© 2015

Islamist Terrorism and Militancy in Indonesia

The Power of the Manichean Mindset

  • Approaches the study of Indonesian terrorism and militancy from a bold and fresh inter-disciplinary perspective

  • Provides a provocative new framework for understanding the stubborn resilience and adaptive capacity of violent Islamist terrorism and militancy in Indonesia

  • Suggests how violent Islamist terrorism and militancy in Indonesia could be effectively neutralized through targeted policy interventions in the counter-narrative space


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. The Human Nature Triad Unpacked – The Manichean Mindset, Embattled Religiosity and Violent Fundamentalism

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 13-13
    2. Kumar Ramakrishna
      Pages 15-51
    3. Kumar Ramakrishna
      Pages 87-132
  3. The Human Nature Triad Applied – Violent Islamist Terrorism and Militancy in Indonesia: Origins, Evolution and the Counter-Ideological Response

  4. Back Matter
    Pages 265-269

About this book


Drawing upon insights from the natural and social sciences, this book puts forth the provocative new argument that the violent Islamist threat in Indonesia today derives its stubborn resilience from being in essence a complex, adaptive and self-organizing system – or what some specialists might even call a super-organism. The book challenges the popular assumption that ideology causes Indonesian Islamists to radicalize into violent extremism. In addition it addresses why, despite years of intense security-force pressure, seemingly disparate militant cells keep ‘popping up’ like the heads of the proverbial Hydra, and why in the apparent absence of a centralized coordinating body, they nevertheless appear to display an organic interconnectivity with one another. Going beyond standard ideological mantras, the book argues that fresh inter-disciplinary thinking is needed to deal with the constantly mutating violent Islamist challenge in Indonesia, and puts forward a comprehensive strategy for doing so. It will be of interest to academics and students of terrorism, religion and violence in the Southeast Asian region.


Complex, adaptive, self-organizing system in Indonesia Counter-ideological response in Indonesia Darul Islam Counterculture Islamist Terrorism in Indonesia Islamist fundamentalism in Indonesia Manichean Mindset Militancy in Indonesia Religious Fundamentalism Terrorism in Indonesia Violent Fundamentalism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

About the authors

Kumar Ramakrishna is Associate Professor and Head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has been a frequent speaker on counter-terrorism before local and international audiences, a regular media commentator on the issue and published in numerous internationally refereed journals. He has co-edited two well-received books on counter-terrorism, The New Terrorism: Anatomy, Trends and Counter-Strategies (2002) as well as After Bali: The Threat of Terrorism in Southeast Asia (2004). His first major book, Emergency Propaganda: The Winning of Malayan Hearts and Minds, 1948-1958, (2002) was described by The International History Review as “required reading for historians of Malaya, and for those whose task is to counter insurgents, guerrillas, and-terrorists”. In May 2012, his most recent book, Radical Pathways: Understanding Muslim Radicalization in Indonesia (2009), was identified by Perspectives on Terrorism as one of the top 150 books on terrorism and counter-terrorism as well as “an important and insightful case study on the pathways to extremism and violent jihad in Indonesia”. 

Bibliographic information

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"A few books are a „must-read“ for everyone who specializes in Islamism and militancy, but also looks for broader explanations of human behaviour. Kumar Ramakrishna's „Islamist Terrorism and Militancy in Indonesia – The Power of the Manichean Mindset“ is one of these books. ... The book is excellently written and opens up new thought-venues on the emergence of political violence. ... It is highly interesting to read, not only for experts, but also for a broader audience who are looking for a well explained overview of the social mechanisms that lead to the formation of groups and socio-collective identities, and from this vantage point to group-violence." (Dr. Philipp Holtmann, historian, author, scholar of Middle-East-Studies, April 2015)