In the fall of 2002, the Indonesian island of Bali, once known for its luscious beaches and vibrant Hindu culture, became synonymous with terror and radicalism. After a massive bombing in Bali’s nightclub district killed more than 200 people, the world suddenly realized what many locals had known for years: Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation on Earth, faced a serious internal terror threat.
Even before the Bali attack, Indonesia had suffered a wave of bombings in the winter of 2000, and earlier that year someone had bombed the Jakarta Stock Exchange. The Al Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiah was actively recruiting across the archipelago, establishing radical schools to train a young generation of jihadis and planning attacks in Indonesia and throughout the region, including in the Philippines and Thailand.
But today, Indonesia has become a far different kind of example. Even as terrorism continues to grow more common in nations from Pakistan to Algeria, Indonesia is heading in the opposite direction, destroying its internal terrorist networks and winning the broader public battle against radicalism. And it has done so not only by cracking heads but by using a softer, innovative plan that employs former jihadis to wean radicals away from terror. [complete article]