Extremism and Democracy in Indonesia: A rare opportunity to meet Sidney Jones

EVENT VIDEO: On Thursday 29 November, the AIIA in NSW hosted Sidney Jones for the last of our distinguished lecture series in 2012. The night was a tour de force on Indonesia, with a fantastic presentation and very engaging question time. This video should not be missed.

How secure is Indonesia? Or, to put it another way, how strong are the terrorist groups that operate in Australia’s closest neighbour, the world’s largest Muslim country? Is president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono doing enough to bring terrorists to justice? And what happens when he steps down next year?

Few questions are as important as these for Australia’s own security. And no one is better equipped to answer than Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group.

Ms. Jones, through examining recent developments in Indonesia, is looking at two trends: the rise in power and influence of Islamist civil society, and the fragmentation of violent extremist groups.

Democratic space, decentralisation and direct elections of local officials have facilitated the first; good law enforcement has been a major factor in the second.

For a variety of reasons, we are increasingly seeing a merging of the two phenomena — violent extremist groups are joining advocacy coalitions for policy change led by Islamist NGOs, and many of the young men turning to extremist violence are getting their start in campaigns of Islamist NGOs against vice, deviance and apostasy.

When lines between legal and illegal, hardline and extremist, non-violent and violent become increasingly blurred, what options are available to a democratic government without curbing hard-won civil liberties? How far can any government in Indonesia go to address extremism without generating a political backlash? And does Australia have anything to offer?

Sidney Jones heads the International Crisis Group’s South East Asian analysts based in Jakarta where they prepare analytical reports on the sources of conflict and violence in the region, with a particular focus on Indonesia. She has examined separatist conflicts (Aceh and Papua, Mindanao); communal conflicts (Poso, Moluccas); and ethnic conflict (Kalimantan). Her team has also looked at Islamic radicalism, producing a series of reports on Jemaah Islamiyah and its operations in Indonesia and the Philippines. It also looks at issues of security sector reform and decentralisation in Indonesia. Sidney frequently briefs the media, international organisations, and government representatives on these issues, and will be doing so on her brief visit to Australia.

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