21 Jul 2022


Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist group

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Academic level: College

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According to Rohan Gunaratna of the Hudson Institute, Islamic terrorism is driven ideology not by desperation, illiteracy or even poverty as commonly alleged. During the infamous diet at the imperial city of Worms, Charles the Great told Martin Luther that whoever believes the whole world is wrong, must be wrong. An extremist is someone who not only believes that he is right and the whole world is wrong, but also that the whole world must be corrected. When the said extremist further believes that the world must to be corrected at all cost, a terrorist is born. The Jemaah Islamiyah popularly known as the JI did not start as a terrorist organization but as holders of an ideal ( Australian National Security, n.d) . The basic idea that the only right religion is Islam in general and particularly an extreme form of Islam where Sharia law is Supreme; after many years of recruitment and indoctrination, a faction of the JI decided to use terrorism as one of the means to further their ideals and a terrorist organization was born. 

Currently, the JI is a South East Asia terrorist Organization with membership drawn from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. Its principle ideal is to use terrorism and other means in order to create an Islamic Caliphate in the South East Asian Archipelago. Its two prong approach in achieving its goals includes terror and indoctrination. According to the Australian National Security Service, the JI controls over fifty Islamic learning institutions where it is carrying out continuous recruitment, training and indoctrination pursuant to its planned agenda that already goes as far as 2025. Its terror arm has undertaken successful bombings and is also said to have an active assassination squad. 

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The JI believes that the Indonesian Government as well as all the other governments in the South East Asia are illegitimate and illegal and should therefore be overthrown and an Islamic Caliphate created instead ( Tan, 2009) . It seeks to create a puritanical form of Islam where all aspects of life are controlled by sharia law as interpreted by radical clerics. In general succession, the JI intends to first create an Islamic State, convert it into a regional Caliphate and in due time transform the same into a worldwide Caliphate. Despite all efforts by law enforcement organs, the JI remains un-thwarted and true to its objectives. 

Leadership and Membership 

Despite all efforts by researchers and law enforcement authorities, it has been impossible to tell who the current leader of the JI is after the arrest of the Emir Zarkasih in 2007. It is however, without doubt that someone is indeed in charge and the mystery thereof proofs the secrecy code within the JI, in the same way, no one can tell for a fact or even approximate the current number of members in the JI ( Tan, 2009) . Some authorities suggest that they are as little as nine hundred members while others suggest several thousands. 

The JI’s End Game

According to their manifesto the Al-Manhaj Al-Harakiy Li Iqomatid Dien (The Progressive Methodology In Establishing The Religion) , the JI has a clear road map that goes up to 2025 that will see them create fully-fledged caliphate in the South East Archipelago. This plan includes: preparation for the formation of the Islamic State (Duala), the actual formation of an effective Islamic State and finally the augmentation of the Islamic State into a Caliphate ( Tan, 2009) . 

The initial and crucial step involves a political maneuver to wit the formation of a party (jama’ah). This can only work through extreme secrecy which is one of the fundamental principles of the JI. Everyone works on a need to know basis and a complex network of code names. Strict discipline and obedience is also adhered to within the JI with the main decision making organ comprising of a core group of righteous leadership. This is wittily designed to make obedience to the said leadership seem as obedience to God. It is this strict discipline and adherence to all orders without question that has contributed to a lot of its success and even its surviving. 

The next step will be to win the masses essentially through guilt-based indoctrination. The JI will move to show the masses that they have been following a watered down version of Islam and all the JI wants to do is get the masses back into the proper worship of God. This will have two pronged benefit. First, I would blindside the masses from the real intentions of the JI and secondly is eradicating any animosity that may currently be in existence between the JI and the masses. The JI is also willing to be dynamic and join up with other groups both in the Archipelago and in the world at large who share their ideals and partner with them in the furtherance of the JI’s Agenda. 

History of the JI 

Right from its formation, the Indonesian Republic valued and entrenched a set of five principles collectively known as the Pancasila, which inter alia involves the belief in the one and only God. This implies that every Indonesian should respect and condone other fellow citizen’s faith and beliefs. Just and Civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, and democracy led by the wisdom of deliberations among representatives and finally, social justice for all were some of the beliefs ( Australian National Security, n.d) . These principles entrenched secularism in the republic much to the chagrin of Muslim extremists in Indonesia. In between 1948 and 1962, Darul Islam (DI) an Islamic Extremist Organization started a rebellion opposed to the secular tendencies of the then Indonesian President Sukarno and aimed at creating a fully-fledged Islamic Republic in Indonesia. The Rebellion was led by Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo and it eventually died upon his arrest in 1962. Darul Islam re-emerged in 1966 when Suharto rose to power and among its key supporters were Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir who upon great persecution by the Suharto administration including detention fled to Malaysia and started recruiting Muslims of extreme faith into their cause ( Tan, 2009) . Adbullah and Abu were also able to visit Saudi Arabia where due to the then war between Russia and Afghanistan, they received ready and massive financial backing to support their extreme Islam ideals. 

Indeed, one of the biggest boosts to the JI and many of the other fledging terrorist organizations was the war between Russia and Afghanistan. This war seemed to bring all extremist Muslims together and against a common enemy and also helped transform many a moderate Muslim to extremism. It is during this moment that the initial JI founders came to meet the infamous Al Qaeda Leader Osama Bin Laden three times in Pakistan. In fact at one point, Osama’s Deputy Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri spent some time with the founders of the JI in Malaysia( Oak, 2010) . Funds, training and mentorship were among the perks they came with and the interactions with the Al Qaeda went a long way in ensuring the eventual success of the JI’s activities. 

In 1994-1995 the JI was split into 4 regions known as Mantiqi. Mantiqi 1 consisted of Malaysia and Singapore under a Muslim Cleric known as Hambali. Mantiqi 2 under Fati covered Indonesia, Fata and the Philippines, Mantiqi 3 under Nasir Abas covered Kalimantan, Mindanao in the Southern Philippines and Sulawesi while Martiqi 4 covered Australia but was more of a formality as it had less than 20 members, all Indonesian immigrants. 

After the death of Suharto in 1998, Abdulla and Abu returned to Indonesia and created a loose formation of cells involving 8 to 10 men collectively called Al Jemaah Al Islamiyah ( Oak, 2010) . Although better structured than the original DI, they retained its fundamental passion of creating an Islamic Republic of Indonesia under Sharia Law an ideal they had expanded into the desire to create a South East Asia Pan Islamic State. Abdalla, however, died in 1999 and Abu took over leadership leading to much discontentment among the leadership of the JI some of whom broke away and created new terror outfits. 

However, the JI was largely ignored by the international community until 2002 when it successfully carried out the Bali Island bombings where 202 people from 21 Countries perished. Since then, it has been included in the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 as a terrorist group with links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. It is also universally recognized as a credible and dangerous terrorist organization worldwide. 

After the 2002 Bali island bombings, most of the top leaders of the JI have either been arrested or killed. This include bomb makers Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi and Azahari bin Husin, Malasian top leader Noordin Mohamed, Dulmatin and the Logistics Supremo Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali who is currently under detention at the infamous Guatanamo Bay Detention Centre and the arrest of its leader Emir Zarkasih in 2007 ( National Counterterrorism Center, 2013) . This has created a lull in its terrorism activities but it is believed that the JI is actively recruiting and training in preparation for the furtherance of its agenda. 

Significance Today 

The JI is currently very active in indoctrination through a well-structured network of over 50 Islamic Boarding Schools (pesantren). It is also involved in the dissemination of Islamic Extremist literature as a form of Islamic Outreach (dakwah) as it builds its numbers and creates a solid support base for future terrorist activities. The incarceration of many of its members has also enabled it to use prisons as recruitment centres. Therefore, the current seemingly silent spell by the JI is indeed the lull that prepares for the eventual storm. Most of the JI members are extremely loyal and even those who have been subjected to long prison sentences are known to result to its activities immediately upon release from prison. 

Impact on Other Terrorist Groups 

The greatest impact that the JI has had on the other terrorist groups is motivation. The fact that a small and erstwhile ignored organization could successfully carry out a catastrophic event of terrorism like the Bali bombing has acted as a great motivation to other terror organization in the South East Asia Archipelago ( Australian National Security, n.d). JI is also known to be closely working with, raining alongside and coordinating with other terrorist organizations that have their roots in the DI. These include Front Pembela Islam (FPI), KOMPAK (Crisis Action Committee), Jamaah Anshurat Tauhid (JAT), Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) and the Laskar Jundullah and Majelis Dakwah Umat Indonesia (MDUI) ( Oak, 2010) . The JI has also been known to work with the bigger players including the Taliban in Afganistan and Al Qaeda. Indeed, the JI played a major role in preparations for a second and larger 9/11 format attack that was fortunately thwarted. 


Islamic terrorism is premised on ideals. The only way to successfully fight the same is through the replacement of the current negative ideals that have bred terrorism with more accommodating and better ideals that will kill the vice. The ideals that currently drive the JI have been in existent in one form or the other, for over 6 decades despite fervent efforts by different organizations and governments have to stop the terrorist activities of the JI and its predecessors without any meaningful success. The JI is still strong and capable of pulling another surprise bigger and more deadly that the Bali bombings. It is time to try and solve the problem from the source instead of trying to cure its symptoms. Changing ideals is the sure way to end world terrorism and tame organizations like the JI. 


Australian National Security (n.d). Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Retrieved from <https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/JemaahIslamiyahJI.aspx/> 

National Counterterrorism Center (2013). Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Retrieved from <https://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/ji.html/> 

Oak, G. S. (2010). Jemaah Islamiyah's Fifth Phase: The Many Faces of a Terrorist Group. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism , 33 (11), 989-1018 

Tan, T. H. (ed) (2009). A handbook of terrorism and insurgency in Southeast Asia . Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. 

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