Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has returned to his hardline rhetoric with a call for followers to beat up Western tourists and for young Muslims to die as martyrs.
In the sermon, organised by an Islamic youth organisation and delivered a few kilometres from the home village of convicted Bali bombers Amrozi and Mukhlas, Bashir likened tourists in Bali to “worms, snakes, maggots”, and specifically referred to the immorality of Australian infidels.
The address was caught on video by an Australian university student.
“The youth movement here must aspire to a martyrdom death,” said the cleric, who was convicted of conspiracy over the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, but was later cleared and released from prison.
“The young must be first at the front line – don’t hide at the back. You must be at the front, die as martyrs and all your sins will be forgiven. This is how to achieve forgiveness.”
Observers said the sermon’s content was a clear indication of what many terrorism academics have noted – that the accused spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah has been emboldened by his release from prison last year after serving 26 months for conspiracy in relation to the Bali blasts.
“Immediately after Abu Bakar Bashir was released from incarceration he was very cautious in spreading hatred,” said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
“The remarks show that Abu Bakar Bashir has gone back to the pre-incarceration period where he was in a very similar way urging JI members, encouraging JI members to move in the direction of violence, especially violence including terrorism.”
The sermon was organised by the youth group Persatuan Pemuda Islam Pantura (Java North Coast Islamic Youth Group) and delivered on October 22 last year.
It was captured on videotape by Darwin-based political science PhD student Nathan Franklin, who was conducting research at Islamic boarding schools in east Java.
Bashir’s address was observed by the village’s police chief and a horde of plainclothes Indonesian police officers. It was also attended by relatives of Amrozi, who travelled to the sermon from the Bali bomber’s former Islamic boarding school on the village’s outskirts.
The cleric has warned of retribution should the Bali bombers be executed by firing squad.
During the sermon, Bashir talked of a previous visit to Australia, claiming that he had wanted to see the “beauty of the ocean” but was told by a friend there was “one condition” of a visit to the beach.
“He said if you enter that area you must be completely naked,” Bashir told the crowd of about 300 hearing his sermon.
Bashir likened non-Muslims to crawling animals. “Worms, snakes, maggots – those are animals that crawl. Take a look at Bali … those infidel tourists. They are naked.”
He called for signs to be erected across Indonesia warning tourists they were entering a Muslim area, and directing they cover up appropriately. But in east Java, he urged the Islamist youth to “beat up” foreigners.
“God willing, there are none here,” Bashir said. “If there were infidels here, just beat them up. Do not tolerate them.”
Bashir has never sought to hide his support for the Mujahideen, or holy warriors, who seek to wage jihad and die as martyrs in defence of Islam. However, he has in the past been careful to distance himself from the Bali bombings, praising the bombers’ intention but not their method.
Mr Franklin, who is completing a doctorate in political science specialising in Indonesian politics, agreed that Bashir’s radical address proved the cleric had been emboldened by his early release from prison and was seemingly intent on attracting greater publicity for his cause.
“Going to jail, serving a very light sentence, and becoming a media icon – it’s the best thing that’s happened to him,” Mr Franklin said.
He said Bashir sensed his opportunity for greater power and influence as Indonesia increasingly moved away from secularism towards Islamic law.
The PhD student will screen extracts of the Bashir video, which has been sub-titled, at Charles Darwin University in Darwin on Friday as part of an academic talk on how the sermons give inspiration to the radical Islamist cause to create a Caliphate, or greater Islamic state.
Dr Gunaratna said the radical nature of Bashir’s current sermons showed that Indonesia’s legal system was still not equipped to police terrorism.
“The very fact that Abu Bakar Bashir is spreading hatred and ideological extremism is testimony to the fact that Australia has failed in engagement with Indonesia to build a robust Indonesian counter-terrorism legislation,” Dr Gunaratna said.
Bashir’s address contained many direct challenges to Indonesian secularism. The cleric urged his supporters to reject the laws of the nation’s parliament and said following state laws that contradicted Islamic Shariah law was an act of “blasphemy”.
“Don’t be scared if you are called a hardliner Muslim,” Bashir said. “It must be like that. We can’t follow human law that is in conflict with Allah’s law.”