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Book Response to Chapter 5 of the book called Seeds of Terror by Maria A. Ressa

Updated on December 13, 2017

What this book response will cover

This is going to be a chapter review of Maria Ressa’s famous book Seeds of Terror published in 2003. The review will cover Chapter 5 which is titled “Black Ninjas and Jihad in Ambon.” There is also going to be a description of the militia group called Laskar Jihad so that readers can get an idea of the political situation in Indonesia. What also follows this is a reading response to this chapter to provide extra perspective. This is my first political Hub about Indonesia. Note: this summary and response may be converted into a full book review at a later date in time. However, this is not going to be a traditional chapter review and it will focus on some of the similarities between the incidents that are taking place in an increasingly unstable world. Maria Ressa is an outstanding author who has tried to get both sides of the story even at a great personal risk.

A photo of Ambon Island

Ambon Island is a very small island located in the section called Maluku Islands. Ambon is almost in the center of the map.
Ambon Island is a very small island located in the section called Maluku Islands. Ambon is almost in the center of the map. | Source

A brief summary of the chapter called Black Ninjas and Jihad in Ambon

The chapter discusses that there are a series of masked men carrying a series of weapons including sickles. Their goal is to terrorize the population. They are referred to as ninjas by the local population. This campaign of violence had four distinct stages as were described by the people. These four stages are:

  1. The first group of people to be targeted were those that practiced black magic.
  2. The second group of people that were engaging in this instability were gangsters from outside Indonesia. People practicing white magic were targeted.
  3. Mosque leaders were seen by these ninjas as enemies as well as
  4. Public figures and Muslims who were enrolled in boarding schools.

The military and police insist that these killings are revenge attacks to avenge the deaths of many communist party members that were killed in 1965, the year that Suharto’s reign began. In May 1998, there were also riots that were targeting Chinese people and this was one of the events that helped to end Suharto’s rule. Ambon in particular is a city and a province in the Maluku Islands. The situation got so bad in 1999 that author Maria Ressa tells us that the feeling of anarchy was a real possibility and those security forces could not be trusted to keep the public safe. It became a struggle between Christianity and Islam, two of the world’s major monotheistic faiths. The violence that engulfed Ambon was said to have been started by the defense forces. The very security forces that were supposed to keep the population safe were the ones contributing to the anarchy. The military in Indonesia is mostly Muslim while the police forces are predominantly Christian and this may help to explain at least partially the reasons for the tension. At this time, there was much violence between Christians and Muslims. There were two groups in particular, Laskar Jihad and the Islamic Defender’s Front or FPI for short. These two groups targeted bars and nightclubs in an effort to evict foreigners away from Indonesia because they felt that these were un-Islamic practices. A common recurring theme in the chapter is that there are many attempts by Muslims to eradicate the Christian population in Indonesia by attacking even universities! Laskar Jihad when it was active was said to have received lots of support politically and financially by the Indonesian army. According to a report by Western intelligence sources, it is estimated that there was over $9.3 million that was transferred from the military over to Laskar Jihad (page 91) (Ressa). In Ternate which is considered to be the capital of North Maluku, Christians were exterminated. This is similar to what Turkey did to Armenia when they exterminated over 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. And especially in Indonesia, Christians were seen as a threat to the country’s identity. At the height of its power, Laskar Jihad had more than 10,000 members. The group became “the largest and most organized jihadi group in Indonesia, merging radical Islam with intense nationalism, fighting not just in Ambon but in Poso,” page 93 (Ressa).

Although Indonesia is not in the Middle East, it has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and has had its share of violence and turmoil. The chapter also discusses that violence in Indonesia has not just been in its provinces but also in Jakarta itself as the residents have been the targets of several attacks. It gives you an idea of how fragile the security situation in Indonesia really is. I recommend this book as it is an eye-opener and interesting read into the operations of the various Islamic groups and what their objectives are.

A photo of the famous book by Maria Ressa

Reading Response to the chapter and Works Cited Page

My response to what was just summarized is that groups such as Laskar Jihad existed for the purpose of terrorizing innocent populations to achieve their objectives which is the main definition of terrorism. Even though some of those who joined the mentioned group were without jobs, this gives them no excuse to join a group such as this and force Christians to change their religion in the pretext of saving them. Even though Indonesia is an Islamic nation, groups like Laskar Jihad and similar groups promote violence, oppression, and hatred and steps must be taken to make sure that the group will not become active again. Indonesia’s government though far from perfect at least forced Laskar Jihad to withdraw from the Maluku Islands which had been a source of instability. Some of you may be asking should the United States intervene to keep Indonesia under control. As recent history has shown, whenever the United States has intervened either in Afghanistan or Iraq, the situations that these interventions have created have resulted in violence, chaos, instability, and corruption in the governments. The United States and its allies should be far more concerned about North Korea, a country that poses a real threat.

Works Cited

Ressa, Maria A. Seeds of Terror. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 2003.

Maria Ressa gives a brief definition on what terrorism is

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