Muhammad In’am Amin sipped his coffee slowly. Strong and black.
In’am, the brother of Indonesian Islamic State (IS) suicide bomber Wildan Mukhollad who blew himself up in Iraq, said his love of the brewed beverage and his goal to motivate terror convicts to renounce their radical past inspired him to open a coffee shop in Yogyakarta, capital of Yogyakarta province in Java.
Gandroeng Kopi, which In’am opened in 2015, now has 20 employees and attracts former convicted terrorists, who meet up at the café to hang out and also learn the fine points about becoming a barista.
“Sometimes they just show up,” In’am told BenarNews. “If I am not out of town, I will meet and spend time with them. And I also teach them, if they want, how to make their own coffee.”
The idea behind his coffee shop was to motivate such people to shun militancy and put their bitter past behind bars in the rear-view mirror by starting afresh in a new environment, In’am said.
He never was radicalized himself but his childhood friends included a trio of brothers who grew up to become co-perpetrators of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and injured hundreds more.
“They have to be diverted and their environment needs to be replaced. A coffee shop is a great way to get along with many people, not just people from your network,” In’am said.
Syaiful Arif or “Ipul” is among the former convicts who frequent his coffee shop. After serving time following his conviction for bomb-making during deadly communal riots in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province between 1998 and 2001, Syaiful now thinks about opening his own café.
“Maybe it will not be as big as his place,” said Ipul, who currently works as a construction worker in Lamongan regency, “because I don’t have lots of money.”
“Just a small one,” he said.
Ipul admitted enjoying the coffee and the hospitality served at In’am’s café. Besides being a coffee lover, he said, he always looked forward to the conversation and the intimate atmosphere shared by its customers.
They made him feel welcome.
“Basically, I like coffee. I can immediately get the techniques I was taught,” Ipul told BenarNews, wrinkling his face with a proud smile. “I can make delicious coffee drinks.”
Ipul was arrested in 2003, served six years in prison and immediately returned to his local community upon release. Returning to normal life was a struggle, he admitted.
But thanks to the approach by In’am and Ali Fauzi Manzi, a former convicted bomber, Ipul now has an open mind. At the celebration of Indonesian Independence Day last year, Ipul even joined the ceremony to raise Indonesia’s red and white flag – an activity forbidden by militants.
Ali Fauzi, a brother of the trio of militants behind the 2002 Bali bombings – Ali Imron, Ali Ghufron and Amrozi – founded Lingkar Perdamaian Foundation, an organization that aims to reintegrate terror convicts back into society.
“I’ve known In’am since childhood, until he became an entrepreneur and when he fell and then rose again,” Ali Fauzi told BenarNews.
Removing a stigma
In’am said he also concocted the coffee shop idea to remove a public stigma cast on him after his brother’s death along with his past links as a childhood friend of the three men involved in those bombings on Bali island 16 years ago.
“My business fell when Amrozi was arrested [in 2002]. Then, I set up this coffee shop," In’am said.
Amrozi was executed in November 2008 together with his two brothers, Ali Imron, Ali Ghufron (alias Mukhlas), who were members of al-Qaida-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the group blamed for the bombings.
At that time, In’am was a successful construction entrepreneur. His closeness to the three bombers raised public suspicion that he had helped fund the bombings, Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack.
“I was close to them,” he admitted. “One of Amrozi’s children even lived with me when Amrozi was arrested, but I had no involvement, whatsoever, with what they did.”
“I knew them because we were neighbors in Lamongan and friends since childhood,” he said, referring to the regency in East Java province, where the Bali bombers came from.
But as In’am took steps to clear his name, he received another piece of shocking news: Wildan Mukhollad, his younger brother who had studied at Al Azhar University in Egypt, killed himself during a suicide-bombing mission in Iraq in February 2014.
“I could not believe it,” he said. “I was suspicious of him being a terrorist, but I never thought he would go that far.”
In’am said his suspicion began when his brother stopped contacting him in his second year in Egypt.
“It is bitter and sad to remember,” he said. “It is like a nightmare.”
He said the horrific past transformed him.
“This all makes me what I am now; partnering with police and making approaches to make convicted terrorist prisoners get back into society,” he said.
In’am moved to Yogyakarta and in 2015 started the Gandroeng Kopi café, which carries the slogan “the real drinking coffee experience.”
‘Don’t give them fish’
In’am said he knew well that when terror convicts finish serving their prison terms, they need a source of income to support themselves.
“They certainly need money, but don’t give them the money they want. We must teach them how to fish, but don’t give them fish,” he said. “We have to train them to do jobs that suit their interests to make money.”
His café serves as a place for ex-convicts to have the in-job training they need before rejoining society, he said.
Yulianto, the Yogyakarta provincial police spokesman, applauded In’am’s efforts at partnering with police and the government in disseminating messages aimed at countering radicalism.
“His role is primarily in providing understanding to the community not to get trapped into radicalism and not to become a terrorist, as well as providing help if somebody becomes a victim,” Yulianto told BenarNews.
“In’am is not radical,” he said. “That can be seen from his behavior, which is very anti-radical and anti-terrorist.”
Choose this kind of jihad: brother of Bali bombers
In’am’s coffee shop has even inspired Ali Fauzi to think about starting his own coffee shop. The thought was percolating in his mind, he said, because he saw how In’am’s shop was effectively helping motivate ex-cons to lead a peaceful life.
More ex-convicts should choose this kind of jihad, Ali Fauzi said.
In’am, upon hearing Ali’s comments, agreed, explaining that the term “Gandroeng” could also be translated as “love” in Javanese.
Anyone who tries his coffee will forget the bitterness of the past, he said, stabbing the air with his finger while pointing at the sign on the wall.
“Whoever drinks coffee, his loneliness is forgiven,” it said.