This article looks at the first two local jihads in Indonesia after the fall of President Suharto: the 1999–2005 Ambon jihad and the 2000–7 Poso jihad. Both jihads were launched by Javanese mujahidin in response to the eruption of Christian–Muslim communal violence. The Ambon jihad was characterized by disagreement, infighting and lack of strategic direction, while the Poso jihad was comparatively better led and linked to the broader goals of establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia. This article explores the differences between the two jihads and asks to what extent the better organization of the Poso jihad was the result of lessons learnt from the “mistakes” of the Ambon jihad. The article advances two arguments. First, the Ambon jihad was undermined by the lengthy debate within Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) on how to respond to the Ambon conflict as well as by the shifting dynamics between JI, Mujahidin KOMPAK and Laskar Jihad. Second, that the Poso jihad was more organized than the Ambon one because JI’s leadership had a more comprehensive approach to the Poso jihad; because JI and Mujahidin KOMPAK had learnt from the mistakes of the Ambon jihad in the areas of leadership, training and using local jihads to achieve national aims; and because the intra- and inter-mujahidin dynamics and with it the “state of jihad” had evolved between February 1999 and September 2000.


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pp. 35-62
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