Although the January 2016 Sarinah mall attacks in Jakarta demonstrate the need for continued vigilance, this paper argues that Islamic extremism and fundamentalism are not on the rise in Indonesia. In fact, Islamic extremism in Indonesia reached its height in the early 2000s, with radicalized groups participating in religious conflicts in Eastern Indonesia and carrying out large-scale terrorist attacks, such as the bombings in Bali in 2002. Since then, the capacity of the security apparatus has markedly improved, leading to the crippling of terrorist networks. Today, the majority of Islamists engage in above-ground non-violent activities and pose little threat to the country’s stability. This paper views fundamentalism and extremism as symptoms of broader problems in Indonesia, and argues that addressing these issues should help to further reduce the problems of religious fundamentalism and extremism.

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CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.
  • Jacques Bertrand is a professor of political science and director of the M.A. program in Asia-Pacific studies at the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, and a core faculty member of the Asian Institute’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, of which he was the founding director (2010–2012). 

  • Jessica Soedirgo is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation research explores the dynamics of religious conflict in Indonesia. Jessica is a recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the Dr. David Chu Scholarship in Asia-Pacific Studies.