Soffa Ihsan (left), Nasir Abbas (JP/Yunindita Prasidya)
Former terrorism convict UK was 25 years old when he started reading books about jihad, a concept widely used by religious extremists to justify acts of terror.
He was actively involved in terrorism for two years after he was recruited by Abdul Matin, also known as Dulmatin, and was trained to make bombs and grenades. He served five years behind bars for his actions.
Now 35 years old, UK is still struggling to let go of his attachment to weapons. Despite the fact that he has been through numerous deradicalization programs that have moderated his views, his struggle to disengage entirely from militant ideology is ongoing.
“While people see them as bombs, grenades and arms, we see them as our second wives,” UK told The Jakarta Post over the phone.
He added that ex-terrorists would feel less attachment to their “second wives” if the government provided more activities that could keep them away from these weapons.
UK, who actively participates in a deradicalization program run by an independent institution, Lembaga Daulat Bangsa (Sovereign Nation Institute, LDB), has now adopted a different, more peaceful, understanding about what the concept of jihad entails.
LDB is a self-funded institution dedicated to deradicalizing ex-terrorists. It was founded in 2011 by Soffa Ihsan, a former researcher on the topic.
Soffa bases his activism on a belief that, as a good citizen and a Muslim, he has an obligation to spread awareness of living “a balanced life” — that is by moderating one’s religious and national identity.
He initiated a program in 2017 called Rumah Daulat Buku (Sovereign House of Books, or Rudalku for short), a deradicalization program that uses literature. Together with KH Ali Mukti and Saefullah, Soffa gathered 12 to 15 ex-terrorists to participate in their monthly pengajian (Quran recital) sessions, a forum for learning religion, and provide counternarratives to religious interpretations used to justify terrorism.
Aside from that, this monthly pengajian gives the ex-terrorists a sense of community in a society that still stigmatizes them for being “a threat”. Such stigma further hampers their reintegration into society.
UK was also a participant in the National Counterterrorism Agency’s (BNPT) deradicalization efforts. He spoke positively about both programs, noting there should be more programs held by the BNPT.
The BNPT has been put in charge of dealing with the issue of terrorism, from countering radicalism to rehabilitating ex-terrorists. The BNPT’s deradicalization director, Irfan Idris, explained to the Post that there were stages in the BNPT’s deradicalization efforts, from identification and rehabilitation to reeducation and reintegration.
“Our public relations team has signed numerous memorandums of understanding with ministries, NGOs, as well as civil society and the international community, because countermeasures against terrorism should be done in a holistic way,” added Irfan.
Nasir Abbas, a former member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who was a teacher to Bali bombers Noordin Mohamad Top, Umar Patek and Ali Imron, has been working on deradicalization efforts since 2003, soon after he was caught by the police.
He commented on the BNPT’s deradicalization program, saying: “They are already good and effective, but more programs should be carried out. Why? Because we are talking about belief. It doesn’t only affect the perpetrators, but also their families and children.”
That is also why Nasir is glad that the government gives civil society a chance to directly participate in deradicalization efforts.
Nasir himself is a senior consultant in the Division for Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR), an organization with a focus on deradicalization and reeducation inside and outside of prison. The Family Resilience Program, as one of the programs run by DASPR, provides psychological and financial help for the wives of ex-terrorists in Jakarta, West Java and East Java.
The government is calling for the active participation of society in counterterrorism efforts.
“Deradicalization is not one ministry’s or one institution’s duty. It has to be supported by every ministry and [also civil] institutions,” the director general of national vigilance at the Home Ministry, Akbar Ali, told a discussion on deradicalization strategies in Jakarta on Nov. 11.
The statement is echoed by the Religious Affairs Ministry’s Director General of Islamic Education Kamaruddin Amin, who said, “It is not only the government’s [duty]; civil society also has to take systematic steps [in countering terrorism].”
Kamaruddin also called on people to propagate religious moderation.
Various parties have come out in support of deradicalization efforts. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono pinpointed an important task that lies ahead: detangling discriminative policy.
He told the Post that, in dealing with Wahhabism, for instance, some would try to address the ideology, but focusing on that aspect would leave victims on the ground.
“What needs to be emphasized is that the state has to remain neutral. In other words, hundreds of regulations made under that ideology, whether in the form of sharia bylaws or blasphemy, need to be discarded,” he said. (ydp/trn)