Seminar Urges Young Indonesians to Reject Radicalism

Lenita Sulthani
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151028-ID-yogya-1000 Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin receives a souvenir from National Counterterrorism Agency director Saud Usman Nasution at the opening of a seminar in Yogyakarta on prevention of terrorism, Oct. 28, 2015.

More than 1,000 people aged 19 to 24 gathered in Yogyakarta on Wednesday for the start of a three-day seminar on how young Indonesians can help prevent terrorism.

Representatives of 119 colleges in Central Java, as well as youth organizations and online activists from all over Indonesia were in town for the event, hosted by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).

Yogyakarta was chosen as the venue because, as reflected in its nickname – Student City – it draws students from across Indonesia, BNPT chief Saud Usman Nasution said in welcoming the participants to the event.

“On the commemoration of Youth Pledge Day, we are asking the young generation to join in anticipating the influence of radical thought, which has the potential to give birth to terrorism,” Saud told them.

Youth Pledge Day, Oct. 28, recalls the day in 1928 when a youth congress committed to upholding the concept of Indonesian nationhood for what was then the Dutch East Indies.

The Islamic State (IS) movement or Daulah Islamiyah, as it is known in Bahasa Indonesia, has no tie to religion, Saud said.

Rather, it puts on the guise of religion, conjuring ideas of a sacred mission with heavenly rewards so that people – especially young people who feel marginalized – want to join its ranks, he said.

The BNPT is on the front line of efforts by Indonesian authorities to stem IS’s efforts to recruit young Indonesians for its jihadist cause via social media and Islamic boarding schools.

A total of 514 Indonesians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to support IS, according to BNPT figures. About 52 of them have been killed there.

‘An extraordinary sin’

A sense of injustice is one of two motivating factors behind violence committed by people with extremist beliefs, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said in a speech opening the Surabaya event.

“They feel the existing system is not adequate to address this injustice. So they choose acts of violence as a short cut,” Lukman said.

A second factor, according to Lukman, is an incorrect understanding of religion that is then used to justify acts of terror.

The word “jihad” does not only pertain to physical warfare, he said. Jihad can mean devotion to one’s parents, a struggle against despotic leaders, the pursuit of knowledge, helping the poor or becoming a devout pilgrim, as Lukman described it.

“Islam does not tolerate violence and the imposition of one’s will on others. Killing a person is an extraordinary sin,” he said.

Another speaker, Ali Mustafa Yaqub, chief imam of Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque, urged the young audience to study Islam in depth, because a piecemeal understanding of religious teachings is also a cause of extremism, as he put it.

“Don’t hear the hadith ‘Fight infidels because their place is hell’ and straightaway go slit someone’s throat," Mustafa said.

"Become a Muslim who is friendly, not a Muslim who is angry,” he added, to enthusiastic applause from his listeners.

Ex-militant shares story

Wednesday’s program also featured a talk by Abdul Rahman Ayub, a former military commander for the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII), an Indonesian precursor to the Islamic State (IS).

Later, during his career as a militant, Ayub developed ties to al-Qaeda and its Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah. JI was the regional terrorist network that was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, the 2003 car bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12, and 2005 suicide bombings in Bali that killed 22.

Ayub, who now gives de-radicalization talks on behalf of the BNPT to jailed terrorism convicts and young people, spoke about his experiences fighting in Afghanistan and later Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, during the 1980s and ‘90s.

A shallow understanding of religion was a primary factor in his decisions in those days, he said.

"Be careful with their doctrine that heathenizes the government, law enforcement, and the Republic of Indonesia," Ayub said.

Eager to learn

Wisnu Bahtiar, 21, a student of forestry at Gadjah Madah University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, said he rushed to register for the event as soon as he saw an ad for it on campus.

Only the first 60 people to register could get in, he said.

"I was curious to know what this discussion was about,” said Wisnu, who also studies at Al Barokah Pesantren in Yogyakarta.

Nur Ulin, 22, who is studying Arabic literature at UGM, said he wanted to find out more about the doctrine of radical movements.

“On my campus, there are a lot of people who join radical Quran study groups, I don’t want to be influenced by that, and I hope this event helps me to understand better such movements,” he said.


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