Civil society, media and religious leaders must help defeat terrorism in Indonesia, a top police official says. Many say they are already actively involved.
Indonesia’s National Police is calling on the media, civil society, religious leaders and activists to be actively involved in efforts to prevent terrorism and the growth of radicalism in the country.
Nearly 900 Indonesians have been arrested on terrorism charges since 2002, officials say. “We have arrested 864 alleged terrorists, brought them to trial, and 700 of them were jailed,” deputy National Police chief Nanan Sukarna told Metro TV in a May 9th interview.
Yet terrorism persists. A series of counterterrorism raids in three provinces last week (May 8-9th) left seven suspects dead, 13 in custody and one on the run. Police recently foiled a plot to bomb the Burmese Embassy in Jakarta; and top terror suspect Santoso is still at large.
“Government institutions, religious leaders, media and civil society must work together to prevent the growth of radicalism in the country,” Nanan urged.
Role of religious leaders
According to Nanan, current terrorism activities are conducted by a new generation of radicals united by an old ideology. Many have been brainwashed with distorted versions of Islamic doctrine.
“Hence in order to prevent the growth of radicalism among the society that leads to terrorism activities, we need the religious leaders’ involvement, both from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to teach the correct teaching,” Nanan explained.
Muhammad Imdadun Rahmat, deputy secretary-general of NU, the nation’s largest moderate Muslim organisation, told Khabar Southeast Asia that some Islamic groups have been actively spreading hate speech to their followers.
“I don’t deny that there are some Islamic organisations in Indonesia that have become the nursery of terrorism. But it needs to be understood that those groups are minority among Muslim followers in Indonesia,” he said.
“We, religious leaders from NU, actually have been actively campaigning peaceful Islam to our followers based on Islamic value as well as spirituality,” he said. The same is being done by Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organisation, he added.
The government should take serious action towards radical groups that have been actively spreading the hate speech, such as Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), he suggested.
Role of the media
Nanan said that the media need to educate society about the danger of terrorism and how to prevent it. They should avoid spreading panic, or tipping off terror suspects to police activity.
“One of the disadvantages of having media report live on the terrorist raid operation while the operation is being conducted is that our next target would have a chance to escape,” he said.
Sometimes the media help spread terror, Nanan commented to Merdeka.com on May 11th. “How? When there is a bomb explosion and the mass media report it massively to the public, they have successfully spread around the terror,” he said.
“I think there should be a better co-operation between media and National Police on how the event and the issue should be reported. Media also have a role as an education tool,” he added.
“We want the media informing public the danger of terrorism or how to prevent the growth of terrorism in them so they are not easily influenced or approached by the radical people.”
Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert and founder of the Institute for International Peace Building, agreed that live media reports on counterterrorism operations could become a terrorist’s tip-off.
“It needs to be remembered that the terrorist groups are brainy people, who would use media to monitor the law enforcers’ movement,” he told Khabar.
But Nezar Patria, a member of the Press Council, said live television reports on counterterrorism raids boost public confidence in law enforcement.
“There has been public mistrust on how the law enforcers conducted the terrorist raid operation. Hence it shows transparency to the public on how they captured the alleged terrorists,” he told Khabar.
“Other than that, the terrorist raid operation was conducted in public space. It attracts public and the media’s attention,” he added.
“Therefore, as long as the news coverage is done by the professional code of ethic and respect the police’s restriction, such as where we could stand to cover the story, I think it is fine,” Nezar said.
Improving social welfare
Meanwhile, Nanan, the deputy police chief, is well aware that many people arrested under terrorism charges come from lower income groups. Therefore, it is important to improve their social welfare.
“In my opinion, we can replace their false doctrine with a proper welfare. I believe if they have proper welfare, they would leave those false doctrines. So let’s work together to improve their welfare,” he said.
Noor Huda agreed. “In order to disengage militants from violence, one must reach out to them, provide skills training, and then approach their ideology,” he told Khabar.
His institute has a rehabilitation programme that provides skills training and runs businesses where former terrorists can work.
Machmudi Hariono, also known as Yusuf Adirima, 36, is one of them. The former Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member manages a couple of restaurants in Semarang.
“All we need is a chance to change our life – a chance, inspirational motivation, continued public support and proper training,” Yusuf told Khabar.