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The Indonesian Alternative

Religious leaders in the world’s most populous Muslim nation explain why relatively few young people are heading to the front lines in Syria and Iraq. Fear of radicalization and new recruits remains very real. A terrorist attack in Jakarta awoke the government’s fears and triggered action from the security forces

Jakarta. The minister is smiling, jacket off, as he goes through his PowerPoint presentation in a banquet room. The coffee break includes bad coffee, lentil soup and a range of curry dishes and fried cassava. Every month since February, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, the Indonesian minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, has invited the local and foreign press for a lunch briefing on the latest developments in the fight against terrorism.


In January 2016, after years of calm, Jakarta suffered an attack that left eight dead – including the four attackers – in a shopping centre in the capital. The attack formally marked the arrival of Islamic State in Southeast Asia. About 300 Indonesians have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria, explained the minister. Given a Muslim population of 200 million – Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world – this figure is low. About 3,000 men went there from tiny Tunisia. Luhut, working through his slides, expanded on how the war was playing out in Posa, on the island of Sulawesi. There, government forces are fighting men commanded by Santoso, the most wanted Indonesian terrorist who looks less like a jihadi who has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and more like a Sandinista decades too late. The army and special forces had cut the search area to 500 kilometres squared, said the minister. “We’re going to start deradicalization programmes in the villages. We’re going to send teachers to the zone and we’ll collaborate on teaching programmes with organizations like Muhammadiya and Nahdlatul Ulama.”



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