Home Reports Special Reports and Analysis Protecting Indonesian Youth From Radicalism

Protecting Indonesian Youth From Radicalism

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On 28 October 1928 Indonesian youth gathered in Batavia and vowed their pledge to acknowledge one motherland and one nation, Indonesia, and to respect the language of unity, Indonesian.

Sadly, today many Indonesian youth reject this oath when they decide to join radical groups. As part of their inauguration, they pledge in an oath/baiat their loyalty only to their leaders and an Islamic state.

It is crucial for Indonesia’s government and society to remind Indonesian youth of the Sumpah Pemuda and protect them from falling into the trap of radicalism. There are many ways that the government and society can do this, such as solving local grievances, countering radical ideology, monitoring religious gatherings and providing opportunities to develop the professional skills of youth.

So that Indonesian young people have no reason to join radical groups and become terrorists, Indonesian government needs to tackle local grievances. In Indonesia, corruption and social injustice are the main cause of such grievances. In religious gatherings of radical groups at small mosques, radical teachers use these very issues to justify perceiving and labelling the Indonesian government as an infidel. So long as corruption and injustice exist in Indonesia, some youth will find that Indonesia is not an appealing entity to associate themselves with, and they will always have reason to join the caravan (of jihadists), to borrow Abdullah Azzam’s term.

Countering radical ideology is another important way to prevent Indonesian youth from joining radical groups. Radical ideology states that people are now suffering and the government is corrupt simply because they have abandoned Islamic teachings. It then proposes to end the suffering by upholding Islamic teachings through the sword/violent jihad to create an Islamic state. In motivating its believers, it gives hope, that when Islam is upheld and an Islamic state is created, people will live in prosperity, justice and dignity. This ideology is readily available at jihadist websites, books and religious gatherings.

To counter such ideology, the Indonesian government, working with Indonesian Islamic scholars and deradicalised jihadists, needs to create a division or a center within the National Antiterror Agency (BNPT) which researches and debates radical ideology.  In addition, under the names of deradicalised jihadists and using  websites, books and religious gatherings, the center should publish their arguments questioning the radicals’ utopian dream. For instance, competing teachings question the proof that an Islamic state would respect human rights, details of government management within an Islamic state, and such a state’s compatibility with today’s world. Asking these questions in public – especially to jihadist forums, bookstores and gatherings, will provide or indirectly fosters what Heather S. Gregg from the US Naval Postgraduate School calls ‘a market place of ideas’ for Indonesian youth to shop around and create doubts of radical ideology.

The Indonesian government and society need to vigilanltly monitor certain religious gatherings held at mosques or houses. The Indonesian government needs to encourage people to report suspicious gatherings – whose bearded attedants usually come from outside and which teaches violent jihad. When the government receives a report from locals, it can send an officer to record the details of attendants. The government can also identify young people being radicalised and work with Islamic teachers, psychologists and their families to treat them as victims of radicalism by listening to their concerns, engage them in dialogue to solve such concerns and provide them with emotional support to resist radicalism.

After religious and psychological exams confirm radicalised youth have truly denounced radicalism, the government needs to help them further. If they have academic and economic needs, the government needs to provide opportunities to meet these needs and increase their potential to grow and prosper. For example, through the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth and Sport, the government can provide youth with scholarships to continue their schooling. Working with private companies or Islamic NGOS focusing on economic development, the government can also provide them with apprenticeships through which they learn trades useful for future work.

In future, with assistance from Islamic scholars and deradicalised jihadists, the government can use these deradicalised youth to reach their peers to stay away from radicalism.

For this to work, the Indonesian government, and in this case the National Antiterror Agency, can not work alone. Other agencies and elements in the society must be involved. Therefore, there must be a memorandum of understanding between these agencies, and representatives  from these agencies and society must be assigned.

Let us all hope that the government and society bring Indonesian youth back to their true identity as Indonesians as stated in the Youth Pledge/Sumpah Pemuda that acknowledges the one motherland and one nation of Indonesia, not an Islamic state, and that respects the language of unity, Indonesian.

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