Rebels Without a Cause
    Category: Column By : Taufik Darusman Read : 832 Date : Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 06:58:04

    Since February, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has been spending his weekends in the regions debunking the belief in the country that one goes to heaven simply by killing infidels. These social interactions, the retired four-star Army general has said, allow the ministry to detect early signs of radicalism in the countryside. Ministry senior officials are also meeting with university rectors to make sure they share a common perception on the danger of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are joined by the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), which has urged academic communities to play an active role in stemming the spread of radicalism. 

    Speaking at a seminar in Semarang in February, the agency’s chief, Saud Usman Nasution, reminded academics that they were at the forefront of protecting the younger generation, including university students, from being radicalized. But in February, a study by the social researcher Anas Saidi, presented during a seminar organized by the state-run Indonesian Sciences Insitute (LIPI), shows that Nasution’s appeal may bear little result: radicalism has already permeated major universities in Bandung (ITB), Bogor (IPB), Semarang (UnDip), Surabaya (UnAir) and Yogyakarta (UGM), all in Java.

    LIPI researcher Endang Turmudi even went so far as to say that radicalism is now already high in the minds of high-school students and their teachers. While their brand of radicalism is still in its ideological phase, Endang warned, it can transform itself into acts of terrorism if left unchecked. In a survey among 500 teachers and students in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Jabodetabek), Endang said, over 76% of teachers and 84% of students want Islamic law to be practiced. Moreover, 52% of the students surveyed condone violence to uphold religious solidarity, and 14% approved of bombings. In a repudiation of state ideology, 25% of teachers and 21% of students found Pancasila “no longer relevant.”

    TB Hasanuddin, the deputy chairman of the House’s Commission, agrees that radicalism is on the rise thanks to the Internet and the ease with which foreign funds to sustain it enter this country. No example of Hasanuddin’s observation is starker than the suicide bombings by terrorists in Jakarta, on January 14, which had left eight dead, including four attackers, and 26 injured. In the aftermath, the police’s antiterror unit arrested five suspected terrorists and 38 people in, respectively, Malang and Temanggung, both in Central Java. 

    Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Panjaitan has said the government would increase the budget for intensifying the deradicalization program, counseling terror convicts in jail involving the BNPT, the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Muhammadiyah and others Muslim organizations. How they have fared in stemming the outflow of radical Muslims joining the ISIS, or discouraging discontents from becoming radicals, is hard to say. But for a country with over 200 million Muslims, it’s remarkable that only 300 have joined the ISIS.

    The irony is that Muslims in Indonesia have actually little to complain about, much less a reason to become radicals. They are the majority, enjoy a democratic life and are free to choose their leaders every five years. However, if some social misfits somehow decided that life is better in Syria or Iraq, we should allow them to go and save public funds for a more worthy cause.