Published: October 2009

Indonesia

Indonesia

Facing Down the Fanatics

A more tolerant Islam is confronting extremism in the world's most populous Muslim country.

By Michael Finkel
Photograph by James Nachtwey

He answers the door himself. No armed guards, no attempt to hide. Abu Bakar Baasyir lives in a modest one-story home on the campus of the boarding school he helped found in the quiet village of Ngruki, amid the central highlands of the main Indonesian island of Java. Baasyir is 71 years old, stalk thin, with a white goatee and lively dark eyes magnified by gold-rimmed glasses. He is the alleged spiritual leader of the militant Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which has been linked to at least a half dozen bombings in Indonesia over the last decade, including the devastating 2002 Bali nightclub blasts and, perhaps, the suicide bombings at Jakarta luxury hotels this past summer.

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