Terror's Asian Leader Speaks

Al Ungerleider is one of many veterans who have been interviewed by the Library of Congress. Library of Congress

His name is Abubakar Ba'asyir and for the thousands who rally to his call, his message is blunt: Kill the Israelis. Join the mujahaddin. Fight America. Respect Osama. Allah directs this.

Back at his school in central Java, where he gave CBS News his first ever interview with American television, he says there's a war going on between America and Islam.

"The United States attacked Afghanistan arbitrarily. It is fighting against Islam. But it cannot defeat Islam. Sooner or later, the United States will be destroyed by fighting against Islam," said Ba'asyir.

He looks like a kindly grandfather, but intelligence sources in Southeast Asia label him a terrorist, the spiritual leader of a group with direct connections to al Qaeda - a group called Jemaah Islamiah.

CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports that Jemaah Islamiah followers plotted to blow up U.S. embassies in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, and kill American sailors. When the plot was foiled, the operational mastermind known as Hambali disappeared.

Hambali and Ba'asyir are old friends.

"When I met him five years ago, he was a good Islamic teacher. He is not a terrorist," said Ba'asyir.

And who is?

"The United States attacked Afghanistan without reason. They are the terrorists," said Ba'asyir.

A school located in the heart of Indonesia is called al Muk-Min - The Believers. But here they don't believe in democracy. They are taught to fight for only one kind of Indonesia: a fundamentalist, Islamic regime.

Ba'asyir preaches jihad, holy war, telling young, impressionable students to ask their parents for permission to go fight the Jews in Palestine.

America might want to see the suspected terrorist locked up, but the U.S. supports Indonesia's new democracy and that means the U.S. supports free speech, even if it's against democracy.

The gamble here is that democracy will be far more appealing to this nation's Muslims than anti-western, Islamic fundamentalism. And, if so, democracy could turn Indonesia from a wary friend into a strong U.S. ally. So, for America, the most useful weapon in the war on terrorism in Indonesia may be patience.
  • chris oregan

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