A Muslim boarding school in Indonesia strongly associated with Islamic State ideology is resisting community demands that it relocate due to its radical views.
Protesters showed up Monday at Pesantren Ibnu Mas’ud, located in mountains about 120 km (74 miles) south of Jakarta, to see whether it had complied with a Sept. 17 deadline by the local government to close its doors.
“A mob came to check if their demands had been met. They got information that the pesantren has gone on break, but is not being shut down,” Bogor regency police chief Dicky Pastika said.
Tensions rose between the school and surrounding community after a staff member burned red-and-white bunting that had been hung near the school as part of community festivities for Aug. 17, Indonesia’s national day.
Bogor police named school staff member Muhammad Supriyadi (alias Abu Yusuf), 17, as a suspect. “He confessed to being anti-Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, and angry at seeing flags or bunting that represent the country,” Dicky told BenarNews.
According to Agus Purwoko, chairman of Al Uruwatul Usro Foundation that oversees the pesantren, the young man is mentally disturbed. He claimed the incident was blown out of proportion by “certain parties” – he did not say who – to hurt the school.
“We are not going to move,” Agus told BenarNews, adding that the protesters were not from Sukajaya village, on the slopes of Salak Mountain in Bogor, a regency of West Java province.
“People from around here are fine. The protesters are not people from here, they’ve been brought in from outside,” he said.
By Friday, the school had sent its 260 students home for at least two weeks, Agus said.
“They’re afraid, so what can you do? Just send them home,” he said.
Agus Purwoko talks to reporters at Pesantren Ibnu Mas’ud, Sept. 17, 2017. (Arie Firdaus/BenarNews)
‘Mention them all’
Twelve people from the school departed for Syria to fight for Islamic State (IS) between 2013 and 2016, according to a Reuters report earlier this month that based the tally on court documents and interviews.
They included a 12-year-old boy who became an IS fighter but was killed in an air strike on Sept. 1, 2016. His father, jailed militant Brekele (alias Syaiful Anam), had approved the trip, according to Reuters.
Eighteen other people involved with the school have been arrested and charged with links to IS activities in Indonesia.
The figures were confirmed to BenarNews by Adhe Bhakti, a terrorism analyst with the Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization.
Several IS-linked figures are associated with the school, he said. He cited Aman Abdurrahman, the jailed founder of IS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, which carried out a terrorist attack in central Jakarta in January 2016 that left eight dead and a twin suicide bombing in East Jakarta in May 2017 that killed three.
Several of Aman Abdurrahman’s followers send their children to the school, Adhe said.
When BenarNews asked about these individuals and their ties to the school, Agus replied with a laugh and an irritated tone of voice. “Mention them all,” he said.
He said he did not know Aman Abdurrahman, but a former colleague had been linked to the jailed militant.
“The one who made this school is me. Then I involved others, including Hari Budiman,” said Agus. Ibnu Mas’ud was founded in 2007 in Depok, then moved to Bogor in 2011.
“But I fired Hari around 2008 because of a difference in views. I also warned him, ‘don’t talk with people like that,’” Agus said without going into detail.
Regarding students and teachers going to Syria to join IS, Agus said this phenomoneon did not automatically mean that the school itself supports IS.
He gave the example of the son of Brekele, Haft Saiful Rasul, who died in Syria last year.
“Is it possible that a student who was here for four months was inspired by us to go to Syria? No way!” said Agus. “There must have been some inputs from home.”
The son of a staff member at Pesantren Ibnu Mas’ud stands outside a classroom, Sept. 17, 2017. (Arie Firdaus/BenarNews)
When BenarNews visited Ibnu Mas’ud on Sept. 16, the eve of the community’s deadline for its relocatation, anxiety was palpable. The school was empty except for its staff and some of their children.
Workers were busy installing surveillance cameras around the facility, assisted by a security guard – one of four the school has hired recently.
Agus sat in a chair between a badminton court and a mosque, talking with representatives of the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Jakarta, strategizing on how to react if a huge crowd of protesters inundated the school and chaos broke out.
Agus claimed that outsiders had already thrown rocks at the school.
After dawn prayers the next day, a staff member set buckets of water in a corner of the school courtyard, oblivious to the chill mountain air.
“Just in case some one sets fires later,” the staff member said.
The feared protests did not take place until Monday, and they were peaceful.
LBH Jakarta Director Alghifari Aqsa said his organization would arrange a meeting with local officials to discuss the school, but he did not say when.
“But the way forward is clear. We encourage the pesantren to stay here,” he said.