Fourteen former members of a decades-old group that seeks to establish an Islamic government in Indonesia renounced that ideology Tuesday, pledging allegiance to the nation in an unusual ceremony organized by the security ministry.
The ex-followers of Darul Islam (DI) took their oath of loyalty to the unified state, 70 years after the group’s founder proclaimed an Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) in 1949. Sarjono Kartosuwiryo, the son of DI founder Sekarmaji Marijan Kartosuwiryo, participated in and led the oath-taking at the ministry in Jakarta.
“We are defending the country. We are not receiving anything in return,” Sarjono told reporters, when asked why he and the others had decided to pledge allegiance to the Indonesian state.
Sarjono’s father was executed by firing squad in 1962 after Darul Islam declared a war against the government and tried to assassinate then-President Sukarno in 1961.
“We need this country, because if it is broken, we will all drown,” Sarjono said.
The group pledged to uphold the national ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution as the foundation for Indonesian statehood. They also vowed to help maintain unity, foster tolerance, pluralism and peace.
After reading the oath, they then took turns kissing the country’s red and white flag in a show of loyalty.
Early on, Darul Islam (Islamic State) and its armed wing, the Islamic Army of Indonesia (TII), waged an armed rebellion against Jakarta until the Indonesian government suppressed it in the 1960s.
In more recent decades, the group has morphed into an underground radical movement known as NII. Darul Islam is different from the Middle East-based terror group Islamic State (IS), whose members and supporters include Indonesians.
2 million sympathizers
The Indonesian police have said that NII is recruiting followers in parts of the country, while some ex-members have joined other radical groups such as Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which is affiliated with IS, and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a group linked with al-Qaeda.
Authorities in Indonesia blamed JI for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and a string of other deadly attacks in the 2000s. Indonesian courts have declared both JI and JAD illegal organizations.
Police have said militants who attacked a police headquarters in Riau province last year were former NII members who had switched their allegiance to JAD.
Sarjono claimed there were about 2 million NII and Darul Islam sympathizers across the country. He called on them to pledge loyalty to the Indonesian state.
“I appeal to my colleagues to unite and build this country,” Sarjono said.
Wiranto, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, who witnessed the pledge-taking ceremony, said he hoped other members of radical groups would follow suit.
“Of course, we hope that this repentance continues to spread so that others who still aspire to change the face of the Republic of Indonesia can follow,” Wiranto said.
“We appreciate your sincerity and your loyalty,” he told the group.
Analysts: Dangerous factions linger
Sekarmaji Marijan Kartosuwiryo declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Indonesia on Aug. 7, 1949, the same year Dutch colonizers transferred sovereignty to the Republic of Indonesia, which was proclaimed in 1945. On Aug. 17, Indonesia will mark the 74th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Netherlands.
The Darul Islam movement and TII grew in strength in the 1950s, controlling much of West Java and most of South Sulawesi and Aceh provinces.
Sidney Jones, an analyst on Islamic militancy in Indonesia and director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, expressed doubt that the pledge would inspire others to do the same.
She pointed out that Kartosuwiryo’s son, Sarjono, had long worked with the government.
“There are still many dangerous (NII) factions. I am sure there are still factions that want to wage a war, despite the pledge,” Jones told BenarNews.
She said the desire for an Islamic state remained strong among NII members and sympathizers, with some joining other militant groups.
Iwan Darmawan (alias Rois), who was sentenced to death for a deadly bombing at the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004, was a former NII member, Jones said.
Iwan had a relationship with the Kartosuwiryo family but was believed to have joined JAD after sharing a prison cell with its chief ideologue, Aman Abdurrahman, who founded the group in 2014, according to Jones.
Police said Iwan was involved in planning a bomb and gun attack in Jakarta’s central business district that killed people in January 2016, the first terrorist act claimed on Indonesian soil by IS.
Aman was sentenced to death last year for his role in that attack and other more recent strikes carried out by JAD.
Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst at Malikussaleh University, estimated there are 14 NII factions.
“That means there are 14 leaders,” said Chaidar, adding some former members also joined other, more militant groups.
“Of the 14 factions currently in existence, three have pledged allegiance to ISIS,” Chaidar told BenarNews, using another name for IS.