Source: The Economist
Wire Service: Reuters
MEETING Nasir Abas at one of Indonesia's trendiest hotels, it is hard to imagine that this polite man in casual Western clothes was once a leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the region's most dangerous terrorist group. Now his job is to persuade his former comrades to give up the idea of perpetrating violence against the West in the name of Islam.
As he explains in his mild-mannered way, he uses two lines of argument. One is theological: he points out the verses in the Koran that forbid aggressive warfare, and which insist that the lives of non-combatants, especially women and children, must be protected. The other line is more strategic: to convince his listeners that not all Westerners are anti-Muslim, he stresses the fact that many Americans opposed the war in Iraq. And he challenges them: have terrorist bombs made people respect Islam more? Some prisoners angrily reject his arguments, he says—but as long as they are still prepared to listen to them, he thinks it worth continuing to try.