There is a generic proverb that youth are the upcoming leaders of future. But in reality, they are the leaders of contemporary times. Indonesia, with approximately 266 million population, in which almost 25% of the population is occupied by youth falling below the age of 25. Shaping this group for influencing present and future discourses of Indonesia is very important. But this young generation is ghastly being motivated towards radicalism on several pretexts, primarily politically and religiously. One of the several factors is due to identity crisis which is invoked internally by society and externally by subtle indoctrination through mainstream and social media.
There is an increasing consciousness in Indonesia that terror organisations are encouraging youths to join their ranks. This endangerment was clear since 2009 when Indonesian media telecasted a video of an 18-year old preparing himself for suicide bombing at the Hotel Marriott. The video disclosed the serene account about sacrificing one’s life for the sake of religion. The Indonesian media had unconcealed in front of the whole nation that for some of Indonesian youth, it was their responsibility to wage Jihad against infidels in the form of terrorist acts. Indonesian public found it embarrassing to digest this at that time.
But now, a worrying number of Indonesian youth have been exposed to radical political and religious orientation. Approximately 39% of university students have confessed their support to radical organisations. Fifteen provinces of Indonesia now have a “high risk” categorisation. Their students are an easy prey for radical organisations.A related narrative is also going on in Indonesian high schools. Nearly60% of extracurricular Islamic studies students are ready to engage in fierce jihad. This has caused an alarming situation in Indonesia as it is clearly visible that radical radical elements of the society have infiltrated the minds of Indonesian youth.
One of the earliest radical preachers in Indonesia is the Rohani Islam movement, which upsurged after the fall of Suharto’s autocratic regime. It has promoted radical interpretations of Islams to Indonesian youths through evening classes. Rohani apologists are now the most radical section of people in Indonesian society. Around 40% of the supporters backed to transform Indonesia into an Islamic State under a caliphate. The Rohani Islam movement comes under the purview of the Ministry for Education. But there have been negligible attempts to probe or reorient the Rohani Islam movement.
Another renowned radical organisation Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) has also been radicalising Indonesian youth since the last three years. It was established in 2015, as a result of amalgamation of more than a dozen Indonesian terrorist outfits to strengthen the influence of ISIS in Indonesia, with Aman Abdurrahman, who recently was sentenced to death for his involvement in terrorist attacks, as it’s de facto supremo. According to Indonesian authorities, the family of suicide bombers which recently perpetrated the terrorist attacks in Surabaya had strong connections with JAD. The radical organisation also runs unauthorised boarding schools study groups for Indonesian youth. It has been also alleged by Indonesian authorities that students and teachers from these schools have travelled to Iraq and Syria for training purposes.
With the issue of radicalism gaining momentum in Indonesia, several NGOs have stepped up to counter the influence of radicalism in the Indonesian society. They have carried out majority of the initiatives on deradicalisation of youths. The Wahid Foundation, like for example, visits high schools which are soft targets of radicalisation. Their activists teach lessons on subjects like peace, religious tolerance, multiculturalism and pluralism. The Jakarta-settled NGO Maarif Institute organises an annual camp youth camp to assist youth in countering the influence of radicalism. Its also organises visits to Catholic churches and Buddhist temple to promote inter-faith cooperation and has partnered with Google to host workshops on ways to combat baneful online propaganda.
The radicalization of Indonesian youth is now a major concern for the government, as inflammatory thoughts now easily move through cultures and borders with one touch, more precisely with just tapping tweet or post. There is an urgent need for maximising government initiatives towards youth related policies. Such as, there are very less public investments in youth related national programmes to tap their prolific assets. Recently, President Widodo has announced new policies to forbid youth from coming under the influence of radical views. For developing a robust framework of youth deradicalisation involves modifications in policies, societies and families.
Indonesia’s youth deradicalisation initiatives will be more complex and intriguing in the coming times. Albeit Indonesia is the best model of a multicultural, religious tolerant Muslim-majority secular democracy, still a lot has to be done in developing an environment among the youth that is free from any kind of radical orientations. One aspect can be encouraging ambitious youth leadership. Interactive sessions by senior educators won’t appeal the youth as much when compared with passionate youth leaders.
Radicalism is often a harbinger to terrorism and concentrating on radicalism signals to get rid of terrorism at the nascent stage, before it is too late for non-coercive tactics. Triumphing over radicalism will in the end not be reckoned by military actions but by encouraging non-military policies that tones up the institutional support of human development in the country.