Amid rising interest among young Indonesians to join the Islamic State (IS) movement, the Setara Institute, a human rights group, has alarmed the nation with reports about the influence IS has gained in high schools in the country.
The rights body unveiled on Monday a study that revealed that 7.2 percent of high school students, or one out of every 14 in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, agreed with the actions and atrocities undertaken by IS in Syria and Iraq.
'Although the percentage of high school students who are interested in intolerant or radical views is small, this does not mean that we can yet pat ourselves on the back and conclude that all Indonesian high school students are tolerant of pluralism. There is still a chance that the percentage could increase depending on the government's intervention,' said the institute's deputy chairman, Bonar Tigor Naipospos.
In the study, conducted from March 9 to 19, Setara found that out of 684 students who attended 114 schools in Jakarta and Bandung, only 75.3 percent, or 515 students, knew of IS.
Researcher Ismail Hasani said he was relieved to discover that 36.2 percent of the 515 students who had heard of IS saw it as a sadistic terrorist group, while 30.6 percent thought that IS fighters abused the name of religion to justify their violent actions.
However, it also discovered that 16.9 percent of the 515 students thought that the IS movement was a group of Muslims who were simply trying to fight for an Islamic caliphate. According to Indonesian authorities, more than 600 Indonesians have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the movement.
The study also revealed that a large number of students were in favor of banning or limiting the activities of Ahmadiyah and Shia groups because they are not in line with the Sunni, who make up the majority of Muslims in Indonesia.
'Out of the 106 high school students who knew of Ahmadiyah and Shia groups, 43.8 percent of them agreed that these minority groups should be banned or have their activities limited so that they don't become larger,' Ismail explained.
'Only 27.7 percent of the students disagreed with limiting the minority groups, while 28.5 percent of the students did not answer.'
A 2012 report from the Wahid Institute, which promotes pluralism and a peaceful Islam, reported that incidents of religious intolerance increased during the 10-year tenure of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The report showed religious intolerance cases in 2012 stood at 274, up from 267 in 2011. In 2010, the institute recorded 184 cases, while 121 cases were recorded in 2009.
Although the Setara Institute discovered that there was evidence of intolerance among students, Bonar said that they could not jump to conclusions on where they had learned it.
'We are still unable to pinpoint the most influential factor that leads to extremist thinking among students. Students change their minds easily, which is why they are very impressionable,' Bonar said.
However, the study noted that 48 percent of all the respondents said they received their religious education from teachers at school, followed by parents at 18 percent and the media at 12 percent.
The study also showed that 35.4 percent of the students undertook religious activities out of school.
'This is an early study but we suspect that most extremist influence comes from outside of school, followed by school material and teachers,' Bonar said.