It is clear that Jemaah Islamiah is most likely behind the fatal blasts in two Jakarta hotels today. Today however Jemaah has links to al-Qaeda and has a long track record of bomb attacks in Indonesia. The most deadly were the near simultaneous blasts in two Balinese nightclubs on 12 October 2002, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
JI as it is often referred to has also been implicated in attacks against Christian targets in eastern Indonesia, a suicide bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta in September 2004 and a similar strike at the JW Marriott hotel, also in Jakarta, in August 2003.
The branch which today operates in Indonesia was founded in Malaysia by two Indonesian Salafists, and developed branches in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore. There are also marginal JI groups in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Australia.
Many of the violent JI members today were trained in al-Qaeda camps and fought in Afghanistan.
Jihad was declared by the early Muslim leaders as a sixth unofficial Pillar of Islam. It was conceived as an "instrument of Islam," a sufficient but not a necessary condition for the spread and defense of the religion. From historical accounts, including (but not only) religious texts and references, jihad was a state of mobilization in the interest of the Muslim umma (nation) as it developed its military and strategic dimensions. When Muslims fled Meccan oppression at the hands of Mecca's pagan political establishment, they defined themselves as an "umma." As they settled in Medina, north of Mecca, the followers of Mohammed organized themselves into a political and military institution. They decided to overrun Mecca's ruling institution and replace it with a dawla, a state. It was to become the dawlat al Islam: the state of Islam, soon to become the Islamic state. That theologically grounded choice to establish a government for the new religion was the basis on which the rulerfirst the Prophet himself, then his successors-granted themselves the right of sovereignty to manage the affairs of the state for the nation. The protection of, expansion of, and management of the dawlat al umma (the state of the Muslim nation) led logically to the buildup of instruments of governance for war and peace. Jihad, a state of effort at the service of the umma, the state, and Allah.
The scholars of the caliphate depicted the world to their followers as divided in two, on one side was the area where the Islamic state reigned and the Sharia of Allah was sovereign. It was called dar el Islam. Literally it translates to "house (or abode) of Islam." This "zone" matched the borders of Islamic state control. It was also called dar el salam, meaning "house of peace." The idea was that wherever the Islamic state is found, peace will be prevalent and guaranteed. On the other side of the equation, there was dar el Harb, which translates simply as "house of War," or, technically, War Zone.
While a common idea throughout the Muslim world, Radical Islamists seek to foreseeable realize, a Caliphate in which political and religious power are fused and whose hypothetical borders are indicated here. One should note that it encompasses the Christian, Confucian, Jewish and Hindu populations of Spain, the Balkans, Greece, central Africa, India and Indonesia.
JI's goal is to create a caliphate, ruled by Islamic law, in the entire region spanning from Myanmar in the west to the Philippines in the east. The group's members hope this Islamic state will in time become part of the larger caliphate that al-Qaeda and others envision, as governing the worldwide Muslim community.
Finally, while they also fought in Afghanistan, Jemaah Islamiah referred to as “JI” should not be confused with the Jamaat-e-Islami which is also referred to as “JI” and along with the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba became active in the Kashmir Jihad. With links to the ISI (Pakistani intelligence service) the Lashkar-i-Tayyiba was responsible for the attack on Bombay/Mumbai last year.
It should also be stressed that only a minority of the ‘worldwide’ Muslim community today approves of terrorist approaches or even violent Jihad.