In the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden's death, most are joyful, some are indifferent, and a few mourn, seeing the former terrorist leader as a martyr. But news organizations can't figure out how to read the response of some key Islamist groups in Southeast Asia; conflicting reports have characterized Bin Laden's death as galvanizing in his martyrdom or disruptive as a loss of a figurehead.
The region is home to some active terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda, including Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and Malaysia, and Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines. In addition, hard-liners such as Indonesia's Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) are known for their support of violence in the name of establishing sharia law, but have not been linked to any terrorist attacks.
In a Reuters article yesterday, Olivia Rondonuwu characterized Indonesian Islamists as devoted to Bin Laden's memory. She noted that in Jakarta, spokesmen for Jema'ah Ansharut Tauhid--the political arm of JI--and the FPI had hailed Bin Laden as a martyr. "The impact of his demise is that Osama will be appreciated with prayers, support and some hateful comments against the U.S.," JAT spokesman Son Hadi said. "I am certain that the U.S. will experience a major disaster." The Global Post's Sara Schonhardt similarly reported that FPI saw Bin Laden as "a big hero to the Muslim world because he fought against communism and imperialism."