By Andhika Bhakti and Elisabeth Oktofani for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta
A former bomb-maker and weapons smuggler is now an ambassador of peace.
Ali Fauzi once taught people to make bombs. Today, he is one of the few former militants who now devotes himself to telling the public about the harm terrorism inflicts.
In April and May, he accompanied Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to several cities, speaking freely about his past and explaining how terrorism defiles Islam.
Detonating bombs in public places kills many innocent people, including children, he explained. Terrorist networks steal money to purchase bomb-making materials. Worst of all, he said, they don’t take responsibility for their attacks, leaving other people to be accused.
“You can’t be secretive. There has to be a leader who takes responsibility,” he said at a BNPT event in Balikpapan, Kalimantan, according to a Jawa Pos News Network (JPNN) report.
The 42-year-old native of Lamongan, East Java is the youngest brother of Amrozi and Ali Ghufron, both convicted and executed for their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and injured hundreds.
In 1998-1999, he was an instructor at a Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant camp in East Java, where he taught nearly 250 people about how to make bombs.
“Back then I was an instructor for a field engineering class at an East Java training camp. I taught them about chemical materials and firing devices for bomb making,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.
From 1999-2002, in Ambon and in Poso, he became a field co-ordinator for Crisis Management and Prevention Committee (KOMPAK), a JI-linked group with humanitarian aims.
During this time, he began to sour on JI, realising its doctrine was not consistent with Sharia Islam, since it permitted violence against civilians.
“I really never agreed with any jihads involving attacking/bombing churches in conflict areas, exploding nightclubs in Bali or hotels in Jakarta,” he explained.
He called many of those violent acts a “wrong jihad.”
“Many wrong jihads would kill innocent people. It also created a bad image for Muslims. Additionally, it is not a jihad because Indonesia is not a jihad ground,” he added.
Ali described how easy it was for him and his comrades to move weapons around the region to supply Muslims fighting Christians in Ambon and Poso.
He said he dressed as a migrant worker to cross to Sabah in eastern Malaysia, using a fishing boat in the dark. “You don’t need a passport. I didn’t carry one. For the security, it is really hard to confirm your ID and your face in the dark,” he told Khabar.
“We packed the guns into large backpacks and travelled on fishing boats or petrol tankers heading for Indonesia from the Philippines,” he added.
“The route from Sabah to Southern Philippines is a favourite route for many militant fighters in Southeast Asia. It is the same route used by Indonesian militants to escape the country,” BNPT chief Ansyaad told Khabar. He said a regional approach among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is needed to address the problem.
Many friends, many perspectives
Ali was active with the MILF from 2003-2006. But since then, he has lived a life of peace, and made friends with many different people.
“I have many friends, who are Christian, Hindu, and Chinese. I am cool with them. All we need is to respect each other,” he said.
A father of five, Ali is active in farming and teaching. He serves as a lecturer at The School of Tarbiyah at Muhammadiyah University and at Al Islam boarding school, both in Lamongan, East Java.
He teaches on the need for unity among followers of Islam. According to him, Islam accommodates many different perspectives. “It needs to be understood that different views in Islam have existed for a very long time and cannot be avoided,” he said.
“Therefore, we need to respect each other’s point of view…If we cannot do so, that is the root of radicalism,” Ali explained.
He emphasised his faith in Islam will never fade. Although he rejects radicalism and terrorist acts, he says he is still a “mujahid” who defends Islam through dakwah (missionary work) and preaching.
True defender of Islam
Ali’s story has inspired many people. Precisely because of the years he spent on the wrong path, he has credibility in pointing out the right one.
“I wish in the future that there will be more people like Ali Fauzi – someone who decides to do jihad in a good way by using his personal experience when he was a member of JI,” said Hanung Wicaksono, a Muslim cleric in West Jakarta.
“We need more people like Ali, who is now defending Islam in a good way,” he added.
“I was reading a recent profile in the media about Ali Fauzi. I am pretty amazed with his experiences, and I am glad he decided to convert from a trainer in militant camps to an educator. It is a good change,” said Bambang Setiyono, a 23-year-old in Tangerang, Jakarta.
Indonesia needs more people like Fauzi to “help the Indonesian government tackle terrorism and to begood examples for those who value jihad in the wrong way,” Bambang said.
“He is now an ambassador of peace.”