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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                                 10  September 2011

“Ideological tourism”-a risk to Indonesia’s security

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Many Indonesians visit radical sites in Southeast Asia and risk being influenced by their ideologies, the national anti-terrorism agency chief said on Friday.

After the close of a Bali seminar on global de-radicalization, Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), said that Indonesians were the most frequent visitors to fundamentalist sites in the region.

“There are dozens of sites used in campaigns by radical groups in Southeast Asia and 80 to 90 percent of their visitors are found to be Indonesian,” he said.

Ansyaad said this fact was not common knowledge, but that in view of the alarming figure, the issue needed to be given more attention.

The radical groups are transparent and outspoken, he said, posing a danger to young people intrigued by their propaganda.

International Crisis Group senior researcher Sidney Jones said that teenagers who visited the radical sites were not necessarily drawn to the sites because of violent tendencies — at least initially.

“What these teenagers have are solidarities towards persecuted Muslims in places like Bosnia and Palestine that are later fed by radical ideologies,” she said.

“The real danger is when radical teachings are in the hands of preachers who directly urge their pupils to use violence.”

Terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail said that it took more than web sites to transform rational people into fundamentalists. “The presence of a charismatic leader is important for transforming ideologies,” he said.

Jones urged government and school officials to monitor their students’ and teachers’ activities to prevent the seeds of radicalism from being sown among impressionable teenagers.

Ansyaad said Indonesia had a long history of implementing de-radicalization tactics in the fight to overcome terrorism.

The strategy has been aimed at three types of people, he said. The first is the terrorists or militants whose ideology espouses violence and killing enemies.

The second group is those people who have served prison sentences and returned to their communities.

And third group are people who have yet to be swayed by radical rhetoric and propaganda — but are at risk of it.

“De-radicalization is needed for them so that they will understand and not be carried away,” he said.

Ansyaad said these efforts were the joint responsibility of many people, both inside and outside the government.

“BNPT was established not to conduct these measures alone but to facilitate them,” he said.

He said the leaders of religious organizations were among those who had been asked to play a significant role — a strategy that is paying off.

“From the beginning, clerics and organization leaders have often spoken to me, asking why the government has not used them,” he said, adding that people generally responded positively to the guidance of respected figures in their own religious communities.

De-radicalization programs had become widely utilized around the world as more and more countries realize that combating fundamentalism through force alone — from individual arrests to all-out war — would not solve the problem, he said.


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