Indonesia’s Deradicalization Programs Deemed Weak

Ahmad Najmi
160126-ID-deradicalize-620 A Jakarta Police medical officer shows a photograph of Afif, aka Sunakin, a previously jailed militant who participated in the Jan. 14 terror attack in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s militant deradicalization programs remain weak with no political agreement on which types of extremism are considered dangerous, a senior conflict analyst from Jakarta said Tuesday.

Founder and director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in Jakarta Sidney Jones said such program in the world’s most populous Muslim nation are “not well-targeted” and “have not emerged from a thorough study of where and how radicalization takes place.”

“The key to developing more effective programs is to ground them in more in-depth research about how and where individuals are radicalized in the first place,” she told the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism 2016 in Kuala Lumpur.

Ministers, senior officials and counterterrorism experts from 19 countries gathered in Malaysia’s capital for the two-day talks aimed at improving strategies to counter Islamic State (IS) militants and other violent extremist groups.

High alert

Jones said that while research does not guarantee success, “programs that are not based on concrete data are almost guaranteed to fail.” Interviews and analysis of biographical data are key, she argued.

“Indonesia’s National Anti-Terrorism Agency and government agencies have access to more confidential data. Especially in the age of Islamic State (IS), that information must be the foundation on which prevention strategies are built,” she said.

The agency – known by its Indonesian acronym BNPT – was established in 2010 after suicide bombings at two major Jakarta hotels and the discovery of a plot against then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, all in 2009.

Indonesia also suffered the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, targeting tourist areas in the south of that island and killing some 230 people combined, while injuring hundreds more. Those attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

Since then, Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police force Densus 88 has been credited with reining in the terrorist threat but also accused of excessive use of force and arresting innocent people.

The BNPT, meanwhile, has engaged former radicals and guest clerics from the Middle East to speak in prisons and schools.

The country remains on high alert after an attack combining bombings and shootings in Jakarta two weeks ago left four civilians and four attackers dead. IS claimed the attack, its first in Southeast Asia.

At least two of the attackers were former prison inmates who had served their sentence and been released.

A major headache

Jones said the emergence of IS has helped Indonesia to focus on deradicalization programs with an emphasis on counter-narratives on social media. But she admitted only a handful of new ideas have been put forward.

She stressed that extensive research should be conducted on Indonesian IS militants who were stopped or deported while heading to Syria.

“This group now totals almost 200 people, more than half of them women and children under the age of 15,” she said.

“Unlike the wild figures of 600 or 800 Indonesian fighters that one sometimes sees, a better estimate is 250 to 300. That still could constitute a major headache for Indonesia, if and when they return home, although most have no intention of doing so,” she said.

Anywhere, any time

Speaking about Singapore’s Religious Rehabilitation Group, a community-government partnership to fight terrorism, Dr. Mohamed Ali from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said the country’s leaders “understood quite early” the threat of terrorism.

“As these threat groups were active outside Singapore and were not within the reach of Singapore. The government had to incorporate the participation of the Muslim community to deal with the threat,” the NTU inter-religious studies expert said.

He added that IS operatives have changed strategy and now “new recruits don’t need to head into Syria or Iraq.”

“Today, they don’t need to take that journey. They are here and now being brainwashed to make imminent attacks anywhere at any time,” he told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Chief of Ideological Security under the Ministry of Interior, Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hadlaq, said the Kingdom had designed several specialized deradicalization programs to staunch terrorism activities with experts leading at the forefront.

“I think we have 200 professors working part-time in this program. It’s a huge program and it is a very effective program,” Abdulrahman told BenarNews.

He added the program is conducted by rehabilitation centers such as the Muhammad bin Nayef Center of Counseling and Care on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh.


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