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August 04, 2010
Muslims ‘Prone’ to Radicalization
Indonesian Muslims are still vulnerable to being radicalized, according to a national survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute and Lazuardi Birru, an independent organization focused on combating extremism.
“We made an index of how Indonesian Muslims are vulnerable to being radicalized, and the highest factor contributing to their vulnerability is intolerance,” Dhyah Madya Ruth, who chairs Lazuardi Birru, told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.
The index puts susceptibility to radicalization at 54.95, with anything below 67 regarded as vulnerable, according to Lazuardi Birru. The information used to compile the index was taken from a focus group discussion involving 30 participants including government officials, civil society groups, terrorism experts and even former terrorists.
The survey, conducted from March 26 to April 6 across all 33 provinces, involved 1,320 randomly-selected respondents, the majority of whom were Muslims.
The radicalization vulnerability index, made available exclusively to the Jakarta Globe, is just one part of the wide-ranging survey. The rest of the data is still in the process of being analyzed.
Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst with the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) who managed the project, explained that the qualitative survey was meant to contribute to demographic profiling on what made people turn to extremism.
“From the survey, we found that intolerance on the part of respondents was the main factor used by radical groups to gain support,” he said.
The survey asked respondents about their religious and ideological views, particularly about groups they did not like.
“The highest was communism, followed by Jews and the third place went to Christians,” Burhanuddin said. “This shows how the New Order campaign to stigmatize communism worked so well in Indonesia.”
He added it could be concluded from the survey that most Muslims fell into a gray area: “Not resistant to radicalism or people who supported radical actions.”
The results have been released amid a recent spate of incidents in which hard-line Muslim groups have taken the law into their own hands, including the sealing of churches in West Java and the closure of mosques belonging to the Ahmadiyah sect.
Syafi’i Anwar, executive director for the International Center for Islam and Pluralism and who was consulted prior to the survey, told the Globe on Tuesday that the incidents of the past few months confirmed the survey’s results. “This is not the Indonesia I once knew,” he said.
“The government’s inaction only worsens this. They have not done anything — including the House, which is only concerned about its payroll — which leaves people like the Kuningan district head to manipulate religious issues for the sake of politics.”
Kuningan head Aang Hamid Suganda has been accused of ordering the closure of Ahmadiyah mosques to fulfill campaign promises made during the 2008 election.
Syafi’i also laid some blame with the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) for turning a blind eye to radical Muslims. “Their fatwas also make people intolerant. Pluralism is haram. Ahmadiyah is haram. But they never label violence as haram,” he said.
At least 80 percent of the respondents also said they objected when the group they disliked spoke out in public, held parades or when a member of the group worked for the government. About 75 percent said members of such groups should be placed under special police surveillance and should be banned from teaching in public schools.
Noor Huda Ismail, an expert in extremism from the Institute for International Peace Building, agreed with the analysis of the survey, adding that intolerance was fueled by a fear of being victimized. “This includes by Christians, loosely connected to the Chinese minority,” he said. “This makes the majority insecure; the result being they restrict groups that are different to them from growing and moving forward.”
Lazuardi Birru’s Dhyah said economic disparity was another widely held excuse for intolerance. “People still think that Muslims are poor and non-Muslims are rich,” she said.
“The education and income level of people also determines how vulnerable they are to being radicalized, although, poor and low-educated people do not automatically become radicals. There needs to be a trigger. This is where jihad comes in.”
Ansyaad Mbai, head of the antiterror desk at the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said a multifaceted approach to addressing terrorism was needed. “Terrorism is not only the government’s problem, society needs to be involved too,” he said.
Regarding the results of the radicalization survey, Ansyaad said more discussion was needed on the matter.