In a twisting lane hidden in a working-class Jakarta neighborhood, hundreds of sarong-clad men and boys stood on colorful prayer rugs in a mosque on Friday, some on the sidewalk outside, their heads bowed, their voices mixing in response to the imam chanting a midday prayer. Nearby, vendors' wagons carried stickers saying "We Love Iraq" and "Bush, Blair, Howard -- Crazy Animals, Halal Blood."
Doni Satria, 28, a slim, cleanshaven university student in a lime-colored tunic and a black pillbox hat, strode briskly from the mosque when prayers ended. He seated himself on a worn carpet in the nearby headquarters of the Islamic Defenders Front, known as FPI, a small militant Islamic organization in Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim country.
He traveled 36 hours by bus and ferry two weeks ago from his home in Sumatra island to Jakarta, drawn by the news that the FPI was registering volunteers to fight in Iraq. FPI leaders claim he was among 28,000 or so Indonesians who have signed up.
"My aim is to die as a martyr," said Satria, who looks almost too small and untested to be sent to war. But he claims that he fought with a Muslim militia in Ambon in the Maluku islands of eastern Indonesia during a bloody sectarian conflict with Christian forces that erupted in 1999. He claims he knows how to shoot. "As long as other Muslims are being killed," he said, "we will fight."
On Friday, all he had was a duffel bag and a prayer rug. He did not know how he would get to Iraq, or when. "It is in God's hands," he said. He said he had two passports, and displayed one, which he acknowledged was a fake.
FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihabtwp, 38, was vague on details of how he might send these men to Iraq. Although the Iraqi Embassy here has said it does not need volunteers yet, Rizieq aides have a six-inch-high sheaf of papers with names, addresses, birth dates and identification photos that they say represent volunteers for Iraq.
Rizieq is under house detention after being arrested last year for attempting to incite violence. His claims are viewed with skepticism by Indonesian officials and by leaders of moderate Muslim organizations with large bases.
Although some men are showing up to volunteer to fight in Iraq, there appears to be little evidence so far that any group has the wherewithal to send large numbers of fighters. "Actually this kind of drive, in my opinion, is only to get attention from the media," said Azyumardi Azra, rector of the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah, in Jakarta.
Other Muslim leaders, activists and academics agree that the war is energizing Indonesians, more than 85 percent of whom are Muslims, to donate money for food, clothing and medical supplies to help Iraqi citizens. But, Azra said, "there is no clear indication" that militancy "will translate this humanitarian issue into political or radical action."
In the 1980s, he said, Indonesians could not express their opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan openly, so they did it secretly by sneaking to Afghanistan through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Pakistan. Today, they can express their opposition in public, which has afforded "some kind of release" for Muslims, he said.
But the war appears to be helping at least one Indonesian Islamic group that is striving to create an Islamic state, the formerly banned Hizbut Tahrir. Spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, said the conflict was increasing "our Islamic spirit."
"This war is good for us," Yusanto said. "So thank you, Mr. Bush!"
a protest outside the British Embassy
in Jakarta. Indonesia is the world's most-populous Muslim country.A Muslim woman prays during an antiwar demonstration at the U.S. Embassy.