Saturday, May 21, 2011

Indonesia’s Violent jihad gaining ground on campus

Radical groups propagating violence have infiltrated campuses to lure young and energetic students who may eventually begin committing violence. Here are the stories:

Louis, not his real name, has no physical traits of the stereotypical hard-liner Muslim student: Bearded with a prayer cap and dressed in Muslim attire with trousers sometimes cut off above the ankle. But Louis is among several students at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UINSH) who is profoundly inspired by the violent jihad movement advocated by hard-liner sympathizers possibly linked to the existing terrorism ring.

“Students joining prayer groups run by the [violent] jihadist sympathizers are not yet at the stage of masterminding attacks. But they are being fed violent jihad teachings,” said Louis, who is taking a master’s degree in Islamic law at the university.

“The sympathizers are making persuasive moves to ignite our self-consciousness to conduct violent acts.”

With scores of students and university graduates recently mired in terrorism, concerns are rife over a possible move by terrorist sympathizers to recruit students or graduates to propel their fight in converting Indonesia into a caliphate nation with the full implementation of sharia law.

Based on The Jakarta Post’s observations at several campuses, the violent jihadist groups regularly recruit students who are devoted to Islam, but have social difficulties. These students were easily lured into joining exclusive prayer groups or religion discussions outside the campuses.

Discussions were mostly centered around the ideology of violent jihad to regain the glory of Islam, in manipulative ways.

More often, the students attended three or four discussion sessions prior to accepting the violent ideology.

“There are not many group members, less than ten. They are mostly very introverted, but can stand up voluntarily to take a role in a violent movement,” said Louis.

However, despite this attitude, such students are academic achievers and show no sign of radicalism.
While most Islamic student activists on campus wear a veil or turban, dressed in Muslim attire, most students recruited by the violent jihadist sympathizers wear jeans and T-shirts.

“It is difficult to know them if you are not close to them. And besides, they are not popular students,”
said Louis.

UINSH has seen two of its students and a graduate involved in a terrorism ring, harboring terrorist masterminds behind the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels bombings in mid-2009.

Alleged terrorist mastermind Pepi Fernando, who is behind the distribution of book bombs to several noted figures and a failed attempt to bomb a church in Serpong, Banten, is also a UINSH graduate.

The university rector Komaruddin Hidayat acknowledged receiving reports of a violent jihadist movement at his campus.

“But it is difficult to uncover it. Although, because the public knows about their existence, we expect they will gain less support,” he said.

Aside from UINSH, the violent jihadist movement has also infiltrated secular universities, including the secular University of Indonesia (UI) where members of Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), a hard-line organization founded by alleged terrorist mastermind Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, may have gained ground.

UI spokesman Vishnu Juwono believes the group will attempt to penetrate the university, given the fact it was the biggest campus in Indonesia and the birthplace of many national leaders.

“We know about their efforts, especially during the intake of new students. We know they want to indoctrinate our students with their jihadist agenda, but we are confident it will be difficult for them to do this,” he said.

UI has been presenting information to new students on extreme ideologies, Vishnu said.

The terrorist network has also vied to recruit students from National University, Bina Sarana Informatika College, Gunadarma University all in Jakarta , the Bogor Institute of Agriculture and Sebelas Maret University in Surakarta, Central Java, according to a jihadist group member.

Some students of these universities are even active as JAT members, while others joined the Arrahmah prayer club, founded by young and energetic cleric Muhammad Jibril, who is currently serving five years in prison for harboring terrorist masterminds in 2009.

JAT leader Mochammad Achwan, 62, confirmed that many university students were lured into joining the organization.

“Several students, housewives and people from all walks of life attend our preaches,” he said.

“We regularly holds discussions with many students, and we are invited to come to universities to pray.”

Achwan, who was involved in the bombing of the Borobudur Buddhist temple complex in Magelang, Central Java, in 1985, said the students were inspired by JAT because the organization was not merely just talking, but providing an example of “concrete achievements”.

Terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail said hard-line groups were in a better position to recruit members than moderate Islamic organizations.

“Such groups are strongly pushing the issue of global injustice, including on how the US as the infidels committed atrocities in Iraq and Libya,” he said.

But the violent jihad movement on campuses may have also stemmed from a growing trend of self-radicalization, in which students are exposed to books and Internet resources depicting violent jihad doctrines.

“I believe recruiting students is not a priority for violent jihadist groups. Students can easily become radicals just by reading books and surfing the web,” said Yon Machmudi, a UI expert on the Islamic student movement.

“But whatever the causes are that pull students into supporting the radical movement, a violent ideology among the youth is increasing at an alarming rate,” he said. Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post

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