The holy Islamic period of Ramadan is upon us. It is observed by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad by undergoing a month of fasting. Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations during the daytime.
In the multicultural west Ramadan is viewed as another time for us to celebrate cultural diversity. Retail outlets, sporting groups, community organisations and politicians all wish everyone a happy Ramadan. Malcolm Turnbull infamously held an Iftar dinner at Kirribilli House with special guests Waleed Aly and Yassmin Abdel-Magied in 2016.
However, in reality, Ramadan has become the killing season for Islamic jihadists, in particular, the Islamic State unleashing a wave of terrorist attacks in both the Islamic and non-Islamic world. During Ramadan last year Islamic State claimed responsibility for 300 terrorist attacks worldwide.
This year Ramadan terrorism has hit very close to Australia, next door in Indonesia. The world’s largest Muslim nation has increasingly been turning in a more fundamentalist direction the past few years. The autonomous province of Aceh is now governed by sharia law and conducts public canings. The Christian Governor of Jakarta Ahok was convicted of blasphemy in May last year.
The rates of female genital mutilation are rising in Indonesia and so is the prevalence of child marriages. Indonesia is also cracking down on the LGBT lifestyle. In October last year, Indonesian police arrested 58 men in a raid on a gay sauna. Indonesia also has a law before its parliament that would make sex outside of marriage illegal, effectively outlawing homosexuality.
Many in Australia have been horrified by the suicide bombing of three Christian churches in the city of Surabaya in Indonesia on Sunday. They were all carried out by the one family made up of a father, mother, two daughters and two sons. The attacks killed 13 people and injured more than 40. Contrary to earlier reports the family responsible had not returned from fighting for Islamic State in Syria.
The family has instead been linked with the Islamist group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) which is an alliance made up of two dozen militant groups and is seen as the Southeast Asian branch of Islamic State. Just last week five Indonesia police officers were killed along with a terror suspect after a riot at the prison where the head of JAD Aman Abdurrahma is being held.
Even though the family were not returning foreign fighters the attack has still propelled issue for Indonesia into the spotlight. Unlike Australia, there are no laws preventing Indonesians fighting for Islamic State or pledging support for the organisation. It is estimated that 700 foreign fighters have returned to Indonesia. A Pew Research study found that 4 per cent of Indonesians have a positive view of Islamic State which translates to 9 million people.
Yesterday there was another Islamic militant attack in Indonesia with police shooting dead four sword-wielding men who attacked a police headquarters in Sumatra. The attack killed one police officer and wounded two others. Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The good news that Indonesia’s government is still committed to fighting Islamic extremism with President Joko Widodo approving a request by his National Police Chief Tito Karnavian to have the military sent into Surabaya. The local police have conducted 13 raids since the Ramadan attacks begun. The Australian Government is also reportedly “double down” its cooperation with Indonesia in counter-terrorism. There is no sign the Indonesian Government’s commitment to fighting extremism is not genuine.
The bad news is Islamic State’s push closer to Australia is not limited to Indonesia. Philippines President Roderigo Durtre has sent in the military to fight Islamic State in the nation’s south. After being largely crushed in Iraq and Syria Islamic State has been turning its attention to the Islamic parts of South East Asia.
The beginning of Ramadan has been a deadly reminder to Australia that the spread of radical Islam is continuing and is now on our doorstep. It is certainly in our interests to assist Indonesia in remaining a secular nation as well as cracking down on Islamism in our own nation.