Indonesia and the roots of ISIS
January-March 2015
By: Keith Loveard

Where did it all go wrong? Where did the hatred that drives the fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria begin? There is no shortage of answers to these questions, and some of the answers may be useful in preventing the evil flower of ISIS from blooming in Indonesia, with its essentially tolerant and moderate forms of Islam.

Islam came to Indonesia peacefully, unlike in many other parts of the world. In the process, it adopted some practices and belief systems of earlier dominant religions. The arrival of Dutch colonialism did not disturb the majority religion and Muslim leaders of the day agreed that it was inappropriate to wage jihad against the Dutch because they did not interfere with Muslim practices, an essential precondition for a war in defense of the religion. While proselytizing by Dutch and other European missionaries did convert some members of the native population, and some saw benefits in becoming Christian because it brought them closer to the colonizers, Islam as the dominant majority faith was untouched.

That was not the case elsewhere. The remarkable flowering of Muslim consciousness in the Middle East gave birth to a desire to convert the world as it was then known. Muslim armies carried the flag of their religion across the width of North Africa and into southern Europe, winning territory in Spain, Sicily and the Italian mainland. It was nearly 800 years before they were expelled. The religion of Islam directly confronted the established power of the Catholic Church, beginning a troubled relationship between the West and Islam that continues to this day.  

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