Solahudin, a Jakarta-based journalist who has covered the terrorism beat for years was among the first journalists to witness the immediate aftermath of the October 2002 Bali bombings.
Last June, Solahudin's years of research into Indonesian extremist movements culminated in the publication of a book, "The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia". The question is complex and those roots are more than 50 years old, Solahudin tells Khabar Southeast Asia in an interview.
Khabar: You say that the roots of terrorism in Indonesia date back many decades. How did you find this out?
Solahudin: Three suspects in the Bali bombing – Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi – all practiced salafi jihadism, which labels the government's refusal to apply sharia law as kafir and that must be fought through jihad.
This ideology allows terrorism as a part of jihad, including to kill civilians, children, and women, which is forbidden by most Islamic leaders.
I researched whether it was really an imported ideology. The truth is, it is a home-grown ideology that appeared long before al-Qaeda proclaimed itself. I found out through long-time research that Darul Islam, an organisation founded by Kartosuwiryo in the 1950s, was the first considered to be the root of terrorism in Indonesia.
This organisation labelled the former government under Soekarno's leadership as kafir for refusing to apply sharia. In the 1980s, about 200 jihadists left for Afghanistan for military training to prepare themselves to fight the government.
And in the 1990s, some of the Darul Islam members decided to split and declared a new organisation known as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). They introduced the ideology of jihadism salafi, which also labelled the government refusing to apply sharia as kafir.
So, you see, it's not really an imported ideology.
Khabar: What causes terrorism growth in Indonesia?
Solahudin: It varies from one place to another. In conflict areas like Poso, terrorism grows because there are people who are disappointed with the government. While in Java, which is considered to be a safe area, it is purely religiously motivated. So it is not only because of poor education background or welfare.
The point is radicalism and terrorism grows rapidly if three major aspects are met: people who are disappointed with the current system, ideology that allows the efforts, and organizations that support them.
Khabar: How do you see the government's current efforts in combating terrorism?
Solahudin: Intensive efforts from the government, I would say, help much to reduce the quality of terrorism.
From 2010-2013, there were 80 cases and about 300 suspects arrested. But compared with the 2002 Bali bombing tragedy that killed 202 people, there were only minor cases that did not cost many casualties. Only few were killed. Mostly, they were suspects killed in their own suicide bombing missions.
I can say that the numbers might increase, but the quality is decreasing, thanks to the police officers and Densus 88, who have been working hard to solve the cases. However, such a hard approach through law enforcement is not enough, as it only judges the crimes the suspects are involved in.
Khabar: What should the next step be?
Solahudin: There should also be a soft approach, which means to combat terrorism from its roots. And there should be special research for that, because the treatments would be different in Java and Poso.
One thing that must not be forgotten is to include community in the efforts, because terrorism is an extraordinary crime against humanity.