Officers will be trained procedure. (Antara Photo/Hayu Yudha)

One in 14 High-School Students Support Islamic State

MARCH 31, 2015

Jakarta. The military has vowed to wage war on followers of the extremist Islamic State group in Indonesia, amid a new survey that shows that one in every 14 high-school students in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, sympathizes with the movement.

“The TNI [Indonesian Military] believes ISIS should not be given any opportunity to develop in Indonesia. ISIS should not be given room anywhere,” TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko said at the armed forces’ headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta, on Monday, referring to the extremist group by its old acronym.

Moeldoko said Indonesians currently in Syria and Iraq to join IS would likely try to spread at home what they have learned in the war-torn nations.

The Central Sulawesi district of Poso, long known as a hotbed for homegrown terrorism, will probably be used by the IS alumni to train other local militants, he added.

“We cannot let this happen. That is why the TNI is conducting training there [in Poso]. We’re conducting large-scale quick-response strike force training there. It is to send [the militants] a message: ‘don’t even try to enter Poso,’ ” Moeldoko said.

He added that the training was also in preparation of the military’s planned anti-radicalism operations.

“If we meet them [terrorists] and they refuse to surrender, we’ll shoot them. That’s for sure,” Moeldoko said.

Separately, a recent survey by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, which involved nearly 700 students from 76 high schools in Jakarta and 38 in Bandung, showed that 7 percent of the respondents agreed with the IS movement’s aims.

“That means one in every 14 students agrees with ISIS,” Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the non-governmental group, said in Jakarta on Monday.

He added that 75 percent of students have heard of IS, mostly from social media and the Internet. Most have a negative view of the radical movement, saying that they recognize that IS a sadistic group intent on spreading terror and using violence in the name of religion.

But those who sympathize with IS, do so because they believe the terror group has established an Islamic caliphate. They said they agreed with the view that Indonesia’s five founding principles of Pancasila should be replaced with Islamic ideology.

Setara researcher Muhamad Syauqi said some of the students who sympathize with IS contributed to the so-called “jihadist selfie” phenomenon, where they spread pictures through social media of youths in uniform — presumably IS members in Syria or Iraq — who take photos of themselves in front of army tanks or while holding rocket launchers.

“That makes them [those spreading the  selfies] feel cool,” Syauqi said.

Internet-literate generation

“They are an Internet-literate generation. Most of the respondents of the survey have smartphones,” said Ismail Hasani, Setara’s research director, referring to the surveyed students.

Bonar called on the government to tighten supervision of teaching materials at schools.

“The high-school students are relatively unstable; they can be easily influenced [by anyone]. The government needs to pay more attention to the matter by overseeing education materials, such as textbooks and other teaching materials, which are used at schools,” Bonar said.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara said last week that the government recently begun working with information technology firms such as Google to block websites containing pro-terrorism content.

Indonesians were recently shocked by a video that appeared to show Indonesian-speaking children training with assault rifles in front of an IS flag. The video has since been removed from most websites, including Google-owned YouTube.

Rudiantara said the partnerships had enabled the government to remove 78 Indonesian sites with pro-terrorism content.

National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Marciano Norman said his office was also joining forces with the communications ministry to curb pro-IS propaganda on the Internet.

“We keep countering [the propaganda]. We’re working together with the minister of communications and information to block [pro-radicalism] sites immediately,” Marciano said. “We’ve been proactive in our approach, in order to limit the room for freedom [of expression], so that our people won’t be provoked [by radical teachings].”

‘Disappointed’ alumni

Perhaps Indonesian Islamists who see the grass as being greener on the IS side of the fence should hear from their fellow citizens who have just returned from Syria after spending time the movement.

An official with Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), who chose to remain anonymous because he is not allowed to speak to the media, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that the agency recently arrested four Indonesians who are believed to have just returned from Syria.

They were arrested in Tulungagung and Malang, both in East Java province, last week, after returning to Indonesia because they were disappointed with what they had found in Syria.

“They’re disappointed because what they got there [in Syria] was different from what had been promised to them when they were still in Indonesia. The realities are different,” the official said.

“For example, they had been promised a monthly salary of $2,000 per month, but there appeared to be no such thing. The IS’s practices also appear not to be in line with their [the four men’s] understanding  of Islamic teachings,” he added.

East Java Deputy Governor Saifullah Yusuf, who protested against a suggestion that the province was yet another hotbed of homegrown radicals, said some local residents had been lured to join IS because of “empty promises,” such as a free Umrah, or minor hajj pilgrimage, and better lives, financially, under the radical movement’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

“We call on all layers of society not to join anyone planning to go to Syria and Iraq, which obviously only aggravates problems in those countries,” Saifullah said.

He added that his administration mulls including the “correct interpretation” of jihad in local school curricula, in order to counter misleading views on jihad.

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