Reducing Terrorism Threat, What Can We Do?

man-headphones Spanduk bertuliskan ISIS. (Foto: Ist)

By : Agung Wahyudin*)

Terrorism has become an all too common occurrence in many countries, including in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. Responding to those crucial problems, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Monday (03/07) that Indonesia remains a model of moderate Islam, countering critics who point to mass rallies by radical Muslim groups and the jailing of former Jakarta governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, for blasphemy as evidence that its reputation is crumbling. 

"Pluralism has always been a part of Indonesia's DNA," Jokowi told Reuters in an interview at the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta. "Despite many challenges, Islam in Indonesia has always been a force for moderation."

Indonesia's Pancasila state ideology includes national unity, social justice and democracy alongside belief in God, and enshrines religious diversity in a secular system of government.

Hardline Islamist groups were banned under the authoritarian regime of President Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground in recent years, emerging from the fringes of society in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

Religious and political tensions spiraled at the end of last year when Islamists led protests by hundreds of thousands in Jakarta against Ahok – a Christian of Chinese descent – who was charged with insulting the Koran. Ahok, an ally of Jokowi, lost his bid for re-election to Muslim rival Anies Baswedan in April after months of agitation against him by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). In May he was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.

Jokowi said Indonesia was "still a model" of pluralism and noted comments on Saturday by former United States President Barack Obama – on a personal visit to the country where he spent some of his childhood – that its history of tolerance must be preserved.

The targets of hardline Islamic groups have included the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, many of whom have been driven underground by police raids. Except for the ultraconservative Aceh province, where Islamic law is enforced and two men were publicly flogged last month for gay sex, homosexuality is legal in Indonesia.

But Jokowi's own defense minister has branded homosexuality a national security threat and last week a leader of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim group, called for a boycott of Starbucks because of the international coffee chain's pro-gay stand. The president trod a careful line on the question of LGBT rights, saying that "Indonesia remains a tolerant nation" whose constitution guarantees that everyone's rights are respected and protected.

Islamic State Has No Place in Indonesia

The muscle-flexing of hardline groups has fed fears that Indonesia will become fertile ground for Islamist militants. The attempt in May by a small army of Islamic State-allied fighters to overrun a city in the southern Philippines has been widely seen as a bid by the ultra-radical group, on a backfoot in Syria and Iraq, to establish a stronghold in Southeast Asia. Philippine officials have said there were Indonesians and Malaysians among the fighters who attacked Marawi City, where a battle with government troops has ground on for six weeks.

"ISIS has no place in Indonesia," Jokowi said, using a popular acronym for Islamic State. He noted that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines had agreed to joint maritime patrols to prevent militants moving across their islands.

The archipelago saw several terrorist attacks, with the most recent an attack on two police officers at a mosque near the National Police headquarters in Jakarta and the twin explosions in Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta, both part of a global terrorist onslaught.

According to Professor Haroon Ullah of Georgetown University and a senior advisor at the US State Department, there are some of reasons why and how people become extremists or radicals. First, the effect of social media which spreading terror groups teachings. Although the five-minute YouTube video may have been uploaded quite some time ago, the video that has attracted 1.5 million views, offer an interesting insight.

Meanwhile, poverty, inequality and lack of education do not play major roles in driving a person to become a suicide bomber. Eventhough, many analysts also believe that inequality led to the poor having limited opportunities in getting a decent education, thus making them more susceptible to manipulation by better-educated people. Terrorists will exploit this dissatisfaction, making it easier to indoctrinate people.

Second, a powerful desire to see quick change in a country plagued by chaos and corruption, that intrigue young middle-class people, rather than the poor, to approve of violent acts against those believed to be responsible for the misery in their country. Radicals and extrimist are promise clear-cut solutions to every problem, such as: here is how things will change if you follow these rules, and only these rules.

Third, many of those that religious extremism and prepared to murder and die for their cause are from the middle class, while many had a university education.  It is not poor and uneducated people who are attracted to extremist ideas, but rather middle-class people, who are "well-fed and well-read."

In times of chaos and mounting disappointment, Islamists step in with the promise to create a new form of government, cultivating a strong sense of victimhood with jargon such as: "We are not responsible for the sorry state of our country," and "Others have brought us down," which satisfy the public's desire. Tyrants and demagogues such as Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler and Osama bin Laden, who have all adopted a similar approach with their followers.

Reducing terror threat

The first step is to change the false narrative of poverty and education, then take another perspective on the narrative of extremist groups. The media also has a vital role in preventing terrorism, as it can stop treating extremists as freedom fighters, which is commonly done in places such as Pakistan.

Moreover, teachers and parents share an equal responsibility to be vigilant at to instill moderate and pluralist values in children. Politicians will also have to stop blaming their countries' problems on the West, while confronting endemic corruption from within.

Probably the most important, is for Muslim religious figures to stop looking the other way, or worse by glorifying the so-called "martyrs" – Muslims who murder innocent people – almost always other Muslims, in the name of Islam.

The people in Muslim-majority countries have real grievances, but extremism only makes things worse.

For Indonesian people, loyal to our national tenet, Pancasila is a one of strategy to reduce terror threat because Pancasila has thought us about pluralism, sense of responsibility to sustainability of our country and sense of respect to each others although we have different faith. However, Pancasila teachings is an equivalent and relevant with the Koran teachings. Hopefully.

*) The author has earned his master at Untag University in Jakarta.


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