Indonesia's youth groups try to counter militant recruitment
As reports of militant recruitment among young people rise, small groups are popping up across Indonesia in an effort to help keep youths safe.
(Page 2 of 2)
Youths’ tendency to join radical movements is nothing new, says Noor Huda Ismail, a former student of Pondok Ngruki, the Islamic boarding school cofounded by the cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is currently serving 15 years in jail for supporting terrorism. What is new, he says, is the trend toward extremism among even secular students.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“Look at the example of Klaten,” the high school where a militant cell was uncovered, he says. “Those people were influenced by nonreligious scholars and others who had no foundation or training to promote jihad.”
These militant groups are certainly part of the fringe, but they’re selective in their recruitment, preferring educated students who can help expand their ideology, said Yos Machmudi, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Indonesia.
But increasing connectivity has made radicalization easier by providing youths with access to translations of jihadist teachings from the Middle East or video tutorials that once were passed by hand.
To counter those messages, Anwar’s center works with youth leaders, Islamic boarding schools, and the departments of Religious Affairs and Education to promote democracy and pluralism.
A host of universities say, they, too, are using a combination of talks, films, and social gatherings to counteract the activities of groups such as the Indonesian Islamic State (NII), an outlawed movement with links to radical organizations.
On June 22, UIN drew around 100 students to a talk called, “Demolish the Terrorist Network on Campus.” Men and young women in head scarves grabbed the microphone to spout their concern or dispute stereotypes.
“Around the Muslim world we can see so many poor people, so many uneducated, so many without access to health care,” says Tri Shinta, a member of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which advocates for a Pan-Islamic caliphate. “As a person of society created by God, I joined HTI so I could find a solution. We’re looking for an Islamic world. We’re not messengers of violence.”
Political science professor Zaki Mubarak said it is true HTI does not advocate violence, but its hard-line views, and those of other above-ground extreme-thinking groups expose UIN to infiltration by more radical Islamists.
The threat should not be overblown, he says, predicting that “only” around 10 percent of the university’s 2,500 students may be associated with radical groups.
But many academics say that is 10 percent too much. Noor Huda says the problem is not with university curriculum but the lack of critical thinking among students. Mr. Abdillah agrees.
“We need to improve the intellectual capacity of our campuses and have a better public model,” he says, adding that colleges need to empower youths and improve their outlook for the future. Too many groups choose to use violence, he says. "We chose to make things better through science, technology, and also by advancing Islam."
In addition, the role of Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, must be strengthened to counteract new challenges, say academics.
In June, leading religious figures called for an investigation into Al-Zaytun, Indonesia's largest Islamic boarding school, which reportedly has ties to the NII.
The school’s founder, Panji Gumilang, denies the connection, as well as reports that the banned organization still exists. Others say the NII is more focused on raising money than radical activities. But former member Sofyan Ardyanto has set up a support group similar to HMI’s crisis center aimed at counseling those who have left the movement.