The internet – along with Indonesia's prisons – has become a key vehicle for recruiting terrorists, speakers told a recent forum in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.
Curious individuals "are subjected to doctrine indirectly" on websites terrorists use to spread their beliefs, National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) Deputy of Prevention, Protection, and Deradicalisation Agus Surya Bakti told the October 30th forum for local journalists.
Teachings on the internet can become doctrine simply if anyone else chooses to agree, he warned.
The BNPT is working with the Ministry of Communication and Informatics to close websites that preach hardline views, which are currently plentiful and easy to access, Agus added, according to Viva News.
Former Jemaah Islamiyah and Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) member Abdul Rahman Ayub agreed that the internet is a potent tool for radicals to sow hatred toward the Indonesian state.
"They regard Indonesia as an infidel state, all of whose property and wealth can be taken," he said, including through robbery used to fund further recruiting and purchase weapons, he told the forum.
"I know, because I used to be like them. Their actions aren't in accordance with Islam's true laws. That's why I repented," he said, according to Viva News.
Prison is also ripe recruiting grounds for terrorists, Rahman Ayub added. Convicted terrorists teach Qur'an recitation to minor criminals and then groom their students to be suicide bombers.
"By going to several jails, I have direct experience of seeing that terrorists continue to recruit new members that they met and trained in jail," Antara quoted Rahman Ayub as saying. "Mostly the prisoners invited are those who are frustrated by the authorities.
"They start with chanting. With just a little grooming, they become terrorists," he said.
Misinformation about Islam
These days, most terrorist acts are carried out by youthful recruits, according to Noor Huda Ismail, the onetime Darul Islam member who now directs the Jakarta-based Institute for International Peace Building, which he founded.
Indonesia is facing a major challenge in finding ways to combat such misinformed foes, he said.
"They do not know the purpose of the violence, and more importantly they do not know what jihad is," Noor Huda told Khabar Southeast Asia on November 2nd.
Many factors are at play in the recruitment of new jihadists, he said, including friendship, kinship, discipleship, worship, and technology, including social media.
He argued that most young radicals no longer seek guidance from Indonesian institutions such as Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), but instead try to find their own way through technologies such as YouTube.
"The technology has allowed the young radicals to have direct access to militant Jihadists, including the most radical such as Al Maqsidi and Anwar Al-Awlaki and many other prominent radicals from all over the place," he added.
Internet can be a vehicle for knowledge
The internet can be a powerful tool for learning about religion, Jakarta resident Muhammad Matory, 59, commented to Khabar. No longer does one have to travel to find a teacher.
"I studied in Egypt long ago, and now with the internet I can track everything including various Islamic teachings that are popular recently," he told Khabar. But this has a negative side as well.
"I am sure it will be very easy for our teens to access this as well. Like it or not, the internet has contributed to the growth of radicalism in Indonesia." Muhammad urged controls over youth internet access and said the government needs to be aware of how radical websites are used.
Syarifudin, an Islamic cleric in Tangerang, West Java, said people are not wrong for wanting to learn about Islam via the internet. It is terrorists who provide the wrong teachings.
"We are opposed to those who use Islam to kill others," Syarifudin said. "We are also opposed to the thought that jihad can be conducted by killing people."