More than 300 ulemas from Java and Sumatra gathered at the Al Hikam Islamic Boarding School in Depok on Jakarta's southern outskirts from December 6th to 8th to raise awareness of terrorism and how to prevent it.
The event, with a theme of "Strengthening Brotherhood and Counterterrorism for National Security", was initiated by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
Former Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Hasyim Muzadi delivered the opening speech, saying all Muslims are harmed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"This gathering is to raise national awareness that the radical movement of terrorists is now transformed," he said December 6th. "They increased their skills and abilities to attack and to recruit."
He stressed that clergy at all levels serve as a "shield" against terrorism.
"Religious leaders have an important role," Hasyim continued. "We are the shield to prevent more recruitment and also to continue to spread the word of peace as Islam teaches us."
Alarming rise in ISIS support
BNPT Chief Saud Usman Nasution said the purpose of the meeting was to map the roots of terrorism.
"We have academics and also former terrorists participating in this event," he said, referring to author Solahudin and former Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) commander Nassir Abbas . "We hope from them we can learn the best ways to fight terrorism including the increasing number of ISIS followers," Saud told reporters.
Muhammad Faturrahman, a participant from Jember, East Java, said the event not only aided his understanding about terrorism, but also how to deal with it.
"It is easier to fight people in person than to fight their ideology," Muhammad stated. "ISIS's followers have been brainwashed with a wrong ideology . The war against ISIS in Indonesia is a war against ideology."
Saud added ISIS followers from Indonesia tripled in the last few months and that a proactive approach to eradicate ISIS is needed.
"Back in April, we only had 50 people join ISIS in Syria. The numbers have kept growing. We had 86 in June and 264 in October. Now we estimate 514 Indonesians have joined ISIS and waged jihad in Syria and Iraq," he said, mentioning one whole family sold its West Java home to go to Syria and join ISIS.
"This is just one example; many more families in East Java have done the same thing," he added. "The numbers included Indonesian workers overseas. Indonesia is probably the largest supplier of combatants in the region."
He also said 40 combatants are from Malaysia , 200 from the Philippines, and 60 from Australia.
"It is time for all elements of society to work together and boost our effort to prevent ISIS's wrong ideology from proliferating in Indonesia. The longer we wait the more difficult it will be for us to break the threat – especially when these radicals decide to return home ," he explained.
Solahudin mentioned the number of Indonesian ISIS fighters is more than double the 300 Indonesians who fought during the Afghan war .
"Many of these people were already overseas, and therefore the Indonesian government has had difficulties in tracking them," he told Khabar. He added the government "needs to work with pesantrens and ensure they are free of radical thoughts".