Reducing poverty a key to fighting radicalism

Indonesia should make poverty alleviation a prong in its counterterrorism strategy, educators say.

By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

March 20, 2014
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Hardcore national security efforts alone cannot end Indonesia's terrorism threat, observers say. The government must also attack its economic roots: the widespread poverty that is fertile soil for sowing the seeds of radicalism.

  • A 12-year-old boy scavenges at a dump in Medan. Ending poverty in Indonesia is essential to eradicating extremism, some observers say. [Sutanta Aditya/AFP]

    A 12-year-old boy scavenges at a dump in Medan. Ending poverty in Indonesia is essential to eradicating extremism, some observers say. [Sutanta Aditya/AFP]

"Poverty alleviation must also be made a root of resisting terrorism," Kyai Haji Cholil Abdullah Junaidi, director of the Darul Falal pesantren in Jakarta, told Khabar Southeast Asia. "There must be enforcement actions and seriousness (from the) government to save the nation by freeing society from poverty.

"The number of poor must be reduced in order to prevent the emergence of terrorism."

Teachers at the school remind their pupils that even in the face of poverty, it is important to resist the lure of extremism, he added. "Although we experience economic hardship, we don't wish to be involved in terrorist actions."

Mudji Sutrisno, an instructor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, also sees the link between poverty and radicalism.

"Poverty and social injustice are a source and trigger that fertilise armed radical movements, like terrorism. Therefore, the government has to lessen social imbalances by increasing the economy of the poor," Mudji told Khabar.

Commenting on a police raid over New Year's Eve in which several suspects were killed, Marzuki Alie, speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR), expressed appreciation for the swift police action. But added the threat of radicalism and terrorism would continue to haunt Indonesia as long as poverty and injustice linger.

"One who performs frontal insurgency has experienced an excess of disappointment because he felt there was no chance out of the condition (poverty)," Marzuki told Khabar, adding the way to counter it is through economic improvements and education.

Troubling signs

Despite steady economic growth, poverty in Indonesia remains a persistent-- if not growing– problem. Poverty did fall from 17% in 2004 to 12.5% in January 2013, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) reported.

But it noted: "Those who are poor are now worse-off than they were before the devastating 1997 financial crisis that swept the region and the gap between rich and poor is widening. About half of the population lives just above the national poverty line."

Meanwhile, "the gap between the poor and non-poor is also yawning," Abdurrahman Syebubakar, senior policy advisor at Jakarta-based Indonesian Institute for Democracy Education wrote in a February 21st Jakarta Post opinion piece.

He cited Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data showing the number of poor from March 2013 to September 2013 grew by about 480,000 people to 28.55 million—nearly 12% of Indonesia's 2013 population of 242.3 million.

"The number of people living on the brink of absolute poverty is estimated at 70 million. They could easily plunge into absolute poverty even at the slightest decline in their economic condition," Abdurrahman warned. The figure represents 27.6% of Indonesia's estimated 253.6 million residents this year.

Reader Comments
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    • hilda
      May 14, 2014 @ 02:05:40AM
    • What needs to be fixed first is the economy of the common people. Provide job opportunities because radicalism is caused by hungry stomachs and therefore they grow to be vicious. Therefore, the government should not compete to scour Indonesia's riches, remember that Allah's retribution will be painful.
    • topik hidayat
      May 13, 2014 @ 08:05:46AM
    • This article is very good. I like it.
    • yedi abdya
      May 13, 2014 @ 03:05:14AM
    • Poverty leads people to become infidels (evil). Therefore the main step towards preventing crime in this country is to empower the people with an adequate economy.
    • Masry
      May 13, 2014 @ 03:05:02AM
    • Radicalism and terrorism arise from narrow understanding of faith, people think that the teachings they follow are the most right. Poverty is a minor factor, the proof is that every terrorist that has been apprehended were willing to sell their possessions to fight for religion. The question is: isn't God the power above all powers? If a faith truly comes from God then God Himself would destroy those who tarnish His religion.
    • hendy firmansyah
      April 10, 2014 @ 08:04:14AM
    • Poverty is indeed an impetus towards radicalism but it does not mean that all people should be rich. Poverty is a part of life and everything has been arranged by the almighty. If we do not hope that the Indonesian people become materially rich then at least Indonesians could be rich in knowledge.
    • ICAL
      April 9, 2014 @ 08:04:33PM
    • The government has not memorized the Pancasila.
    • aceng dadan
      April 5, 2014 @ 06:04:29AM
    • Indonesia should promote entrepreneurial training because the progress of a country depends on it having many business owners! America, with 4% of its people being business owners, has become a developed country. So we should make a change towards entrepreneurial training to educate an independent nation.
    • Helena
      March 22, 2014 @ 10:03:38AM
    • This story is not a new one but what's strange is that the government, one that is truly preoccupied with image, is putting more focus on economic growth that can be calculated quantitatively. The economic growth that has been achieved is apparently enjoyed more by the rich who can afford to consume expensive products. The upper middle class is growing in number while the poor are not experiencing any improvement in their quality of life. When backed into corner, where would they go? It is quite possible that they would do anything to survive, especially if they are indoctrinated with the notion that if they are willing to suffer and even die for religion, they would become martyrs. The problem is that these poor people are not educated and are therefore unaccustomed to critical thinking and tend to be stupid. Furthermore, the government actually supports religion-based schools that exist outside the jurisdiction of the ministry of education. In this situation it would be difficult for the government to monitor what goes on in those schools. It would not be unreasonable to think that these schools have a radicalization agenda. Not only that, the government has even approved the construction of modest flats made specially for Islamic boarding school groups. Is this not another form of segregation from other social groups? In Singapore for example, it is mandatory that every apartment block consists of tenants from various ethnic groups to preserve unity. In Indonesia the government are taking the opposite route and creating segregation, whether they admit it or not.
    • anang tazaruddin
      March 22, 2014 @ 08:03:01AM
    • We have all memorized the Pancasila. However, there are 2 (two) principles that the Indonesian government have really forgotten about ever since the independence. They are "A Just and Civilized Humanity" and "Social Justice for All the People of Indonesia."

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