With more than 230 million Muslim inhabitants, Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world. Not less impressive, around 13 percent of the total number of Muslims in the world, today, live within the borders of Indonesia. Hence, it needs little imagination to see that the influence of Islamic principles and ethics on Indonesian society, politics, and the economy is huge.

Ongoing Process of Islamization of Indonesia

In fact, a process of Islamization has been ongoing in Indonesia ever since this religion first arrived in the archipelago many centuries ago. There probably has been an Islamic presence in maritime Southeast Asia from early on in the Islamic era when Muslim traders came to the Archipelago, made settlements on the coastal areas, married local women and enjoyed respect due to the wealth they acquired through trade. These were the early days of Indonesian Islamization.

In a later stage (possibly starting from the 13th century) Islamic kingdoms started to be established by local (indigenous) rulers in the Archipelago (mainly in the western part of the Archipelago, such as on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan). It is assumed that – after indigenous kings converted – most of their subjects also converted to Islam, thereby strengthening the role of Islam in local societies. However, these local forms of Islam were mixed with preexisting local cultural elements and preexisting local belief-systems (and thus, quite different from, for example, the forms of Islam that were practiced in Mecca, Medina or anywhere else in the same period).

This process of Islamization has not ceased in the contemporary era. Also in recent decades we can clearly detect examples of the ongoing process of Islamization in Indonesia. For instance, the number of Indonesian women who wear the Islamic headscarf (in Indonesian: kerudung or jilbab) has risen rapidly over the past 20-25 years (having become a common sight on the streets of Indonesia today). Another example is that Indonesian government officials – even those who are not Muslim themselves – now always open their speeches or statements using the Arabic phrase As-salāmuʿalaykum (in English: Peace be upon you).

Important to Separate Islamization from Islamism

It is important to emphasize here that this process of Islamization should not be confused with Islamism or radicalism. With the term Islamization we refer to the process of society's (peaceful) shift towards a more Islam-oriented society (which allows room for specific minorities to co-exist in harmony in the pluralist society). The terms Islamism or radicalism (or Islamic militancy or fundamentalism), on the other hand, refer to the desire of a specific group (usually a small group that lacks political power) to impose their conservative version of Islam onto society and politics, often using (the threat of) violence to achieve their goal.

Although around 88 percent of the Indonesian population is Muslim, Indonesia is not an Islamic country ruled by Islamic law. Most Indonesian Muslims can in fact be labelled 'moderate Muslims', meaning that the majority approves of a secular democracy and a pluralist society. This attitude is visible in the results of recent legislative elections as those political parties that stress the importance of a dominating and stricter form of Islam within governance and society receive relatively few votes. Meanwhile, the secular political parties that support a moderate and tolerant Islamic democracy and pluralist society always win the elections in Indonesia (by a clear distance).

Nonetheless, it is true that the country's traditional 'secular parties' (such as PDI-P and Golkar) have also been experiencing the process of Islamization. Hence, the chairpersons of these parties will now often be heard using the Arabic phrase As-salāmuʿalaykum when opening a statement or speech. This in fact implies that these parties are not truly secular as they are not neutral in terms of religion.

On other occasions, however, we still detect the desire of high-profile politicians to maintain a secular stance. For example, Indonesian President Joko Widodo often opens his speeches with the following words of greeting (addressing the followers of the country's main religions):

Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh (to Muslims)
Salam Sejahtera Bagi Kita Semua (to Christians/Catholics)
Om Swastyastu (to Hindus)
Namo Buddhaya (to Buddhists)
Salam Kebajikan (to Confucianists)

Varieties of Indonesian Islam

This group of 230 million Indonesian Muslims does not represent a homogeneous group. In fact, much variety can be found in Indonesian Islam as well as in Indonesian Muslims' perceptions regarding the role that Islam should play within Indonesian politics and society.

A significant number of Indonesian Muslims can be labeled ‘cultural Muslim’, locally known as Muslim KTP, meaning they do not practice Islam but do retain an attachment to elements of Islamic culture due to their family background or the social and cultural environment in which they were raised, or, in which they are living (similarly, there are also ‘cultural Christians’, ' cultural Catholics', ‘cultural Hindus’, and ‘cultural Buddhists’ in Indonesia).

On the other hand, there is also a big – and growing – number of Indonesian Muslims who choose to strengthen their Muslim identity, for example by deciding to start wearing the headscarf or other Islamic clothing. Particularly, since 2014 we have detected a boost in Islamization in Indonesia which made many Indonesian Muslims (consciously or unconsciously) strengthen their Muslim identity. This big wave of Islamization has its roots in specific political developments, both at home and abroad.

There is actually a wide array of Muslims in Indonesia, ranging from Muslim KTP to pious and conservative Muslims. Between those two types there exists a wide degree of variety; some regions still exhibit traces of Hinduism and Buddhism in their local versions of Islam, while others are much more oriented towards Mecca.

Meanwhile, there is also a group that goes beyond the conservative type of Muslim, namely the radical Muslim. With this term we not only refer to those who use extreme measures (such as violence) to uproot established conditions but also those who silently agree with such measures (although they do not carry those actions out themselves).

In Indonesia, radical Muslims only constitute a small minority in Indonesia. However, they are the ones who are most loudest on the streets (often engaging in demonstrations) and - sometimes - willing to take violent action. Moreover, there is concern that this small radical community is growing in number. Indeed, at the fringes of Islamization, there is a process of Islamism that is bound to grow along accordingly. Therefore, it is important for authorities to carefully monitor the situation and engage in effective deradicalization programs.

Rising Religious Tensions in Indonesia

The process of Islamization is not a process that goes evenly across time and space. Instead, there are periods when this process gets a sudden boost. A recent example is the 2014-2019 period.

When Jakarta governor Joko Widodo decided to pursue his successful run for president, he was (by law) replaced by the deputy governor of Jakarta. However, this deputy was a Christian, ethnic Chinese man: Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as Ahok). For many Muslims, in particular the conservative Muslims, it was unacceptable to have a non-Muslim rule a Muslim-majority city.

It resulted in a boost in religious tensions that also spread to other parts of Indonesia. When Ahok, during campaigning in the context of Jakarta's 2017 gubernatorial election, made a "blasphemous slip-off-the-tongue" when he stated that a specific Koranic verse should not be used to manipulate voters for political gain. While few would consider this blasphemous speech, Islamic hardline groups started to organize demonstrations, demanding for the arrest of Ahok.

A series of massive demonstrations were organized by hardliners on the streets of Jakarta (labelled the '212 Action' which refers to the 2nd of December 2016 when the first demonstration was held), where up to 200,000 people gathered to protest against Ahok (with many people traveling to Jakarta to join the demonstrations).

These hardline demonstrations put severe pressure on Indonesian society. Under the threat of being labeled anti-Islam, many people felt the need to display their Muslim identity more strongly. For example, people who used to have a profile picture on social media wearing Western style clothes, would suddenly replace this picture by one where they are seen sitting in front of a mosque wearing Islamic clothes; people who previously never used (Islamic) Arabic phrases would suddenly start using those phrases; women who did not wear the headscarf would start wearing one in the public domain.

Hardliners not only successfully put pressure on society, but they also succeeded in preventing Ahok from winning Jakarta's 2017 gubernatorial election. While Ahok had favorable ratings at first, his popularity declined heavily once Jakarta felt the pressure of the massive demonstrations. Moreover, he was later sentenced to two years in prison in a very controversial blasphemy case (it is assumed that the judges were also under pressure).

The tensions in Jakarta spread to the national level. President Widodo, who is seen as an ally of Ahok, became the next target of these hardline groups. In the campaign period for the 2019 presidential election the influence of these hardliners would in fact become big. Defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto embraced the hardline forces as they were a tool to defeat Widodo. It is assumed Subianto was eager to ignite religious tensions in order to repeat the developments of Jakarta in 2017.

However, Widodo made a sudden and unsuspected 'act of self-defense' when he nominated renowned and conservative Muslim cleric Ma'ruf Amin (Chairman of the Ulema Council of Indonesia, or MUI) as his running mate for the 2019 election. Amin has issued various conservative fatwas (non-binding legal opinions) as MUI Chairman, is well respected within hardline circles, and had even testified against Ahok in the blasphemy case. The decision to select Amin as running mate was a great strategic move because it was suddenly impossible for Widodo's political enemies to label him 'anti-Islam' or 'enemy of Islam'. As a result religious tensions ceased.

However, all happenings related to Jakarta's 2017 gubernatorial election and Indonesia's 2019 legislative and presidential elections did have one important side-effect, it caused a boost in the country's Islamization process because those women who suddenly felt the social pressure to start wearing headscarves during the period of religious tensions, did not suddenly stop wearing the headscarf after religious tensions ceased.

In that sense, it is interesting to point out that Ahok's period as Jakarta governor essentially backfired completely. While many Christians and other minorities applauded the fact that Jakarta, a Muslim-majority city, could be governed by a non-Muslim person (claiming it to be a victory for Indonesian pluralism), in the end it would trigger a big wave of Islamization. Indirectly, you could argue that the presence of a conservative Muslim cleric as the country's vice-minister can be traced back to Ahok's period as governor of Jakarta. 

Indonesia's Radical Link to the Middle East

Radical Islamic movements in Indonesia are not a new phenomenon but have been present since the colonial era. The underlying reasons for a Muslim to radicalize can be (a mixture of) political exclusion, feelings that great injustice has been done towards the Muslim community or feelings of western domination (which results in resentment of the West). It is also important to note that Indonesian radical movements have their origin in reform movements in the Middle East.

Wahhabism, a very strict interpretation that aims for a return to the true nature of Islam as it was practiced during the days of prophet Muhammad, was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in Saudi Arabia in the mid-18th century. The purification of Islam would strengthen the position of Islam vis-a-vis the growing western powers. Around 1800, Indonesian hajji's (Muslims who have successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca) arriving back in the archipelago after the pilgrimage, brought with them this Wahhabi ideology and aimed for reviving Indonesian Islam. Not coincidentally Wahhabism was spread through the Archipelago when the Dutch began to expand their political role in this area.

Another radical movement that would gain much influence in Indonesia is the Salafi-movement that stems from Egypt at the end of the 19th century (as a response to Western European imperialism). Its ideology is essentially very similar to Wahhabism, advocating a return to the traditions of the salaf (the first three generations of Muslims, including the Islamic prophet Muhammad) in search of the pure form of Islam.

Salafist ideology rejects religious innovation and supports the implementation of sharia (Islamic law). The movement is often divided into three categories: (1) purists who avoid politics, (2) activists who get involved in politics, and (3) jihadists who advocate armed struggle to restore the early Islamic movement (while these jihadists actually form a minority, they are the ones that get most attention in media).

Contact with the Middle East was key in spreading stricter forms of Islam to Indonesia. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869 not only did journey to Europe quicken significantly but contact with religious centers in the Middle East also intensified. There was not only an increase in the number of Indonesian hajji's, but also many more Indonesians went to study in Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Vice versa migrants from Arabia founded Salafi-influenced organizations in the archipelago, for example Al-Irsyad (Union for Reformation and Guidance) and Persatuan Islam (Islamic Union) in West Java, both promoting the purification of Islam.

Today, these links to the Middle East are still very important for contemporary radical movements in Indonesia today (which is discussed below), both for ideological support and for financial funding.

Continued Suppression in Independent Indonesia

When Indonesia became an independent country, the more conservative Muslim groups were to become disappointed. In Soekarno's secular government there was no room for an Islamic state. Part of the radical Indonesian Muslim community joined the Darul Islam rebellion which aimed for the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia. This movement started in the 1940s but was eventually crushed by the Indonesian military in 1962. However, segments of the Darul Islam went underground and would produce and inspire other radical movements.

During Suharto's New Order government radical Muslim voices and organizations were pushed underground even more severely as Muslim activists and militants were imprisoned, often without trial. They were considered a threat to Suharto's political power. Some, such as Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir (leaders of the Jema'ah Islamiyah), fled the country to seek a living in Malaysia. The radical religious groups that stayed in Indonesia kept underground and were mostly concentrated around the university campuses in the bigger cities.

Indonesian Radicalism Comes to the Surface

When President Suharto was forced to leave office in 1998, implying the start of the Reformation period, there were suddenly no more political restrictions to the establishment of (radical-inspired) Muslim organizations. Many Indonesian Muslim activists were released from prison and those radicals that had fled the country during the Suharto regime returned home.

While at the start the Reformation era seemed to become a promising period for these hardliners, they would soon be disappointed, again. In Indonesia's 1999 legislative election those Islamic political parties that aimed at turning Indonesia into an Islamic country suffered a big defeat, only receiving a relative small amount of the votes. Therefore, just like the New Order period, the Reformation period seemed to continue secular governance, thereby not being fertile soil for political Islam and thus forcing radicals to use extreme tactics to try to make a difference. This explains why terrorist incidents peaked in the early years of Reformation.

Religious Terrorist Incidents in the First Decade of Reformation:

Date Description
14 September 2000 A car bomb in the basement of the Jakarta Stock Exchange kills in South Jakarta, kills 15 people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack.
24 December 2000 A series of coordinated bombings of churches in eight Indonesian cities kill 18 people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack.
12 October 2002 Coordinated bomb attacks occurred in the tourist district of Kuta (Bali) killing 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack. The attack has become known as the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia.
26 April 2003 A bomb explodes at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Indonesia's main airport (Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, located just outside Jakarta). Eleven people were injured. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack.
5 August 2003 A bomb detonated outside the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel in South Jakarta, killing twelve people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack.
10 January 2004 A bomb in a cafe in Palopo (Central Sulawesi) kills four people. The perpetrators are believed to have been participants of a Laskar Jihad-run training camp in Poso (Central Sulawesi)
9 September 2004 A car bomb exploded outside the Australian embassy in South Jakarta, killing nine people. Jemaah Islamiyah claimed responsibility for the attack
28 May 2005 Two bombs detonated at a market in Tentena (Central Sulawesi), killing 22. Local Islamic militants with purported links to Jemaah Islamiyah are believed to be behind the terrorist attack
31 December 2005 A suicide bomb and a series of car bombs exploded in Bali (at the Jimbaran Beach Resort and in Kuta), killing 20 people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack
31 December 2005 A bomb detonated in a market in Palu (Central Sulawesi), killing eight people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack
17 July 2009 Suicide bombs explode at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, killing nine people. Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to be behind this terrorist attack

Various sources

Some contemporary radical and/or militant organizations that have been in the spotlight after 1998 are the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (Council of Indonesian Jihad Fighters), the Front Pembela Islam (Front of Islam Defenders), the Jemaah Islamiyah (Islamic Congregation), the (already disbanded) Laskar Jihad (Warriors of Jihad), and Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). All these organizations share the aim for the implementation of shariah law, are anti-western, while its members do not refrain from using violence to achieve their goals. Another feature these radical organizations share is either the Arab background of the founder(s) or the fact that they are inspired by radical movements in the Middle East.

Jemaah Islamiyah

The Jemaah Islamiyah is behind some of the most vicious attacks in the last 20 years (as can be seen in the table above) and they have used one key method: the bomb attack. For example, on 24 December 2000, various bombs exploded at 11 churches across several cities in Indonesia, killing 18 people. But most notorious is probably the 2002 Bali bombings when two bombs exploded (almost simultaneously) in a night club in Kuta, killing 202 people. Most of the victims were foreign tourists.

Jemaah Islamiyah, which has its roots in the radical Darul Islam movement, was established by Abu Bakar Bashir, Abdullah Sungkar and Shahrul Nizam. Bashir and Sungkar are among those radical Muslims who were imprisoned by Suharto's New Order administration. After spending several years in prison both men moved to Malaysia (in 1982) where they recruited people from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Around that time the group started to name itself Jemaah Islamiyah. After the fall of Suharto in 1998, they returned to Indonesia where Jemaah Islamiyah would soon start to engage in terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, through Sungkar contact with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network had been established.

Recent Developments in Indonesia's Radical Islam

According to the Indonesian police, 55 terror suspects have been killed and 583 have been arrested during the period 2000-2010. The Indonesian government stresses the importance of combating terrorist cells within the country and finds itself in close cooperation with the United States and the Australian Federal Police to topple terrorists. In 2003 a special counter-terrorism squad, called Densus 88, was established (and is part of the Indonesian National Police). Densus 88 is funded by the American government and is trained by the CIA, FBI and US Secret Service. This unit has had considerable success in weakening the Jema'ah Islamiyah network.

The current various terrorist cells in Indonesia seem to operate independently from each other forming splinter groups. This is a change from the past; radical Muslims now prefer to operate in smaller networks instead of bigger ones (on a national scale) as it is much more difficult for the authorities to trace such smaller networks. Another difference with the past is that all these terrorist cells seem to have changed tactics regarding the target of their attacks. Previously, targets consisted mainly of western or foreign people and symbols of the western world, such as embassies and certain nightclubs or hotels that are frequently visited or owned by westerners. Since 2010, however, more and more attacks are directed towards symbols of the Indonesian state, particularly Indonesian police officers (probably in reaction to the many arrests made by Densus 88).

Another new extremist organization in Indonesia is the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT). It was founded by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir (co-founder of Jemaah Islamiyah) in 2008 and has been added to the US terror list in 2012 for multiple coordinated attacks against Indonesian civilians, police and military personnel. In September 2011 a suicide bomber of the JAT detonated explosives in a church in Central Java, wounding several people. The Indonesian police have also uncovered additional suicide plots (across Indonesia) by this group.

Aceh Training Camp

In 2010, the Indonesian government had reasonable success in combating terrorist networks. Densus 88 killed the country's most wanted terrorist, Dulmatin, in March 2010. This Dulmatin is suspected to be the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali bombings. Barely one month earlier, Densus 88 discovered a paramilitary training camp in the jungle of Aceh where - allegedly - attacks were prepared against the Indonesian president and against foreigners and other 'infidels'. Dulmatin had been one of the leaders of this Aceh training camp. In June 2010, another mastermind of the Aceh training camp was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2011. During the course of 2010, 51 members of this Aceh training camp were arrested and charged. In August 2010, Densus 88 arrested Abu Bakar Ba'asyir who allegedly helped funding the Aceh training camp. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Lastly, in December 2010, Abu Tholut was arrested by Densus 88 due to his involvement in organizing this training camp.

Islamic State (IS) & Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the world's largest suppliers of Islamic State (IS) fighters, with more than 700 Indonesians believed to have joined the war in Syria and Iraq, while more than 200 are believed to have traveled back to Indonesia after having fought alongside the militant organization (based on data from the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, or BNPT). These "returnees" form a risk as they may try to recruit new members for IS by offering attractive income. As an example, in Indonesian media it was reported that a motorcycle taxi driver was offered a monthly wage of IDR 52 million (approx. USD $3,800) if he would join the militant organization. For Indonesian standards this is a very high wage and would make it attractive for the tens of millions of Indonesians who live below or just above the poverty line to join the fight, not for ideological reasons but for the lucrative payment. However, there have also been reports in media about Indonesian fighters coming back to Indonesia because they did not receive the lucrative wage as had been promised before traveling to Syria.

The viciously militant IS, known for its brutal mass killings, abductions, beheadings, and crucifixions, has been in the news headlines since 2014 when it gained control over large pieces of territory in Syria and Iraq, declaring the establishment of a caliphate ruled under Islamic Law (sharia). The organization has attracted support from radical Muslims across the globe, including Indonesia.

Based on a Pew Research study, four percent of Indonesians have a favorable opinion of the militant group. This may seems small. However, in numerical terms it constitutes more than nine million people. And with Indonesian society having become more conservative in recent years, this support is bound to rise.

Below is a list of recent violent incidents involving radical Muslim groups:

Date Description
April 2011 A suicide bomber wounded 30 people (mostly policemen) in a mosque on a police compound in Cirebon (West Java)
September 2011 A suicide bomber wounded 22 Indonesian churchgoers in Solo (Central Java)
March 2012 Densus 88 killed five Muslim radicals (in Bali) who were planning robberies to finance future terror attacks
September 2012 Densus 88 arrested a group of 11 Muslim radicals in Solo and confiscated homemade bombs that were assumed to be used for attacks against the Indonesian police and the parliament building
January 2013 Densus 88 killed five suspected Muslim terrorists in Bima and Dompu on the island of Sumbawa (West Nusa Tenggara). Allegedly, these killed suspects were preparing terrorist attacks on targets on Sumbawa
May 2013 Densus 88 killed seven and arrested 20 suspected terrorists in raids throughout Java. One week earlier a plot to bomb the embassy of Myanmar was uncovered
January 2016 Eight people (four attackers and four civilians) were killed by explosions and gunfire around a Starbucks and police post in front of the Sarina shopping mall in Central Jakarta. Islamic State claimed responsibility for this terror attack
July 2016 Indonesian Police killed two Islamic militants during a shootout in the jungle on Sulawesi. One of these militants was Indonesia's most wanted Islamic militant Abu "Santoso" Wardah, an IS supporter and leader of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (in Indonesian: Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, or MIT) terrorist cell. He managed to escape after the break-up of the Aceh training camp in 2010 and fled to Sulawesi (in the region near Poso) from where he led MIT. This militant group carried out numerous kidnappings and killings over the past couple of years, specifically directed at Indonesian security forces
August 2016 A 17-year-old Islamic State sympathizer tried to kill a Catholic priest and tried to detonate a self-made bomb during the Sunday service in a church in Medan (North Sumatra). Fortunately, he failed
August 2016 A group of six terrorists were arrested in Batam. They were planning a rocket attack at Marina Bay in Singapore (from Batam). This group is expected to have close ties to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant who is believed to be in Syria fighting for IS
December 2016 Densus 88 killed three alleged terrorists and found various self-made bombs in Tangerang (West Java) that were presumably intended to be used for (suicide) attacks during Christmas and New Year celebrations. One woman was arrested. The four are presumably members of Bahrun Naim's terrorist cell in Solo and Klaten (Central Java). Several days later Densus 88 arrested several alleged terrorists in West and North Sumatra
February 2017 A terrorist was shot dead in Bandung (West Java) by Indonesian police after detonating a bomb near a local government office. There were no casualties. The terrorist, who had previously been in jail for his involvement in the Aceh militant training camp, was reportedly linked to the terrorist group Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD), known as IS sympathizers. The bomb was aimed at Densus 88
March 2017 Densus 88 arrested eight terror suspects in a series of raids around Jakarta. One was shot dead as he resisted arrest. These people are alleged Islamic State supporters who were involved in attacks and the smuggling of firearms
April 2017 Six alleged members of an Islamic militant group were killed in Tuban (East Java) after they attacked police officers
May 2017 Two suicide bombers killed three police officers and injured ten other people near a bus station (Kampung Melayu) in East Jakarta
23 June 2017 An Islamic assailant attacked two police officers at a local mosque near the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta
25 June 2017 Two terrorists killed a police officer at his post in Medan (North Sumatra). Other police officers managed to kill the assailant, while arresting another person in relation to this case
August 2017 Five suspected Islamic militants were arrested in Bandung (while bomb making materials were confiscated at their houses). They were believed to be preparing attacks on the Presidential Palace in Jakarta and local Police headquarters
8-10 May 2018 Convicted terrorists rebelled in a high security prison in Depok (near Jakarta). Inmates managed to kill and kidnap guards as well as to break down an internal gate to reach a weapon room. After almost two days Indonesian security officers manages to end the riot as all 155 inmates surrendered. It led to the deaths of five police officers and one inmate
13 May 2018 Three churches - Innocent Saint Mary Catholic Church (Ngagel), Indonesia Christian Church (Diponegoro), and Surabaya Central Pentecost Church Church (Arjuno) - all located in Surabaya (East Java) were target of suicide bombers (members of one local family) when the Sunday morning services were about to start. It led to a total of 15 deaths
13 May 2018 A bomb exploded in a low-cost apartment complex nearby Sidoarjo. It is assumed that this bomb, which went off prematurely, was made to be used in a terrorist attack. Local police assume a link with the church bombings earlier on the day
14 May 2018 The entrance of Surabaya's police headquarters was target of a suicide bomb. A local family (driving on two motorcycles) blew themselves up, causing ten deaths

Although there are positive developments in the battle against Islamic radicalism in Indonesia, it should be noted that radical ideology remains rooted in the minds of a small part of Indonesia's Muslim community (as long as there is a secular Indonesian government). And part of that small radical community is willing to use extreme violence to realize their ideals. Although over the past decade targets have shifted from western people or places symbolic of the western world (such as luxury western hotel chains or disco clubs) to local targets (particularly Indonesian police officers, police stations, and local churches), we would still advise people to be careful when visiting places that can be considered symbolic of the western world (such as disco clubs).

Last update: 6 January 2020