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Some thoughts on the Bali bombing

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Terrorists have struck again in Bali.

Tourists - Australians, Japanese, Germans - are among the dead and wounded. Even a 16-year-old Australian killed. Why? This was peak tourist season in Indonesia. Tourists bring money. They spend it on the local economy. Indonesians benefit.

Indonesians are employed. Indonesians are fed and clothed. Food is placed on the sofra (traditional cloth spread on the ground and used as a dinner table) of many an Indonesian household. And Indonesians are the biggest losers from terrorism.


Next January, I hope to be travelling with a delegation visiting Indonesia. Each year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sends select younger Australian community leaders (I say “younger” because I feel quite old) to visit Indonesia and have a two-week taste of our neighbour.

Naturally, one of the places we will visit is Bali. And for obvious reasons - Bali is a place where so many of our countrymen and women lost their lives to the scourge of terror.

Different reasons are given for the Bali terrorist attacks.

Prime Minister John Howard describes it as an attack on democratic Indonesia, an attempt to destabilise the country and punish it for adopting a more democratic model.

South Australian magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his 22-year-old son Josh in the 2002 Bali bombing, says it was an attack on our foreign policy.

I have my own theory. And try not to be too surprised when you read it. And it does involve a short history lesson. I believe the Bali bombing was an attack on Indonesian Islam.


Some 700 years ago, Yemeni traders brought Islam to this part of the world. They settled in the region that roughly coincides with Malaysia, Singapore and northwestern Indonesia. These were the centres of South-East Asian trade.

The various indigenous tribes of merchants in the region had no system of accounting or serious writing. Small disputes over trade would flare into tribal battles. The Yemenis saw this and introduced a system of numbers and accounting which we still use today. The Yemenis also introduced a system of resolving commercial disputes based on sharia law.

In Indonesia, when people think of sharia, they don't think of chopping hands and stoning adulterers. They think of banking and finance and trade law. They think of what the Yemenis brought them.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on October 4, 2005 and at Planet Irf

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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