Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, is well-known for being a sharp eye and a clear voice on extremist Muslim groups in Indonesia. Her institute put out a report last month on “Covid-19 and the Mujahidin of Eastern Indonesia (MIT),” and it’s a fascinating look at a very different set of security concerns in this time of global pandemic.
Surprisingly, the radical group in this report is not new (violent interreligious conflict has been seen in the province of Central Sulawesi off-and-on for over two decades, since the fall of the Suharto regime), but had a new inspiration from the current pandemic. From the report:
The arrival of Covid-19 in Indonesia instilled a new optimism in MIT. … They saw that not only was it infecting and killing kafirs (non-believers) but it was also weakening the economies of all the states engaged in the war against ISIS, including America, Britain,Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran – and Indonesia. This belief was enough to convince the tiny group of combatants that they could eventually defeat the Indonesian state.
Although much of this 8-page document really gets in the weeds of this tiny minority of extremists (there is a reason why Sidney Jones is a go-to expert on Southeast Asian Islamic terrorism for governments around the world), it also presents a fascinating picture of the alternative interpretation of this crisis from a very different point of view.