Terror convicts may still be radical despite renouncing terrorism

Terror convicts may still be radical despite renouncing terrorism
Fight against terrorism: National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius (left) and Central Statistics Agency (BPS) head Suhariyanto speak to the press recently in Jakarta after signing an agreement to establish terrorism risk index, which measures the cause of terrorism act in the country.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/ANN

Indonesia has had difficulties de-radicalizing convicted terrorists, with many of them continuing their involvement in terrorist activities after serving their time in prison.

Two former terrorism convicts were involved in two of the six terrorist attacks that occurred in 2016. They were Afif, alias Sunakim, a perpetrator of the Thamrin attack in Jakarta that killed four civilians, and Johanda, who threw a Molotov cocktail at a church in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, killing a 2-year-old.

De-radicalizing militants is not an easy thing to do, said Ihsan Ali Fauzi, the director for the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy (PUSAD) at the Jakarta-based Paramadina University.

Most militants, he said, would not abandon their radical ideology, but they could be conditioned to disengage from involvement in acts of terrorism. The government, he suggested, should focus on that outcome.

A study by PUSAD involving 23 terror convicts and former terror convicts in Poso, Central Sulawesi, and Jakarta has found that it is possible for militants to disengage from terrorism while retaining their radical ideology.

The study, which was conducted between 2010 and 2012, identified a number of reasons why some terror convicts decided to stay away from terrorism.

One of the factors that reportedly discouraged the 23 terrorists and former jihadists from continuing terrorist activities is the aggressive anti-terror campaigns launched by the National Police's Densus 88 counterterrorism squad.

"This is the first factor that is keeping them away from terrorism. The increasing security measures carried out by the National Police and Densus 88 have made them think twice about continuing terror activities," Ali said.

He added that some of those who took part in the study also reported that at first they thought all police officers were thoghut (infidels) but they changed their opinion after finding out during their time in prison that some police officers were good Muslims.

The study also found that some of the 23 militants left terrorism and jihadism due to their families' disapproval.

"Some of them also decided to give up on terrorism after they became aware that they were already in their 30s, an age at which they believe men should start focusing on taking care of their wives and children instead of risking their lives taking part in terrorism," Ali said.

The PUSAD study also found that some terror convicts decided to disengage from terrorism after they met and talked with families of the victims of their attacks.

The last factor that Ali found in his research was that many of the participants claimed they were disappointed by the radical ideologies of the terrorist organisations they had joined in the past.

"Some of them also said that the conflict between Islam and Christianity in Poso is over so there is no longer any reason for them to attack Christians in the region," Ali said.

However, the expert asserted that the 23 militants involved in the study claimed they would take up arms again if there was a new religious conflict.

That, he said, was an indicator that they were still holding on to their radical ideology.

Codirector at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) Solahudin blamed the government for failing to establish the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) in the early 2000s when a number of terror attacks indicated that terrorist movements had started to gain momentum in Indonesia.

"The fact is that BNPT was established in 2010 after the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot Bombing in 2009. Imagine that there was no body in charge of handling radicalization between 2000 and 2010," Solahuddin said, adding that many people were radicalized after the series of terror attacks in the early 2000s.

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