March 24, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 359

Leader of 'Jihad Army' in Indonesia to 'Al-Hayat': We Plan to Target American Interests

March 24, 2002
Special Dispatch No. 359

The London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat recently interviewed Ja'far Omar Taleb,[1] the leader of the Indonesian Lashkar Jihad (Jihad Army) organization.[2] Following are excerpts of the article:

On Targeting American Interests

Q: "In light of your [Lashkar Jihad's] enmity towards America, do you plan to target American interests in Indonesia?"

Taleb: "America operates in Indonesia through non-governmental organizations. The former American ambassador to Jakarta declared that the most dangerous movement in Indonesia is the Lashkar Jihad, although we haven't even participated in demonstrations because we believe they are pointless. We are not hostile to the American people, but to American policy in our country and in Muslim countries. They think that we are dangerous because we confront the non-governmental organizations that are acting to corrupt Indonesia."

Q: "Will you confront these organizations by combat or by preaching?"

Taleb: "We will confront them with all means of combat and preaching."

Bin Laden and Al-Qa'ida

Q: "…What is your position on Osama bin Laden and his organization Al-Qa'ida?"

Taleb: "We… do not agree with the ideas of Osama bin Laden and the members of his organization, because they accuse [others] of heresy. They are khawarij.[3] They accuse Muslim rulers and clerics of heresy. These are corrupt ideas."

Q: "Osama bin Laden did not accuse the clerics of heresy; he accused some [Muslim] rulers."

Taleb: "But he accused the clerics by implication, by saying that the clerics who accepted the rulers were heretics."

Q: "And what about his fighting America? Do you have reservations about that?"

Taleb: "Allah be praised, the Muslims continue their Jihad against America, and it is our obligation to support them as best we can."

Q: "But those fighting America in Afghanistan are Al-Qa'ida members. Do you support them in their fight against America?"

Taleb: "Of course, as they are Muslims and it is our duty to support Muslims and to wash our hands of the infidels. This is our principle. But at the same time we must publicly expose the errors of Osama bin Laden and his organization…"

Q: "Singapore claims that the organization called Al-Jama'ah Al-Islamiya has a presence in Indonesia, led by Abu Bakr Ba'ashir. Do you believe these claims?"

Taleb: "This is a fabrication. Singapore speaks according to America's dictates, so it can find a pretext to bring its forces into Indonesia. I do not think that Al-Jama'ah Al-Islamiya exists [in Indonesia], nor that it has plans to attack American embassies in the region…"

Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia

Q: "How was your organization established?"

Taleb: "The organization was founded on April 6, 2000… We founded this movement in order to support Muslims in eastern Indonesia. They were slaughtered by the thousands in Molucca. The government did nothing to defend the Muslims… Subsequent governments did not defend them from Christian attacks. In light of this situation, we had no choice but to found the Lashkar Jihad organization…to protect our Muslim brothers in eastern Indonesia… The movement in all districts of Indonesia is now 10,000 strong…"

Q: "What is your position on the peace agreement recently signed in Molucca to end three years of Christian-Muslim violence?"

Taleb: "We think that this agreement is a political conspiracy, concocted by the government and the Christians against the Muslims…"

Q: "Some newspapers quote Molucca residents, even Muslims, saying that they do not want foreigners, meaning the Lashkar Jihad. Have the residents asked you to leave their land and stop interfering in their affairs?"

Taleb: "No. The Muslims here cling to us, and want us to remain with them. In some cases, we had projects far from the cities. When our [Lashkar Jihad] young people left the populated areas, [the local residents] would begin to weep out of fear that we were abandoning them. Some do not remain in their homes if the Lashkar Jihad youth leave these areas for a few days, until we return. They only feel safe near us, even when the [government] army is nearby."

[1] Taleb studied Islamic law in Pakistan and fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets. The interview, conducted in Arabic, took place in Jakarta, Indonesia.

[2]Al-Hayat (London), March 19, 2002.

[3]A rebel movement against Islam in its early formative era (7th century) primarily in Mesopotamia (southern Iraq of today).

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