Sunday, May 06, 2007

I'm shocked. 60 minutes runs Good News story

I'm shocked I tell ya shocked. I click over to see what 60 Minutes is running, and they have this story about a former Mujahideen jihadist, Nasir Abas. This dude from Indonesia. Excerpts from this story:

(CBS) It's not often you get a chance to talk to someone who was a key player inside a terrorist organization for twenty years, but 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon did just that when he interviewed Nasir Abas, one of the most valuable members of a terrorist group ever to change sides and work for the authorities. Abas is from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. And he was a top commander in Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's franchise operation in Southeast Asia.

Like so many terrorists around the world, he learned his trade in Afghanistan. Hundreds of militants from Southeast Asia traveled there in the 1980's to defend Islam against the Soviet occupiers. They trained as Mujahideen in a rugged camp, which Abas calls a military academy.

Abas graduated with honors in artillery and ended up giving weapons training to scores of young men from Southeast Asia.

Nasir Abas had become a very serious player in the movement. He established a military camp for Jemaah Islamiyah, where he trained hundreds of young believers to become fighters. He was promoted to be one of the four regional commanders.

But then in 2000, well before his arrest, something happened which would make Abas question everything he believed in: a fatwa, a religious edict, was issued by Osama bin Laden.

"It should be understood that killing Americans and Jews anywhere found are the highest act of worship and the highest form of good deeds in the eyes of Allah," Simon quotes bin Laden.

Abas and his fellow commanders were ordered to read the fatwa to their men and make sure they carried it out. The others obeyed, but Abas refused. It was his moment of truth. He firmly believed that jihad was to be fought only on the battlefield in defense of Islam; he had always been taught that the killing of civilians had nothing to do with holy war and that it was forbidden.

The fatwa justified killing non-Muslim civilians everywhere.

Abas stopped participating in the violent activities of Jemaah Islamiyah and started withdrawing from the organization that had been his life. He has provided a wealth of information, helping the Indonesian authorities unravel the inner workings Jemaah Islamiyah.

According to Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, who has been tracking Jemaah Islamiyah for the last ten years, Nasir Abas has been a huge resource.

Asked how valuable Abas has been to police, Jones said, "I think he's been invaluable. I think he understands the network of jihadists in Indonesia in a way that nobody who's outside that network could possibly ever hope to understand."

The man who lived his life in the shadows, as an insider in a secret organization, will now tell you that what’s most important is to bring things into the light of day, and that the most important weapon is education.

"Yes. We need to educate people. We need to give more explanation. Yeah, about what was is right, what is wrong," Abas says.

"And this is what you're trying to do?" Simon asks.

Says Abas, "Yeah. This is what I’m saying, that this is my new jihad."

The only problem with the way CBS presented this story has to do with what they chose to emphasize. CBS just had to make the emphasis of the story about how Indonesia captures terrorists and holds trials in public to convict them instead of holding them indefinitely like the US does at Gitmo. Sorry CBS that is not the important part of this story.

The good news is this dude used REASON in his thought processes. Just because Osama says something doesn't mean you have to believe it. It is good news to me when a person from the world's most populous Muslim nation can refuse to follow a command from a Muslim leader. The conventional wisdom is that Islam is such a top-down structurally based system that nobody can question what the leaders say. This guy is an example of somebody who did question a command, and refused to follow it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is another example of somebody who is brought up in this Islamist way of life, and then turns away later on. Although Hirsi Ali turned away to a larger extent than this dude I think they are similar. Abas and Hirsi Ali both believe education is the most important weapon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this posting. I certainly agree with your thoughts Reason. The further conclusion, however, is that this ex-militant also questioned a particular interpretation of a text. Islam does not shortcut your mind: refusing to think for yourself does. I am not a Muslim myself, indeed, I am farely hostile to religion in general, but I do not therefore imagine that all Christians are Crusaders or that Jews killed Jesus, etc. I do not understand why people need external references to tell them how to live their lives well, or to assert the importance of morality and ethical behaviour, but evidently large numbers of people, inded the majority of people, need faith. Given this, it seems important to emphasise that faith does not excuse you from the imperative to think. A first principle might be that anything that seems to require you to kill others, is, on the face of it, intensely suspect and probably wrong. That leaves soldiers in the military in a morally ambiguous situation, which is why the rest of us need to expend considerable time and effort towards figuring out what a just war is. Even in the circumstances in which the general war is found to be justified, it is still necessary that the taking of any life be subject to the most rigourous scrutiny, lest all of us regress to simple barbarians who kill on the basis of arbitrary differences, real or implied.

(P.S. Does 60 minutes not usually run good stories? Is that why you are shocked? Just wondering.)