How the Taliban Victory Could Affect Radical Muslims in Southeast Asia | Voice of america


ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – The Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan could inspire radical Muslim groups in Southeast Asia to take up arms against their own governments again, analysts say, and officials are on high alert for potential violence.

Scholars say Muslim rebel fronts like the Filipino Abu Sayyaf, a violent rebel organization known for kidnapping tourists, and the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, a suspected conspirator of the deadly 2002 Bali bombings, will make their way through the 15th ascent the Taliban to carry out local attacks such as bombings.

“Taliban or no Taliban, we have always viewed local extremism as a major problem,” Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told the Philippine News Agency on August 27. He noted agreements with Indonesia and Malaysia to share information and protect their sea borders.

Media outlets cite Indonesian officials as saying they too are on their guard, and an anti-terrorist police department is monitoring social media for clues. Indonesia and Malaysia are predominantly Muslim countries. There are also many Muslims in the south of the Philippines.

FILE – Police are escorting a suspected militant at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, March 18, 2021. Suspected militants arrested during the raids are believed to be linked to extremists from Jemaah Islamiyah.

Support Al Qaeda

Extremist groups advocate independent Muslim states in Southeast Asia, a region of 660 million people that includes several key US allies. Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah are supported by al-Qaeda, among others, a terrorist organization that the Taliban were once allowed to house in Afghanistan, say Southeast Asian scholars.

“There is some support for kinship and solidarity for these groups,” said Enrico Cau, Southeast Asia specialist with the Taiwan Strategy Research Association, referring to the Taliban.

“Although the Taliban have no direct influence in the region, they naturally exert a certain indirect influence that can be capitalized by groups actually present in the region, such as al-Qaeda or Abu Sayyaf,” said Cau. said VOA. Al-Qaeda has already helped rebels in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Who leads the Taliban?

Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada is the supreme leader of the Taliban, a position he held after the death of his predecessor Akhtar Mansour in a US drone attack in 2016

Fighters of the Taliban, an armed religious-political movement, quickly conquered almost all of Afghanistan en route to capture the capital Kabul, 20 years after US-led troops ousted the group from power.

“That was great for morale across Southeast Asia,” said Zachary Abuza, a professor at National War College in Washington. “They saw the Taliban ousted from power, driven into Pakistan by the great Satan – that dreaded nation, the United States – and they watched the Taliban persevere, go against a superpower, and only with their discipline , their focus, their religious zeal, drives America out of the country. “

The Taliban, Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaeda and Indonesia-based Laskar Jihad follow Wahhabism, a form of Islam that is responsible for “creating” extremists and terrorists, wrote Federico Magdalena, faculty member at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. in a 2003 analysis.

The Indonesian founder of Laskar Jihad trained in Pakistan and fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union in the 1980s. Terrorist leaders Abdujarak Abubakar and Khadaffy Janjalani trained in Afghanistan before founding Abu Sayyaf in 1991, the Philippine defense minister said.

Change to the Middle East

The training of Southeast Asian militants shifted to Iraq and Syria after US troops forced the Taliban to flee in 2002. Eventually, governments in Southeast Asia arrested hundreds of rebels, Abuza said, weakening their power.

The Taliban’s influence is “now more tangential,” he said. “Quite simply, since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2002 and the war on terror in Southeast Asia really began with the arrest of hundreds of militants, it is difficult to say that these connections continue to this day.”

These militants could get new support from Afghanistan now, but this time it would likely be quickly suffocated, experts say. Government leaders are prepared while most of their people prefer a liberal, moderate Islam that discourages armed struggle.

“Strategically and ideologically, they are different,” said Cau.

FILE – Muslims pray spaced apart to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak during an Eid al-Fitr prayer marking the end of Ramadan at Al-Akbar Mosque in Surabaya, east Java, Indonesia on May 13, 2021 marked to contain.

Mainstream Muslims in Malaysia are concerned about how the Taliban will treat Afghan women, said Ibrahim Suffian, program director of the Merdeka Center polling group in Kuala Lumpur. Women across Muslim Southeast Asia can work and go to school.

Monitoring developments

However, radical Muslims in Malaysia have “applauded” the Taliban’s victory and the government of the largely Muslim country will pay close attention to any cross-border influence of the new Afghan leadership, Suffian said.

“I’m sure they are monitoring what happens,” he said. “I think there is a long-term concern that this will inspire more radicalized conservative types… to study religion in Pakistan and parts of India.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines still have more control over local extremists than the Afghan government, which was ousted last month, said Cau. The Philippines would even allow Afghans fleeing for fear of persecution, a spokesman for the presidential office in Manila said.

About 20 Muslim rebel groups still operate in the southern Philippines, a region known for five decades of periodic violence and 120,000 deaths, although the formation of a Muslim autonomous region in 2018 eased those tensions somewhat.

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