Understanding the Phenomenon of Radical Groups Post-Reform

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Following the Reform movement in 1998, as the floodgates of democracy were opened wide, various new variants of groups emerged that were absent during the New Order era. Even if they existed, they had not surfaced significantly. These groups encompassed various sectors, ranging from religion, arts, to culture.

Within the religious sector, new variations emerged that had not previously been distinctly visible. Groups such as those advocating Arabization within Islam, modernist Islamic factions, and others surfaced. Additionally, new political parties emerged, adding hues to the political discourse in the country.


The emergence of these new groups, on one hand, had a positive impact by fostering a healthy democratic climate in Indonesia. However, on the other hand, it had negative repercussions with the emergence of groups inclined towards radical movements. Some of these movements aspire to establish an Islamic state or a ‘State of Islamic Indonesia,’ or even a ‘Islamic Caliphate.’

These groups vary in visibility, with some operating openly and others clandestinely. Among the former are groups like Laskar Jihad, Laskar Jundulloh, Front Pembela Islam (FPI), Majelis Mujahideen Indonesia (MMI), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), and others. The latter category includes groups like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) (Masdar Hilmy, 2015).

The presence of such groups emerged shortly after the fall of the New Order regime. They immediately engaged in various distressing incidents in Indonesia, including the Bali bombings (2002), the JW Marriott bombing in Jakarta (2003), Christmas Eve bombings in various cities across Indonesia (2000), Palopo bombing (2004), among others.

These occurrences underscore how the wide opening of freedoms during the Reform era often provided space for the seeds of terrorism practices. Nonetheless, as citizens of Indonesia, they have the right to live despite their actions having connotations contrary to the government (Beetham, 2004).

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