December 17, 2013
Indonesia faces a challenge: the impending release over the next three years of some 100 convicted terrorists who will have completed their sentences.
"We do not want them to return to terrorist acts. Therefore, we need a special rehabilitation programme to help them with their return to society," Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Khabar Southeast Asia.
To that end, the agency plans to build a rehabilitation centre for former terrorists in Sentul, West Java. Officials hope to have it operational sometime in 2014.
"We will continue to use soft approaches in combating terrorism," Ansyaad told Khabar. "We need to provide a good system for disengagement in Indonesia."
Tailored to each inmate
The BNPT is still assessing operational approaches for the programme, he said. It will involve other government entities such as the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Education and Culture Ministry and the National Police.
"It will be a joint effort across departments; they will unite in one special team," Ansyaad said.
According to BNPT officials, admission of former inmates vetted, taking into account his former militant profile: intellectual author, recruiter, executor of violent acts, or supporter. Family background and education level will also be taken into account.
The former convicts will work with preachers, academics, and therapists to relinquish violence and terrorism and embrace Indonesia's Pancasila philosophy.
"I think religious leaders will also contribute important values to the programme," BNPT Deputy Director Agus Surya Bakti told Khabar. Other programme details were not yet available.
Some people in West Java have expressed concern about the programme – including its location.
"West Java has long struggled with intolerance, radicalism, and terrorism," said Agus Bahktiar, a Sentul resident. "…Imagine if the former terrorists run from the rehabilitation and decide to return to their [terrorist] groups."
Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert who runs a non-governmental effort to rehabilitate former terrorists, warned it will take a great deal of effort to implement the government programme as envisioned.
"I think we need to involve non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders," he told Khabar in an interview. In his view, it is more productive to focus initially on changing behaviors rather than the beliefs of former terrorists.
"Having radical views is part of human rights," and a person who holds such views is not necessarily involved in violence, he argued.
Three clerics visit
As part of ongoing deradicalisation efforts, BNPT recently invited three Middle Eastern clerics formerly with terrorism ties to meet terrorist inmates.
Jordanian Syekh Ali Hasan al-Khalaby and Egyptians Syekh Najih Ibrahim and Syekh Hisyam al-Najjar held discussions with terrorists on Wednesday (December 11th) at East Jakarta's Cipinang Prison and other facilities in Central Java and in Jakarta during their December 7th-12th visit.
The trio "can straighten misinterpretations of Islam held by prisoners. Moreover, the two ulama from Egypt are former Jemaah Islamiyah figures who abandoned violence in their doctrine," Ansyaad said Wednesday, as quoted by Tribunnews.
They were also scheduled to meet officials to discuss Indonesia's deradicalisation efforts.
Rahmi Hariyanti, a Paramadina University graduate student, applauded the initiative.
"I think as Muslims and also former radicals, their words will be heard by many of the convicted terrorists and radicals," she told Khabar. "Their presence in prisons in Indonesia will help to answer many of the terrorists' questions on what is Jihad and [let them know] that what they were doing through violence was not Jihad."
Jaffary Abdullah, an Islamic cleric in Sentul, agreed. "Indonesians view Middle Eastern Muslims as good followers of the Prophet; I think Indonesians will listen and follow their advice," he said.