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Moderate Muslims Urge Indonesia to Approach Radicalism at ‘Grass Roots’ Level

Moderate Muslims in Indonesia say the country’s fight against terrorism and radical Islam must be conducted from the bottom up in the streets and inside the country’s prisons, a move away from the government’s current top down approach to the issue.  Critics say Jakarta’s efforts in combating Islamic radicalism are moving too slowly, with many saying the programs are being held back by the bureaucracy and they say one area of particular concern is radicalism in the prison system. Prison links After an investigation into the last terror attack in Jakarta early this year, Indonesian authorities captured more than 40 people and linked the attack to a terrorist prisoner who was still inside prison.  According to Taufik Andrie, an Indonesia terrorism analyst,  terrorist inmates who are spiritual or combatant leaders are still able to communicate to outside followers. “In the context of spreading ISIS ideology for example, the pattern is always the same, it came from inside the prison. So rulings (fatwa), calling and orders (from terrorist leaders), develop inside the prison, got out and implemented outside,” Andrie said. Andrie added the Indonesian government has not improved management of terrorist prisoners in terms of handling, placement and counseling yet.  The Indonesia National Counterterrorism Agency records show there are more than 200 prisoners involved with terrorism acts in the prisons. Terrorist prisoners are separated in 49 prisons at 13 provinces in Indonesia. The agency also monitors 538 former terrorist prisoners who are back in society.  Grass roots Since the January attack in Jakarta, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has been strongly criticized for its inadequate programs to rehabilitate terror convicts in and out prison.  Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, says the country’s de-radicalization process needs to be addressed more at the grass roots level.  The organization deputy secretary general, Adnan Anwar, told VOA the government’s approach is still a bureaucratic approach, making the programs limited to certain levels and methods, like seminars and other accountability programs. He added the efforts need to be aimed at facilitating real face to face discussions. “The battle is not on that level anymore, (it is on) the dynamic level, day to day,” said Anwar. Furthermore, Andrie sees the government does not have a national strategy on counter terrorism. The National Counterterrorism agency has its own guidelines on de-radicalization programs but is limited to its own work without inter agency and institutional cooperation. Prevention In the last two months, Indonesia’s government has had to deal with citizens who wanted to go to Syria. The first group, four Indonesian young men, were deported from Singapore, followed by 14 people stopped by Indonesian immigration. Nahdatul Ulama says the government needs to do more prevention efforts and foster better institutional cooperation.    “We, NU, see it as very dangerous, we [believe] the radicalism movement in Indonesia has entered the red zone. We have told the government to deal with this, including taking action on the prevention level,” said Anwar. The Indonesian government has not yet directly addressed the criticisms of its approach to combating radicalism and terrorism.  But President Joko Widodo’ and the national parliament have agreed to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism laws in a process that is underway.  A draft of the revisions includes laws to prohibit citizens from joining terrorist groups operating in conflict-ridden Iraq and Syria, and a ban on the return of citizens who went there to fight alongside Islamic State or other radical groups. Looking ahead NU is set to hold an international summit of moderate Islamic leaders to establish the contextual interpretation of jihad in the 21st century. Scheduled on May 9 to 11 in Jakarta, it will attempt to disseminate tolerant teachings of Islam to counter the rise of extreme ideologies disguised as Islamic teaching. In line with strengthening the effort in fighting terrorism, last month the Indonesian government installed Tito Karnavian as the chief of BNPT, the national counterterrorism agency.  Karnavian is the former head of  a police elite counter-terror unit, which has had considerable success in tackling militancy. On his inaguration, Karnavian told the media that one of his priorities would be taking on radicals in Poso, in Central Sulawesi, where an extremist group has pledged allegiance to IS. A joint operation of Indonesia police and military, named Operation Tinombala, is still working in the Poso region to apprehend members of the East Indonesian Mujahidin (MIT).  Fighting against radical Islamists and terrorism has been a continuous effort for the Indonesian government since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people. 

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Moderate Muslims Urge Indonesia to Approach Radicalism at ‘Grass Roots’ Level

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