Abu Bakar Ba'asyir


Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

Person

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir

Abu Bakar Ba'asyir (also known as Abu Bakar Bashir) is one of the more prominent radical Islamic clerics in Southeast Asia. He was born in 1938 in Jombang, East Java into a family of Yemeni descent.

He was active in the Muslim Youth Movement of al-Irsyad (a Salafi socio-religious organisation), attended al-Irsyad University, and later joined the Darul Islam movement which sought to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state. In 1972 he co-founded the Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school for children near Solo, Central Java together with Abdullah Sungkar. Ba'asyir and Sungkar also ran an unauthorised Islamic radio station which they used to spread ideas about establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia. Their denunciation of the state ideology of pancasila saw Ba'asyir and Sungkar arrested and imprisoned from 1978 to 1982. Upon their release they fled to Malaysia where they continued teaching. In 1985 the first of a number of Ba'asyir and Sungkar's students went to Afghanistan for training, a flow which continued until 1993. In 1993, Ba'asyir and Sungkar co-founded Jemaah Islamiyya (JI). After the fall of Suharto's regime in 1998, Ba'asyir and Sungkar returned to Indonesia believing that the time had come to establish an Islamic state. Sungkar died in 1999, leaving Ba'asyir as the emir of JI.

As Ba'asyir wanted to exploit Indonesia's new political openness he founded the Majles Mujahedin Indonesia (MMI, Indonesian Mujahedin Council) to bring together all groups struggling for the implementation of sharia. In 2003, Ba'asyir was arrested and charged with treason and immigration violations. Only the latter could be proven by the state prosecutor so Ba'asyir was released from prison in October 2004. He was again arrested in March 2005 and charged with involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2003 Mariott Hotel bombing and again jailed until June 2008. Upon his release he established a new organisation, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), to advance his aims of implementing sharia in Indonesia. Ba'asyir was arrested again in August 2010 for links a jihadi training camp in Aceh discovered and dismantled earlier that year. He was later convicted of providing funding for the training camp and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Since his imprisonment Ba'asyir has written several books denouncing the Indonesian government, advocating the establishment of an Islamic state, and inspiring Indonesians to embrace jihad. He has also published sermons, open letters and fatwas on several radical Islamist websites, including a fatwa for jihad in support of the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and a fatwa calling upon Muslims in Indonesia to provide financial assistance, humanitarian aid and to volunteer to fight in Syria.

Dr Kirsten E. Schulze, Associate Professor of International History, London School of Economics