Center for Strategic Communication

By Chris Lundry

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has been branded a commander of the crusaders following the announcement that Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain will be awarding him the Honorary Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Bath.

The award has angered extremist Islamist groups, some of whom are still simmering over the recent arrest of 11 people suspected of terrorism throughout Java and the uncovering of plots to bomb the American embassy in Jakarta, the American consulate in Surabaya, the offices of US-based Freeport-McMoran mining company in Jakarta, and offices of the anti-terrorism police force Densus 88.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Grand Knight of the Cross (Crusade)

“SBY has Become the Commander of the Crusaders Under the Pretext of the Fight Against Terrorism” blares the headline on the Voice of al-Islam. Ar Rahmah cites the leader of the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) in its headline: “Habieb Rizieq” It’s No Surprise SBY Receives the title of ‘Knight of the Grand Cross.’” Ar Rahmah also cites the leader of Taruna Muslim (Muslim Youth), Alfian Tanjung: “In Receiving the Title Grand Knight of the Cross, SBY’s Faith in Islam must be questioned.”

Besides the award being unpalatable to extremists simply because it’s coming from the Queen of England, there is the fact that the word for “cross” in Indonesia – salib, a term borrowed from Arabic – is also the same word used for crusade. The crusader narrative is one of the most frequently invoked by Islamist extremists to portray themselves as victims of religious war.

Rizieq condemned the award, arguing that it must be for SBY’s defense of the Ahmadis who the FPI consider to be heretics. This argument is laughable, however, as SBY hasn’t mounted much of a defense of the Ahmadis at all, and they continue to be attacked and demonized by Islamists who rare face prosecution for their actions.

Munarman, head of the Central Representative Council of the FPI, stated that the award was a clear sign that SBY is a commander of the crusaders to attack the Muslim community of Indonesia. The war between Islam and the crusaders is an “eternal war,” according to Munarman, and now takes the form of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. He continued: “Even in Indonesia, this war is taking shape and is themed as the war against terrorism, which is essentially a continuation of the crusades of the past led by King Richard and the other crusading knights of the Knights Templar.”

Alfian argues that SBY must have a split personality, as he clearly sides with the unbelievers as well as cavorts with communist cadres.

Extremist Islamists have always criticized Indonesian leadership for not being Islamic enough, for not supporting shari’a as a national law, for not punishing the Ahmadis and Christians, so this criticism isn’t anything new. One has to wonder, however, if SBY was awarded the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle or the Most Noble Order of the Garter if there would be as much hubbub.