Bali bombers: martyrs or monsters?
Did the “Bali bombers” end up as martyrs or monsters? That’s what many must be wondering after the three young men convicted of the Bali nighclub bombings in October 2002 were executed in the dead of the night last weekend in an orange grove on Java.
(Photo: Funeral of bomber Imam Samudra, 11 Nov 2008/Supri)
The run-up to the executions turned into a media circus. The three men from the Jemaah Islamiah group – Imam Samudra, Mukhlas, and Amrozi — were interviewed extensively by domestic and foreign media before they faced a firing squad last Sunday. They were defiant to the end, calling for more attacks like the one they perpetrated that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. They had, in fact, become media celebrities and the public was fascinated with them. But as monsters or martyrs?
Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda said the executions should not have been so publicised. “Perhaps that’s the cross we have to bear in an open and democratic Indonesia,” he said, using an interesting metaphor when speaking about Islamists. Thousands of people poured onto the streets for the funerals after the bodies were flown by helicopter to their home towns. People chanted “Goodbye Syuhada (heroes)” and “allahu akbar” as the bodies of Mukhlas and Amrozi were taken to an Islamic boarding school where Jemaah Islamiah’s spiritual leader Abu Bakr Bashir led prayers.
The feared revenge attacks have not taken place, though Australia said it has credible information that militants may be planning some. Jemaah said the Bali attacks were intended to deter foreigners as part of drive to make Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, part of a larger Islamic caliphate.
(Photo: Protester and poster of bombers, 9 Nov 2008/Beawiharta)
But leaders of the two main Muslim organisations — Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah who together account for nearly three-quarters of Indonesia’s 230 million people — know there is very little support for that among the Indonesian people who generally practice a tolerant brand of Islam.
“The bombers show a wrong nature of Islam,” Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah told the Jakarta Post. “The use of violence and attacks cannot be tolerated in our religion. “Glorifying the three Bali bombers as mujahid is a grave mistake. It stems from a delusion that such an honor can be achieved through bombings and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great),” said Masdar F. Mas’udi, deputy chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
The Bali bombers were clearly hoping their executions would give them the status of martyrs. But the classic definition of that in both Christianity and Islam are those who died defending their faith against their persecutors — not waging an unprovoked attack on an unsuspecting population to further a vision of an Islamic caliphat in Southeast Asia.
Will the Bali Bombers go down in Muslim history as heroes or martyrs? Or will they be seen as deluded young men who were induced to commit mass murder in a time of post-911 madness?
Following are some Reuters videos from the funeral and protests against the executions:
Here’s a slideshow of pictures from the bombings to the execution of the bombers.