Terror fight shifting from ‘pesantren’ to campus
Indonesia may encounter different terrorist foes in the future as universities are increasingly turning into a fertile ground for breeding sympathizers of violence and intolerance.
Hard-line organizations, including the outlawed Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Jihadi and Ikhwanul Muslimin (IM) have expanded their clout and are now cajoling support from university students.
The trend is more alarming in the wake of official impotence in preventing the proliferation of radical teachings at the nation’s institutes of higher learning.
“Radicalism on campus has entered an alarming stage,” National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Ansyaad Mbai said recently.
“We can only wait and see. We don’t have any legal umbrella to stop radical movements on campus,” he said.
Ansyaad has every reason to worry. The recent distribution of book bombs to several noted figures in Jakarta and the attempted bombing of a church in Serpong, Banten, were the alleged handiwork of five university graduates.
The cases follow the conviction of two college students and one college graduate in August 2010 on terror-related charges.
The trio were sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for harboring the men who organized the bombings of the J.W. Mariott and Ritz- Carlton hotels in Jakarta in 2009 that killed seven people and injured 50.
Around two weeks ago, the police arrested two students from 11 Maret University (UNS) in Surakarta, Central Java, for their alleged role as master recruiters for the NII.
“Terrorism is seemingly attracting an increasing number of creative and intellectual university graduates who differ from its stereotypical adherents of Islamic boarding school [pesantren] students and preachers,” said Ansyaad.
Islamic studies expert Yon Machmudi of the University of Indonesa said that students might be easily lured into radical movements for several reasons, including a lack of critical thinking that should be nurtured at school and by families.
“A student gets information mostly from the Internet. And they don’t try to critically review the content,” Yon said.
Terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail, who is also the executive director of the Prasasti Perdamaian Foundation that facilitates rehabilitation efforts for terrorist-linked inmates, called on the government to immediately keep close watch over the nation’s youth from being lured into radical movement.
“The emergence of young radicals was in some part inspired by books from the Middle East promoting radicalism and widely circulated on radical websites and through hard-line publishing companies,” he said.
Why students are vulnerable to radical recruitment
• Students are less critical.
• Some Islamic organizations operate informally and off campus, and are thus difficult to control.
• Students tend to accept information from questionable sources on the Internet.
• Students do not compare and contrast information sources, accepting only one point of view.
• Students live far from their families, making parental supervision and instruction in Islam’s true nature difficult.
• Indonesia has no regulations curbing radicalism on campus.
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