Hambali is described as the regional director of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network and the mastermind of the Jemaah Islamiah, which has been blamed for several bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines. He is regarded as a dangerous terrorist but to his mother- in-law, Tambaku binti Endau, Hambali is like any other son-in-law, writes MUGUNTAN VANAR.
PADI farmer Tambaku binti Endau @ Salmah Abdullah lives a quiet life in a tiny fishing village, Kampung Karamat Dua in Beluran, a town on Sabah’s east coast, surrounded by oil palm plantations filled with migrant workers.
But the 67-year-old woman has found herself at the centre of unwanted attention – two of her daughters are married to leaders of the notorious Jemaah Islamiah (JI).
One is married to Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin. Hambali, the Indonesian Muslim militant is described as a dangerous terrorist dubbed Osama bin Laden of Southeast Asia by the CIA and is married to Noraliza Abdullah @ Lee Yin Len.
Another son-in-law is Abu Yusuf @ Dandang Surman, a JI leader who is now on the run. He is married to Noral Fadilah @ Lee Ah Lin.
But as the world lists the terror crimes committed by Hambali, Salmah has only good things to say about her son-in-law, whom she described as a simple, religious and caring husband.
“He is the perfect family man. He is incapable of doing wrong,” she said sombrely, but she admits the man had certain quirky characteristics.
“He would turn the TV off after watching the news. He does not like us watching TV,” she said, recollecting Hambali as saying that the entertainment programmes corrupted the mind.
The Muslim hardliner laid down other house rules – whenever he had visitors, she and her daughter had to stay in the kitchen or in their rooms.
“Whenever they are around my daughter and I, as Muslims, were required to remain in the kitchen, unlike here where we can sit together, men and women,” she said.
Describing Hambali “as someone who likes to keep to himself”, Salmah recalled visitors from Singapore, Pakistan and West Asian countries calling on him frequently at their Banting home in Selangor, where he stayed in the 1990s.
In an interview with The Star on Monday, Salmah recalled her three-year stay with the couple in the Sungai Manggis migrant village commune near Banting prior to the Sept 11, 2001, attack.
“I have never seen him angry. He is a soft-spoken person who never raises his voice. Our conversations only centred on family. Even when eating together he talked only about food.”
Neither did he tell her why he left Indonesia and stayed in Malaysia, other than that he came over to teach Islam and to broaden his horizons.
He had never talked to her about Afghanistan or United States but she remembers once overhearing him talking about Ambon with his friends.
She also said he told her that he had been to Pakistan and had studied Arabic in Saudi Arabia.
Salmah speaks well of her son-in-law, who has fought four times in Ambon against the Christians, three times against the Russians in Afghanistan and twice in the southern Philippines.
Hambali, who was born to a family of 13 children in the village of Sukamanah, West Java, moved to Malaysia in 1985 when he was 21. He took several odd jobs including slaughtering chicken at the Klang market, selling kebab, religious books, songkok and carpets.
Two years later, he left for Sadar Camp in Pakistan for arms training and subsequently fought the Russians in Afghanistan between 1987 and 1999. It was at the JI-run Luqmanul Hakiem in Ulu Tiram, Johor, that he met Noraliza Abdullah.
Salmah remembered Hambali as someone who spent a lot of time on his computer.
“He spent long hours on the computer late into the night,” she said, adding that her understanding was that Hambali was an ustaz and a trader. She remembers how her bearded son-in-law donning the serban and kopiah spent time at home with his wife and her.
“They liked to eat at home and sometimes I cooked for them. He loved crabs, especially ketam bakar (baked crabs), she said.
He was out most of the time either travelling or meeting friends.
The question she keeps asking now is did Hambali do what the world is accusing him of doing and what will become of him and her daughter.
Related storyHambali’s mum-in-law: All I want is to see my daughterSitting on the verandah of a friend’s house in the fishing village of Keramat Dua here, Salmah Abdullah broke down in tears upon hearing the name of her daughter mentioned over the 8pm TV news on Monday.
Earlier focus articles about HambaliHambali's trail