Extremism and Terrorism

BLOKBERITA -- A new study recently revealed how they yoag fanatical Islam ultimately regrets the extremism that once they profess.

 Research conducted by a lecturer named Suratno from the University of Paramadina in Jakarta maps out the various situations that can lead someone to Become an Islamic extremist and what can cause him or her to then repent and change behavior. "Results from this research can advise the relevant authorities in carrying out de-radicalization programs," he said as quoted by kompas.com in Jakarta on Monday.

Suratno’s research is based on carried in-depth interviews with former Islamic extremists in Indonesia. They included Nasir Abas Ali Imron from regional terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), Mataharitimoer from the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement and Jafar Thalib from the disbanded Laskar Jihad Muslim paramilitary group. The researcher said he interviewed 10 former Islamist extremists for his research.

Suratno said it turned out that many people who joined extremist movements were in fact “unstable” to begin with. Citing a term used by Arnold van Gennep (1960) and Victor Turner (1969), the lecturer said the unstable condition of the extremists was “liminal”.

He further explained that Gennep and Turner conceptualized liminality as a condition quite similar to the growing-up process of a human being, which saw many complex and ambiguous moments marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. “The liminal phase can make an extremist become a more extreme person or to repent and change behavior,” the researcher said.

For his doctoral dissertation in Frankfurt, Germany, Suratno discovered why extremists decided to leave radical ways and stop killing and abusing other people. This “anthropology of repentance” can be defined as a process that can lead to an exclamation of regret. The research reveals that the process, which triggers someone to join with an extremist movement, could also be influential in his or her decision to repent and change.

“If someone decides to join an extremist group under the influence of his or her friends, there is bigger possibility that in the liminal process, he or she will repent and change,” said Suratno.

In general, he said there were push and pull factors that could lead an extremist to repent and change. Among the push factors included disagreements over the attitude of their leaders, their discomfort at witnessing and participating in torture and violence and changes in ideology.

Citing an example, Suratno said Abas decided to repent and change due to a disagreement with his leader, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. Meanwhile, Mataharitimoer decided to leave his radical group due to leadership changes. Meanwhile, Jafar of the Laskar Jihad militia swore to God to change his ways after he learned of several ulema edicts.

Several other extremists said they wanted to leave their extremist groups for personal reasons. For example, some wanted to have a normal life and they missed their families. “Psychological changes and the power of love are often dominant in influencing an extremist to repent and change,” said Suratno.

From his research, Suratno said it was possible that de-radicalization programs could be done successfully.  “Abas had the potential to repent and change due to his disappointment in Ba’asyir. However, his heart was touched more deeply after he was interrogated by Col. Bekto Prasetyo, a gentle Catholic,” said Suratno, adding that careful psychological approaches were crucial to de-radicalization programs  in thejakartapost.com

The Source of Problem and The Way To Solve It

But Director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Sidney Jones sees democratization can also be relied upon to combat extremism. Under the authoritarian government of Soeharto from 1966 to 1998, she said, hard-liners and radical groups existed clandestinely. “Political repression under then president Soeharto’s administration was a major factor that created some of the extremist groups that Indonesia is dealing with today,” Sidney Jones asserted.

“Take a look at Jemaah Islamiyah [a domestic terror cell]. They were born in 1993, and emerged to fight Soeharto, gathering forces against his ‘Asas Tunggal’ policy and to take revenge for the Tanjung Priok massacre,” Jones said, referring to the policy that criminalized those who subscribed to any ideology other than Pancasila and to the massacre of Muslims in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, by the Indonesian Military in 1984.

In preventing radicalization brought by the threats of extremist groups, ranging from the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII), Jemaah Islamiyah, to the cross-border Islamic State (IS) movement, she said that strengthening democratization might be the way. To Jones, if people looked at the perspective that a government’s repression would lead to radicalization, then democratization could lead to a solution to end it. However, there were also problems created by democracy itself, which in some cases actually made the work to prevent radicalization harder.

Meanwhile, Islamic expert and editor at the Deutschlandfunk German public broadcasting radio station Thorsten Gerald Schneiders concurred, saying that while strengthening democracy might be good for newborn democratic countries, taking democracy to the next level might not work in several countries, including in Germany.

According to Thorsten, one of the challenges in European countries right now was the xenophobia that some Germans also had, especially those of right-wing parties, toward refugees from the Middle East, who were all considered to be members of extremist groups migrating to Europe.

However, although interesting, I am not surprised at the results of Suratno’s research. It is logic, e, if the extremists and the terrorists knew that their actions were contrary to religious teachings, they will not materialize their action plans. In fact, various anti-terrorist operations were carried out simultaneously by the police, the National Intelligence Agency, and the BNPT plays very important role in minimizing violence by the extremists, and the spread of radical ideologies.

Equally important is the fact that terrorism could be an instrument of a proxy war to weaken a country or religion. In a sense, acts of terror that occurred are actually only a tool to create a government or religion as the responsible party. Hence, it would be interesting if a a research to find out an answer behind proxy war.  (bazz/Inrev)
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