Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tackling Extremism Before It Takes Hold

No country is immune to extremism and Indonesia is no exception. Extremists have attempted to disrupt the nation’s social harmony since independence, but over the past six years they have waged a violent campaign of terror.

The latest incident, of course, was the deadly bombings at two upscale Jakarta hotels. Innocent lives were lost and many more people were maimed. The police have moved quickly to apprehend the perpetrators, with some success.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been firm in vowing to fight terrorism and to stem the spread of hard-line teachings that could lead to such actions. The media have reported that the two hotel suicide bombers, one of them still a teenager, were recruited by a hard-line cleric who is now on the run. But police efforts have also given rise to public concerns, especially after media reports quoted a senior police officer as having allegedly said the police might start to monitor sermons in mosques, especially during the month of Ramadan. As we all know, the fasting month is a time when nightly prayers are held, often accompanied by sermons.

The key to fighting extremism is to change the belief system by which these individuals operate. Once they are convinced of their cause, it is nearly impossible to alter their behavior. Preventing radicalism from developing is not a simple matter. The complexity of the issues require the involvement of everyone at all levels of society.

Therefore, we must start in our own homes. Parents must guide their children by rejecting such behavior and thinking; they need to instill in their children the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. It must also start in our schools, with teachers as role models, educating their students and sharpening their sense of appropriate justice.

And it must start in places of worship, with religious leaders providing the moral compass to guide the faithful on the right path.
The Jakarta Globe Editorial

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