick parents?
A. No, no. If we are in jihad, the jihad must come first. Unless jihad is in [the state of] fardh kifayah [a collective duty, for the nation]. If jihad is in [the state of] fardh ’ain [an individual duty], jihad must be number one. There is no obligation to ask permission from one’s parents. But even if jihad is still in the fardh kifayah state, such as jihad to spy on infidel countries, Muslims don’t require their parent’s permission.
Q. Can a martyrdom action be permanently abandoned if there is a good chance that the martyr’s family would be killed in a retaliation action? similarly if the community where the martyr is from will also experience retaliation and casualties?
A. That is the risk and the consequence of jihad. If the martyr’s family understands Islam deeply, they will obtain many rewards. Their reward will come, if they understand. A martyr must have ikhlas [sincerity]. The parent who understands this concept must be thankful to Allah. This is the spirit of jihad that most scares the infidels. This is a moral force. According to General De Gaulle, moral force is 80% and actual action only 20% [of successful combat]. For infidels the motivation is to be a hero or [to die for] the nation. Some are even encouraged to drink [alcohol] so that they can become brave. Russia was badly defeated in Afghanistan. [Afghanistan] is different than Eastern Europe which could be conquered in only a month or two. Russians thought [that they could conquer] Afghanistan in two weeks maximum because its people were backward, isn’t that right? That was Russia’s calculation based on their experience in Eastern Europe. But Afghanistan fought Russia back with their aqidah [by following Islamic doctrine] in the way of jihad.
I’ll tell you a story so that you’ll understand. There was an Afghan mother who made cakes. She asked her children to distribute the cakes to the mujahideen. One by one her children were hit by shells on their way to deliver the cakes. When the mujahideen informed her they said : “Dear mother, please be strong because your children are martyred.” [The mother replied]: “I’m not crying for my children but I’m crying because I don’t know who’ll bring my cakes to the mujahideen.” Then one of the mujahideen agreed to replace her children. So, this is the spirit of jihad. You find ikhlas and willingness. Prophet Muhammad said: “I want to make jihad then die, then live again, then do jihad again, then live again, then jihad – for ten times.” This is because of the noble status for Muslims who became shaheed.
Q. Do you think the community which believes in martyrdom actions cares if the martyr only manages to blow up himself/herself and fails to kill any of the enemy?
A. No, [provided that] the ni’at [intention] to be a shaheed must be for Allah. During battle it is different. Istimata is also different. Still, the whole notion revolves around martyrdom. But in places like London and in America there must be other calculations. In battle it is best to cause as many casualties as possible.
Q. Do you think God favors or cares more for the martyr who manages to kill 100 enemies or one enemy?
A. The value [nilai] and reward [pahala] is the same.
Q. In regard to the global condition, what kind of things can the West, especially America, do to make this world more peaceful. What kind of attitudes must be changed?
A. They have to stop fighting Islam, but that’s impossible because it is “sunnatullah” [destiny, a law of nature], as Allah has said in the Qur’an. They will constantly be enemies. But they’ll lose. I say this not because I am able to predict the future but they will lose and Islam will win. That was what the Prophet Muhammad has said. Islam must win and Westerners will be destroyed. But we don’t have to make them enemies if they allow Islam to continue to grow so that in the end they will probably agree to be under Islam. If they refuse to be under Islam, it will be chaos. Full stop. If they want to have peace, they have to accept to be governed by Islam.
Q. What if they persist?
A. We’ll keep fighting them and they’ll lose. The batil [falsehood] will lose sooner or later. I sent a letter to Bush. I said that you’ll lose and there is no point for you [to fight us]. This [concept] is found in the Qur’an. The other day, I asked my lawyer to send that letter to the [U.S.] embassy. I don’t know whether the embassy passed on my letter to Bush [telling him], “You are useless, you’ll lose.” There are verses in the Qur’an that say, “You spend so much money yet you’ll be disappointed.” The verse is clear so I’m not some one who can predict the future but I get the information from Allah, so I’ll never be sad because I believe the time will come. Still, I feel that the Ummah [Muslim community] has a problem now. If the Ummah loses the [current] battle it isn’t because of Islam. A Muslim, as long as he is not “broken” [and remains committed to Allah’s rule] will get help from Allah.
Q. How about using nuclear weapons by Muslims, is it justified?
A. Yes, if necessary. But the Islamic Ummah should seek to minimalize [the intensity of the fighting]. Allah has said in verse 8 chapter 60 that we should equip ourself with weapon power—that is an order—but preferably to scare and not to kill our enemy. The main goal is to scare them. If they are scared they won’t bother us, and then we won’t bother them as well. But if they persist, we have to kill them. In this way, Prophet Muhammad sought to minimalize the fighting.
Q. In your personal view, what do you think of bombings in our homeland, namely the Bali, Marriott and Kuningan bombings?
A. I call those who carried out these actions all mujahid. They all had a good intention, that is, Jihad in Allah’s way, the aim of the jihad is to look for blessing from Allah. They are right that America is the proper target because America fights Islam. So in terms of their objectives, they are right, and the target of their attacks was right also. But their calculations are debatable. My view is that we should do bombings in conflict areas not in peaceful areas. We have to target the place of the enemy, not countries where many Muslims live.
Q. What do you mean by “wrong calculation,” that the victims included Muslims?
A. That was one them. In my calculation, if there are bombings in peaceful areas, this will cause fitnah [discord] and other parties will be involved. This is my opinion and I could be wrong. Yet I still consider them mujahid. If they made mistakes, they are only human beings who can be wrong. Moreover, their attacks could be considered as self-defense.
Q. Does that mean you think they didn’t attack?
A. No, they didn’t attack because they defended themselves. They shouldn’t be punished. In Bali where 200 people died, it was America’s bomb. That was a major attack and Amrozi [the Bali plotter who bought the explosives] doesn’t have the capability to do that. 
Q. Did Amrozi tell you this himself?
A. He himself was surprised to see the explosion. When he said that it was Allah’s help he was right but he didn’t make that bomb. America did. There is much evidence to this effect and so the police dare not continue their investigations. According to England’s expert, that bomb was not Amrozi’s bomb. You should ask Fauzan. He knows this subject. That bomb was a CIA Jewish bomb. The Mossad cooperates with the CIA.  I had an exchange of views with the police and they didn’t say anything. I said to them, “You are stupid to punish Amrozi if he really knows how to make such a bomb. You should hire him to be a military consultant, because there is no military or police person [in Indonesia] who can make such a bomb.” However, when I asked Ali Imron  in the court he said: “Yes, I did it” I believe him [that he made one of the smaller bombs that went off]. A bomb expert from Australia said that anyone who believes that Amrozi and friends made that [bigger] bomb is an idiot; [this is also the opinion of] a bomb expert from England whose comments I read in a magazine. If Amrozi really did make that bomb, he deserves the Nobel Prize. So, the death penalty is not fair.
Q. I want to ask your opinion of Nasir Abas’s book where he said that you are the Emir of JI? 
A. This is a traitor, a betrayer. I was in Malaysia and I had a jama’ah [congregation] the name of which was Jama’ah Sunnah. We just studied Islam.
Q. Were you aware that Nasir Abas was your student?
A. Yes, I was. But he was not the only one there; he also studied with Ustadz Hasyim Gani. I joined his group. He died. I think Nassir Abas’s book is [written] on orders from the police and for money.
Q. According to you, the book is incorrect, especially on Jemaah Islamiyah and you being its Emir?
A. This is not a court and the real court has failed to prove it. 
Q. What was Nasir Abas’s motivation in writing that book?
A. I don’t know. But basically he got orders from the police and received some money. I think that was his motivation. He doesn’t have the courage to meet me. If I meet him, I’ll send him to do jihad in Chechnya or to the Southern Philippines so that Allah will accept his remorse [taubah]. He invented his own story.
Q. I heard that Nasir Abas came here. Did he meet you?
A. No, he came here to meet others.
Q. If I may know, when was the first time you heard the name al-Qaeda?
A. After the police questioned me; during the time I was filing a law suit against TIME magazine. Do you remember when I did that? They wanted me to take 100 million rupiah to stop the case but I didn’t. But I don’t know anymore about the case. During that time, I was under suspicion but I wasn’t arrested. That was the first time I heard the name al-Qaeda.  A policeman from the intelligence section whose name I forget interrogated me from morning until afternoon. He asked about that name [al-Qaeda]. That was the first time I heard of it. Before, I never heard of it. I went to Pakistan but I didn’t hear that name. I went there to accompany my son  and meet some Arabs but I never heard that name.
Q. How about Shaykh Osama bin Laden?
A. I heard his name a long time ago. I read his writings, saw his tapes and met Arabs in Pakistan who talked about him when I accompanied my son, Abdur Rahim. Who didn’t know Osama? He was a mujahid against the Soviets and he had his own military that he funded by himself. He was a hero who America also praised. He was then also supported by America. America was piggybacking on him because America didn’t have the courage to fight against the Soviets. They were afraid of the Soviets and they relied on the Afghans.
Q. Have you ever him?
A. No, no. I want to though. After my release, I hope I can meet him. 
Q. Where will you find him?
A. If he still exists—but how could I? On Osama, my stand in court was clear. I have sympathy for his struggle. Osama is Allah’s soldier. When I heard his story, I came to the conclusion that he’s mujahid, a soldier of Allah.
Q. So you will always be on his side?
A. Many say this and Osama is right. His tactics and calculations may sometimes be wrong, he’s an ordinary human being after all. I don’t agree with all of his actions. He encouraged people to do bombings. I don’t agree with that. He said that JI followed his fatwah. His fatwah said that all Americans must be killed wherever they can be found, because America deserves it. Therefore [according to bin Laden] if Muslims come across Americans, they have to attack them. Osama believes in total war. This concept I don’t agree with. If this occurs in an Islamic country, the fitnah [discord] will be felt by Muslims. But to attack them in their country [America] is fine.
Q. So it means that the fight against America will never end?
A. Never, and this fight is compulsory. Muslims who don’t hate America sin. What I mean by America is George Bush’s regime. There is no iman [belief] if one doesn’t hate America. There are three ways of attacking: with your hand, your mouth and your heart.
Q. Does this mean America’s government? Its policies?
A. If its citizens are good that’s fine, especially the Muslim citizens. They are our brothers. Non-Muslims are also fine as long as they don’t bother us. A witness at my trial, Frederick Burks, wrote that he’s against Bush. 
Q. How can the American regime and its policies change?
A. We’ll see. As long as there is no intention to fight us and Islam continues to grow there can be peace. This is the doctrine of Islam. Islam can’t be ruled by others. Allah’s law can’t be under human law. Allah’s law must stand above human law. All laws must be under Islamic law. This is what the infidels fail to recognize, that’s what America doesn’t like to see. You should read a book, “The Face of Western Civilization” by Adian Husaini. It’s a good book, a thick one. The conclusion of the book is that Western scholars hold an anti-Islamic doctrine. It is true there will be a clash of civilizations. The argumentation is correct that there will be a clash between Islam and the infidels. There is no [example] of Islam and infidels, the right and the wrong, living together in peace.
1. Father Rinaldy Damanik is the leader of the Christian community in Poso District, Sulawesi where violence between Muslims and Christians led to hundreds of deaths on both sides between late 1998 and 2002 (and where intermittent violence continues to this day). I interviewed Father Damanik in his home in Tentena on August 10, 2005. It turns out that Father Damanik shared the same jail cell block successively for some months (September 2002 – January 2003) with Reda Seyam (legendary Al-Qaeda film-maker), Imam Samudra (the JI computer expert condemned to death for planning the meetings and choosing the targets for the Bali bombings) and Ba’asyir. Damanik befriended all three. There are smiling photos of Reda and Damanik together, and Samudra and Ba’asyir have both confirmed their warm feelings toward Father Damanik. Damanik used to call Ba’asyir “Opa” (grandfather) and Ba’asyir’s wife would bring gifts of food to Damanik. They discussed injustice, Shari’ah, faith in God, suicide attacks and opposing America. According to Damanik, they found much agreement on the sources of injustice but disagreed strongly over the means to overcome it.
2. Amrozi bin Nurahasyim was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court for having plotted the bombing of the Sari Club in Kuta, Bali along with Imam Samudra and Amrozi’s older brother, Mukhlas.
3. The story about the CIA-Mossad conspiracy is widespread among JI leaders and foot soldiers and (usually with a laugh) used to illustrate that that JI is itself a concoction of “Jewish Intelligence.”
4. Ali Imron, the younger brother of Mukhlas and Amrozi, was sentenced to life in prison for the Bali bombings after having expressed remorse for his role in the attacks.
5. Muhammad Nasir bin Abas, who trained Bali bombers Imam Samudra and Ali Imron, received his religious instruction from Sungkar and Ba’asyir in Malaysia before they sent him in 1991 for three years to Towrkhan military camp in Afghanistan. He became a top JI military trainer but also gave religious instruction. In April 2001 Ba’asyir appointed Abas head of Mantiqi 3, one of JI’s strategic area divisions, which covered the geographical region of the Philippines and Sulawesi and was responsible for military training and arms supply. Abas turned state’s evidence in Ba’asyir’s trial, outlining the structure of JI and Ba’asyir’s position as Emir. But Abas refused to openly condemn Ba’asyir or accuse him of ordering any terrorist operations, always respectfully referring to Ba’asyir as Ustadz. In July 2005 Abas published Membongkar Jamaah Islamiyah (Unveiling Jamaah Islamiyah). The first part of the book details JI’s organization, ideology and strategy. The second part is a rebuttal to Samudra’s own book, Aku Melawan Terroris, and what Abas believes to be a tendentious use of the Quran and Hadith to justify suicide bombing and violence against fellow Muslims and civilians.
In between my interviews with Ba’asyir I interviewed Abas, who says that he quit JI over Ba’asyir’s refusal to condemn or contain the operations and influence of Riduan Isamuddin (aka Hambali). In January 2000, Hambali hosted a meeting in an apartment owned by JI member Yazid Sufaat in Kuala Lumpur that included 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 9/11 highjackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi. As Abas tells it, Hambali, who was JI’s main liaison with Al-Qaeda and a close friend and disciple of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, was given control of Mantiqi 1, which covered the geographical region of Malaysia and environs and was strategically responsible for JI finances and economic development. But Hambali was dissatisfied being saddled with the “economic wing” (iqtisod) and wanted to play a more active role in the conflict zones. The then-leader of Mantiqi 3, Mustafa (now in custody) blocked Hambali from muscling in on his area but Hambali was able to send fighters to fight Christians in Ambon (Maluku) in 1999, which was under Mantiqi 2 (covering most of Indonesia and strategically responsible for JI recruitment and organizational development). Encouraged by success in heating up the Maluku crisis, Hambali decided first to extend his (and al-Qaeda’s) conception of jihad to all of Indonesia (including the 1999 bombing of the Atrium Mall in Jakarta, the August 2000 bombing of the Philippines Ambassador’s house, and 17 coordinated Church bombings on Christmas eve 2000) and then to “globalize” the jihad by enlisting suicide bombers to hit Western targets and interests (including a failed plot to blow up Singapore’s American, Australian and Israeli embassies in December 2001, and the successful 2002 Bali bombings and 2003 suicide attack on Jakarta’s Marriott hotel). Although Abas argues that JI shouldn’t be outlawed because many in JI reject Al-Qaeda’s vision of global jihad, in fact JI’s infrastructure and leadership continue to protect (with safe houses) and condone (as “self-defense”) efforts by the likes of master-bomber Dr. Azhari bin Hussain and his constant sidekick, JI’s top recruiter Nurdin Nur Thop, who some tell me recently established a suicide squad, called Thoifah Muqatilah, for large actions against Western interests.
6. According to Abas, JI’s essential organization and ideology is outlined in a set of general guidelines for the Jemaah Islamiyah Struggle (Pedoman Umum Perjuangan al-Jamaah al-Islamiyah, PUPJI), a 44-page manual that contains a constitution, outlines the roles of office bearers and gives details of how meetings must be organized (e.g., about what to do if a quorum cannot be obtained in the leadership council). The guidelines declare that anyone who adheres to fundamental Islamic principles that are devoid of corruption, deviation (e.g. Sufism) or innovation, can take the bayat (oath of allegiance) to the Emir of JI and become a JI member. Although JI would be, in principle, open to anyone who meets these conditions, in fact only carefully selected individuals, including the Mantiqi leaders, were allowed to take the bayat and obtain copies of the PUPJI. Such individuals generally (but not always) would have undergone previous training in Afghanistan or graduated at the top of their class in courses that Sungkar and Ba’asyir designed for JI recruitment (though designation of courses as JI was unknown to potential recruitees). Abas fulfilled both conditions. Although many people (including some Afghan Alumni I have interviewed) think of themselves as JI, or are not certain of whether or not they belong to JI, Abas insists that if they did not formally take the bayat they are considered sympathizers or supporters of JI but not members (just as some prisoners at Guantanamo are sincerely uncertain as to whether or not they belong to al-Qaeda if they did not formally take the bayat to Bin Laden).
Abas says the PUPJI was drafted by a committee, including Ba’asyir, and then formally approved by Sungkar as the basis for JI. When asked about the PUPJI in an earlier (untaped part of the) interview, Ba’asyir claimed, on the one hand, that the PUPJI manual was planted by police and intelligence services but, on the other hand, that it contains sound principles modeled on the doctrine of the Egyptian Islamic Group (Gama’at Islamiyah). Abas says that the manual also contains elements of Indonesia’s military organization, particularly in regard to the ranking of personnel (binpur) and responsibility for territory (bintur). He adds that although the PUPJI allows the JI to conduct itself as a “secret organization” (tanzim sir) – and conceal its doctrine, membership and operations from public view – it does not allow the practice of taqiyyah (dissimulation) to extend to lying to the (Muslim) public (another reason Abas gives for his leaving JI).
7. Other members of JI who openly acknowledge sympathy with bin Laden and Qaeda say much the same thing. For example, I interviewed the JI member who founded the first mujahidin training camp in 2000 for the conflict in Poso, Sulawesi. He had earlier been sent by JI founder Abdullah Sungkar during the Soviet-Afghan War to train in Abu Sayyafs’s Ihtihad camp in Sada, Pakistan and to study with Abdullah Azzam, Bin Laden’s mentor and the person who first formulated the notion of “Al-Qaeda sulbah” (“the strong base”) as a vanguard for jihad. This JI member also acknowledges hosting Khalid Sheikh Muhammad at his home in Jakarta for a month in 1996. Yet, he claims never to have heard of “al-Qaeda” applied to a specific organization or group headed by Bin Laden until 9/11.
8. Ba’asyir sent his younger son, Abdul Rahim, to the Afghanistan border during the Soviet-Afghan war to spend time under the wing of Aris Sumarsono (aka Zulkarnaen, who became JI’s operations chief) later enrolling Rahim in an Islamic high school in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Seeking a stricter salafist education for his son, Ba’asyir directed Rahim in the mid-nineties to Sana’a, Yemen, to study under Abdul Madjid al-Zindani (like Abdullah Azzam, Zindani was a legend among self-proclaimed “Afghan Alumni” who fought the Soviets). By 1999, Rahim was in Malaysia and soon under Hambali’s stewardship. Abdul Rahim now operates freely in Indonesia (reports in August 2005, place him in Aceh, heading a new charity, Camp Taochi Foundation [NB these reports now appear to be invalid – ed. 11/01/05]) but he is suspected of having taken over JI’s contacts with Al-Qaeda remnants after Hambali’s capture.
9. Ba’asyir’s statement that he never met bin Laden is contradicted by testimony from other JI members, both free and in custody. In the following letter (authenticated by Indonesian intelligence) dated August 3, 1998 and addressed to regional jihadi leaders, Ba’asyir and Sungkar state they are acting on bin Laden’s behalf to advance “the Muslim world’s global jihad” (jabhah Jihadiyah Alam Islamy) against “the Jews and Christians:”
Malaysia, 10 Rabiul Akhir 1419 [August 3, 1998]
From: Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir
To: Al Mukarrom, respected clerics, teachers (ustadz), sheikhs
All praises upon God who has said:
“The Jews and Christians will never be satisfied until you follow their way of worship” Al Baqarah: 120
Praise and peace upon Prophet Muhammad who has said:
“If I’m still alive, I’ll surely expel the Jews and Christians out of the Arabian peninsula”
And may God bless us and any of his followers who want to follow his orders.
Respected clerics, teachers and sheikhs
This letter is to convey a message from Sheikh Osama Bin Laden to all of you. We send you this letter because we can’t visit and see you directly. However, we send our envoy, Mr. Ghaus Taufiq [a Darul Islam commander in Sumatra], to bring this letter personally to all of you.
We also attach Bin Laden’s written message in this letter and Bin Laden also sends these messages to all of you:
1. Bin Laden conveys his regards (Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh)
2. Bin Laden says that right now, after “Iman” (to believe in God), the most important obligation for all Moslems in the world is to work hard to free the Arabian Peninsula from the occupation of Allah’s enemy America (Jews and Christians).
This obligation is mathalabusy syar’i (a consequence of the shari’ah) that every Moslem must not consider this obligation to be a simple matter. Prophet Muhammad, although he was sick, ordered the Muslim Ummah to prioritize their obligation to expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula. Therefore, as the Prophet has said, the Muslim Ummah must take this obligation seriously. It is very important for the Muslim world to work very hard to free the Arabian Peninsula from colonization by the infidel Americans.
If we can free the Arabian peninsula as masdarul diinul Islam (the source of Islam) and makorrul haromain (Holy Mecca) from occupation by the infidel Americans, Inshallah (God willing) our struggle to uphold Islam everywhere on God’s land will be successful. Stagnation and the difficulty in upholding Islam at present stems from the occupation of the Arabian Peninsula by the infidel America.
This great struggle must be put into action by the Ummah (Muslim community) all over the world under the leadership and guidance of clerics in their respective countries. Under such leadership, we will prevail.
The first step of this struggle is issuing fatwah (Islamic edict) from clerics all over the world addressed to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The edict must remind the King what Prophet Muhammad said about the obligation for the Muslim Ummah to expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula. Otherwise, this world will suffer a catastrophe. These edicts will give strong encouragement and influence to the King of Arabia. This is the message from Osama bin Laden conveyed to all of you.
Sheikh Osama bin Laden really wants to visit all clerics and Islamic preachers everywhere in the world to share his views so that there will be a common understanding about this momentous struggle. In the end, we will have similar movements simultaneously across the world. However, Bin Laden realizes that the situation outside his sanctuary is not presently safe. He also awaits your visit with his deep respect so that this great struggle may proceed. These are Bin Laden’s messages that we convey to all of you.
We take this opportunity to explain certain facts about Bin Laden:
• At present, Sheikh Osama stays in Afghanistan, in the Kandahar area, under the protection of Taliban
• He doesn’t oppose either the Taliban or Mujahideen. He’s trying to unify both groups.
From his camp in Kandahar, Bin Laden organizes plans to expel infidel America from the Arabian Peninsula by inviting ulemas and preachers from all over the world. In this camp, Bin Laden is accompanied by a number of Arab mujahideen, especially those who previously fought in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and these mujahideen prepare to form “jabhah Jihadiyah Alam Islamy” (The global jihadi coalition in the Moslem world) to fight against America.
The above information is about Sheikh Osama Bin Laden that you should know.
If you have the time and commitment to visit Sheikh Osama, Inshallah, we can help you meet him safely.
We praise God to all of you for your attention and cooperation.
Jazakumullah khoirul jaza (Thanks to God the best thanks)
Wassalamu’alaukim, Your brother in Allah
Abdullah Sungkar Abu Bakar Ba’asyir
10. Frederick Burks appeared at Ba’asyir’s trial testifying that he had interpreted at a 2002 meeting about Ba’asyir between an envoy of President George W. Bush and Indonesia’s then-president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Burks said the unidentified envoy accused Ba’asyir of involvement in a series of church bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asked for the cleric to be secretly arrested and handed over to US authorities. Megawati declined, he said.