Islamic Theology in Indonesia, was infected by USA?

This article from Washington Post. About Islamic Theology that is infected by American?

By Andrew Higgins

In the early 1980s, Nasir Tamara, a young Indonesian scholar, needed
money to fund a study of Islam and politics. He went to the Jakarta
office of the U.S.-based Ford Foundation to ask for help. He left
empty-handed. The United States, he was told, was “not interested in
getting into Islam.”

The rebuff came from President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, a U.S.
anthropologist who lived in Indonesia for more than a decade. Dunham,
who died in 1995, focused on issues of economic development, not matters
of faith and politics, sensitive subjects in a country then ruled by a
secular-minded autocrat.

“It was not fashionable to ‘do Islam’ back then,” Tamara recalled.

Today, Indonesia is a democracy and the role of Islam is one of the most
important issues facing U.S. policy in a country with many more Muslims
than Egypt, Syria, Jordan and all the Arab countries of the Persian
Gulf combined. What kind of Islam prevails here is critical to U.S.
interests across the wider Muslim world.

“This is a fight for ideas, a fight for what kind of future Indonesia
wants,” said Walter North, Jakarta mission chief for the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), who knew Dunham while she was here
in the 1980s.

It is also a fight that raises a tricky question: Should Americans stand
apart from Islam’s internal struggles around the world or jump in and
try to bolster Muslims who are in sync with American views?

A close look at U.S. interactions with Muslim groups in Indonesia —
Obama’s boyhood home for four years — shows how, since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks, rival strategies have played out, often with consequences
very different from what Washington intended.

In the debate over how best to influence the country’s religious
direction, some champion intervention, most notably a private
organization from North Carolina that has waded deep into Indonesia’s
theological struggles. But, in the main, U.S. thinking has moved back
toward what it was in Dunham’s day: stay out of Islam.

A change in public mood

In many ways, Indonesia — a nation of 240 million people scattered
across 17,000 islands — is moving in America’s direction. It has
flirted with Saudi-style dogmatism on its fringes. But while
increasingly pious, it shows few signs of dumping what, since Islam
arrived here in the 14th century, has generally been an eclectic and
flexible brand of the faith.

Terrorism, which many Indonesians previously considered an American-made
myth, now stirs general revulsion. When a key suspect in July suicide
bombings in Jakarta was killed recently in a shootout with a
U.S.-trained police unit, his native village, appalled by his violent
activities, refused to take the body for burial.

A band of Islamic moral vigilantes this month forced a Japanese porn
star to call off a trip to Jakarta. But the group no longer storms bars,
nightclubs and hotels as it did regularly a few years ago, at the
height of a U.S. drive to promote “moderate” Islam. Aceh, a particularly
devout Indonesian region and a big recipient of U.S. aid after a 2004
tsunami, recently introduced a bylaw that mandates the stoning to death
of adulterers, but few expect the penalty to be carried out. Aceh’s
governor, who has an American adviser paid for by USAID, opposes
stoning.

Public fury at the United States over the Iraq war has faded, a trend
accelerated by the departure of President George W. Bush and the
election of Obama. In 2003, the first year of the war, 15 percent of
Indonesians surveyed by the Pew Research Center had a favorable view of
the United States — compared with 75 percent before Bush took office.
America’s favorability rating is now 63 percent.

There are many reasons for the change of mood: an economy that is
growing fast despite the global slump; increasing political stability
rooted in elections that are generally free and fair; moves by President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a U.S.-trained former general who won
reelection by a landslide in July, to co-opt Islamic political parties.

Another reason, said Masdar Mas’udi, a senior cleric at Nahdlatul Ulama,
Indonesia’s — and the world’s — largest Islamic organization, is that
the United States has backed away from overt intrusions into religious
matters. A foe of hard-line Muslims who has worked closely with
Americans, Mas’udi said he now believes that U.S. intervention in
theological quarrels often provides radicals with “a sparring partner”
that strengthens them. These days, instead of tinkering with religious
doctrine, a pet project focuses on providing organic rice seeds to poor
Muslim farmers.

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Washington deployed
money and rhetoric in a big push to bolster “moderate” Muslims against
what Bush called the “real and profound ideology” of “Islamo-fascism. ”
Obama, promising a “new beginning between America and Muslims around the
world,” has avoided dividing Muslims into competing theological camps.
He has denounced “violent extremists” but, in a June speech in Cairo,
stated that “Islam is not part of the problem.”

North, the USAID mission chief, said the best way to help “champions of
an enlightened perspective win the day” is to avoid theology and help
Indonesia “address some of the problems here, such as poverty and
corruption.” Trying to groom Muslim leaders America likes, he said,
won’t help.

Rethinking post-9/11 tack

This is a sharp retreat from the approach taken right after the Sept. 11
attacks, when a raft of U.S.-funded programs sought to amplify the
voice of “moderates.” Hundreds of Indonesian clerics went through
U.S.-sponsored courses that taught a reform-minded reading of the Koran.
A handbook for preachers, published with U.S. money, offered tips on
what to preach. One American-funded Muslim group even tried to script
Friday prayer sermons.

Such initiatives mimicked a strategy adopted during the Cold War, when,
to counter communist ideology, the United States funded a host of
cultural, educational and other groups in tune with America’s goals.
Even some of the key actors were the same. The Asia Foundation, founded
with covert U.S. funding in the 1950s to combat communism, took the lead
in battling noxious strands of Islam in Indonesia as part of a
USAID-financed program called Islam and Civil Society. The program began
before the Sept. 11 attacks but ramped up its activities after.

“We wanted to challenge hard-line ideas head-on,” recalled Ulil Abshar
Abdalla, an Indonesian expert in Islamic theology who, with Asia
Foundation funding, set up the Liberal Islam Network in 2001. The
network launched a weekly radio program that questioned literal
interpretations of sacred texts with respect to women, homosexuals and
basic doctrine. It bought airtime on national television for a video
that presented Islam as a faith of “many colors” and distributed
leaflets promoting liberal theology in mosques.

Feted by Americans as a model moderate, Abdalla was flown to Washington
in 2002 to meet officials at the State Department and the Pentagon,
including Paul D. Wolfowitz, the then-deputy secretary of defense and a
former U.S. ambassador to Jakarta. But efforts to transplant Cold War
tactics into the Islamic world started to go very wrong.
More-conservative Muslims never liked what they viewed as American
meddling in theology. Their unease over U.S. motives escalated sharply
with the start of the Iraq war and spread to a wider constituency. Iraq
“destroyed everything,” said Abdalla, who started getting death threats.

Indonesia’s council of clerics, enraged by what it saw as a U.S.
campaign to reshape Islam, issued a fatwa denouncing “secularism,
pluralism and liberalism.”

The Asia Foundation pulled its funding for Abdalla’s network and began
to rethink its strategy. It still works with Muslim groups but avoids
sensitive theological issues, focusing instead on training to monitor
budgets, battle corruption and lobby on behalf of the poor. “The
foundation came to believe that it was more effective for intra-Islamic
debates to take place without the involvement of international
organizations, ” said Robin Bush, head of the foundation’s Jakarta
office.

Abdalla, meanwhile, left Indonesia and moved to Boston to study.

One U.S. group jumps in

While the Asia Foundation and others dived for cover, one American
outfit jumped into the theological fray with gusto. In December 2003, C.
Holland Taylor, a former telecommunications executive from
Winston-Salem, N.C., set up a combative outfit called LibForAll
Foundation to “promote the culture of liberty and tolerance.”

Taylor, who speaks Indonesian, won some big-name supporters, including
Indonesia’s former president, Abdurrahman Wahid, a prominent but ailing
cleric, and a popular Indonesian pop star, who released a hit song that
vowed, “No to the warriors of jihad! Yes to the warriors of love.”
Taylor took Wahid to Washington, where they met Wolfowitz, Vice
President Richard B. Cheney and others. He recruited a reform-minded
Koran scholar from Egypt to help promote a “renaissance of Islamic
pluralism, tolerance and critical thinking.”

Funding came from wealthy Americans, including heirs of the Hanes
underwear fortune, and several European organizations. Taylor, in a
recent interview in Jakarta, declined to identify his biggest American
donor. He said he has repeatedly asked the U.S. government for money but
has received only $50,000, a grant from a State Department
counterterrorism unit.

“You can’t win a war with that,” said Taylor, who is working on a
26-part TV documentary that aims to debunk hard-line Islamic doctrine.
“People in Washington would prefer to think that if we do nothing we
will be okay: just cut off the heads of terrorists and everything will
be fine.”

As the atmosphere has grown less hostile, Abdalla, the much-reviled
American favorite, returned this year to Jakarta. He hasn’t changed his
liberal take on Islam but now avoids topics that fire up his foes. “I’ve
changed. The environment has changed,” he said. “We now realize the
radical groups are not as dominant as we thought in the beginning.”

Tired of being branded a fringe American stooge, he plans to run in an
election next year for leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama, a pillar of
Indonesia’s traditional religious establishment. He doesn’t stand much
of a chance but wants to “engage with the mainstream instead of the
periphery.” His Liberal Islam Network doesn’t get U.S. money anymore,
skirts touchy topics on its radio show and no longer hands out leaflets
in mosques.

“Religion is too sensitive. We shouldn’t get involved,” said Kay
Ikranagara, a close American friend of Obama’s late mother who works in
Jakarta for a small USAID-funded scholarship program. Ikranagara worries
about Islam’s growing influence on daily life in the country, but she’s
wary of outsiders who want to press Indonesians on matters of faith.

“We just get in a lot of trouble trying to do that,” she said.

http://www.washingt onpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/ article/2009/ 10/24/AR20091024 02279.html

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Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

Manufacturing Consent For The “War On Terror”

Terror Plot Emerges as Secret Service Game

By Julio Godoy

August 20, 2009 — BERLIN, Aug 20 ( IPS) – It was announced as a terror plot busted. German police had captured three young Muslim men in the small village Medebach-Oberschled or, some 450 km southwest of Berlin Sep. 4 in 2007. The police declared they had seized 730 kilograms of hydrogen peroxide, enough to make 550 kg of explosives.

The three men, and a fourth, who was captured a year later in Turkey, wanted to bomb U.S. military and other facilities in Germany, and to kill “as many U.S. soldiers as possible,” one of the accused later confessed.

The four men told court their plans were in retaliation against the U.S. war on ‘Islamic terrorism’, especially the abuse of hundreds of Muslims detained at Guantanamo prison. German authorities and the media dubbed the four men ‘the Sauerland group’, in reference to the region where they were captured.

The Sauerland group were declared to be members of the Islamic Jihad Union, an alleged terrorist organisation based in Uzbekistan.

Almost two years later, the case is before the higher regional court in Duesseldorf, some 460 km southwest of Berlin, and should come to a close early 2010.

But now, the case has ceased to be “the serious terrorist threat” it was called. It is now a mysterious puzzle of secret service games, prosecutors’ alarmism spread by the media, and basic failures of justice.

The supposedly dangerous group members have emerged as no more than some muddle-heads. They had no links whatsoever to international Islamic terror groups.

“No Islamic chief villain…in Pakistan or somewhere else influenced the group,” says Hans Leyendecker, one of Germany’s top investigative journalists. “Its members are dumb, narrow-minded young men who hate the U.S.”

Moreover, the fifth member of the group, yet to be captured, has been described as a Turkish national known only as Mevlut K. He now appears as an informer of the Turkish national intelligence organisation (MIT, after its Turkish name). He was the key figure in the plot, according to confessions by other members of the Sauerland group.

“Without Mevlut, we would not have been able to go as far with the preparations as we did,” Attila Selek, one of the accused, told the court. ‘K’ had procured 26 fuses for the bombs the group was supposed to make, Selek said. Only, the fuses were useless. German police investigations showed that all but two were too humid to work.

Fritz Gelowicz, another member of the terrorist group, said the four men were informed of K’s links with the MIT. “We knew that Mevlut had links with several secret services,” Gelowicz told the court. “We though that these links were good for us.”

K apparently did not hide his links to the Turkish secret service. On at least one occasion K told the group they were being monitored by the German security agencies. “Then he told me he was stealing this information from secret services,” Selek told the court.

Despite warnings that the German police were constantly informed of their actions, the four men continued their preparations until they were captured.

Numerous sources have confirmed that the German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendi enst (BND) knew in 2004 that Mevlut K worked for the MIT. That year, the sources said, the MIT proposed to the BND that K be infiltrated into Islam movements in Germany. The BND reportedly rejected the Turkish plan.

Despite the confessions about K’s involvement, German justice failed to order his capture for a long time. Mevlut K. is believed to be living in Turkey.

German authorities only issued an international warrant against Mevlut K. Aug. 13, several weeks after depositions by the other four members of the group had been widely circulated.

The Sauerland group could have been “an orchestration to make believe that a huge terrorist threat” was looming over U.S. military facilities in Germany, says Rene Hellig, leading commentator with the Neues Deutschland daily.

Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray calls it a fake case orchestrated by Uzbek security services.

“I should make plain that regrettably it is a fact that there are those who commit violence, motivated by a fanatic version of their faith,” Murray wrote in his personal blog. “Sadly the appalling aggression of the U.S. government and allied war policy has made such reaction much more frequent. They may or may not have been planning to commit explosions. But if they were, the question is who was really pulling their strings, and why?”

Murray says there is no evidence of the existence of Islamic Jihad Union, alleged to have been directing the Sauerland group, other than that given by Uzbek security services. “There are, for example, no communications intercepts between senior terrorists referring to themselves as the Islamic Jihad Union,” he said.

Murray said the planned attacks the Uzbekistan government attributed to the group since the spring of 2004 “are in fact largely fake and almost certainly the work of the Uzbek security services, from my investigations on the spot at the time.” (END/2009)

 
 

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print