Winning hearts and minds to prevent terrorism
Opinion and Editorial – November 11, 2005
Estananto, Frankfurt (actually I live in Munich)
Vice President Jusuf Kalla in a recent interview said that the government would take stronger measures in the war against terrorism, including taking a closer look at pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).
This step is to prevent radicalism being taught to young students. Specifically, Kalla mentioned three names: Imam Samudra, Sayyid Qutb and Hasan Al-Banna.
In addition, he mentioned also “Khawarijism” as being a dangerous stream of thought (Gatra, Oct. 24, 2005). Later however, Kalla said that only two pesantren required intensive observation. He also denied the existence of Jamaah Islamiyah.
Separately, Hery Haryanto Azumi, chairman of PMII — an autonomous youth body of Nahdlatul Ulama that represents many pesantrens — told reporters that only 3 percent of approximately 17,000 pesantrens taught radicalism to their students (NU online). Based on this assumption, this means that approximately 500 pesantren should be looked at by the authorities — far more than the mere two mentioned by Kalla. This puts a big question mark about what exactly is meant by radical teachings and how far these teachings influence society.
The 33-year-old terrorist Imam Samudra published his autobiography in August 2004, entitled Aku Melawan Teroris (I Oppose Terrorists). He wrote his story from childhood to his time in Afghanistan, an experience that he says turned him into a “true Muslim”.
What has been written by Samudra shows that his personal understanding of Islam grew from Afghanistan and was far from the Islamic traditions of Indonesia. Since Indonesia’s independence in 1945, Muslim organizations here have been committed to democracy.
Although about 90 percent of Indonesians are ostensibly Muslim, from their very nature most have no desire or intention to force their religion upon the state. This is because they know that Islamic law as demanded in the Koran and Hadith could be substantively — if not literally — implemented within a multicultural society.
In 2002, when the 1945 constitution was to be amended, only two Islamic parties voted for the “Jakarta Charter” that explicitly stated that “Muslim citizens should live according Islamic sharia law”. Two other Muslim-based parties, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) have rejected this idea. Meanwhile, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) as a new, young party, proposed the Madina charter as model, that everyone should be free to practice his/her religion.
This is why many Indonesians do not believe that Indonesia is a safe haven for terrorists. They cannot believe that some form of Afghanistan-style jihad could spread to Indonesia, even though they may have expressed some solidarity with the Afghan people when they were invaded by the then-Soviet Union.
But from Samudra’s story, we can see that the development of terrorists here is possible.
Afghan “jihad” alumni are not the only ones. In another context, famous Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb, with his monumental works like Milestones and Under the Shadow of the Koran, interpreted how a Muslim should draw a line between Islam and jahiliyya (ignorance, pre-Islamic) in very clear way.
Although it is not proven that Qutb’s works spark “license-to-kill” thinking against those who do not stand “with us”, the pattern seems to be “you’re either with us or with them”. In these works, Qutb shows that this polarized approach is a consequence of Islamic doctrine itself. The background of when Qutb wrote his works until his death by hanging in 1966 is seldom openly discussed.
Nasser’s regime in Egypt was repressing all opposition, and this caused Qutb to fight back in the form of radicalism, in addition to some ideas about “purification” from the Salafists. Qutb’s works spread to Indonesia mainly in the 1980s, with the publication of an Indonesian translation of The Milestones, Petunjuk Jalan, in 1980.
Kalla’s proposal to ban Qutb’s books would be difficult to carry out in reality. In the 1980s, some illegal Islamic magazines also publicized Qutb ideas that were freely circulated, despite strong control from the military-led New Order regime. The government, with their then-powerful intelligence apparatus, were not able to watch every corner of the vast Indonesian archipelago, including youth communities in Java that were very influential.
Now these same magazines, with more friendly styles, are being sold freely on the streets. The government can not reverse this; they can only offer alternatives. When people come to realize that Qutb’s ideas are not proper for Indonesia in the modern context, they will not be influenced by even more radical ideology.
The government together with civil society should be more active in promoting a cultural Islam in Indonesia. It is not a struggle between secularists and religionists, but rather a front for discussing how to participate in modern, multicultural Indonesia.
The government must also clean up the corrupt bureaucracy. If one is able to have more than one Indonesian ID card with different addresses and even different names, does anyone have to wonder why fugitive terrorists like Malaysians Noordin M. Top and Dr. Azhaari cannot be found?
Fighting against terrorists and the seeds of terrorism is a multi-faceted war. It is not a question of who should be blamed yesterday, today, or tomorrow. The challenge is like the classic tactic of guerrilla war: winning people’s hearts, and separating the terrorists from the people who cover for them.
This tactic was used in West Java when fighting against the rebellious Darul Islam, and was done in form of so-called pagar betis” (lit. “fence of people”) to prevent rebels fleeing their positions. The government succeeded in convincing the people that “Darul Islam” was different from their own Islam. Without this, the Darul Islam rebellion would never have ended.
The writer is an Indonesian engineer living in Germany.