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Indonesia -country with largest Muslim population- struggling to fight with radical Islam

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Indonesia

Islamic boarding school students pray at the al-Mukmin Pesantren in Ngruki, Sukoharjo, Central Java, founded by Abu Bakar Bashir, Sept. 2, 2003. (AFP)
Islamic boarding school students pray at the al-Mukmin Pesantren in Ngruki, Sukoharjo, Central Java, founded by Abu Bakar Bashir, Sept. 2, 2003. (AFP)

Hundreds of Indonesians responded to the call by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group for Muslims to emigrate to its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

Indonesia takes pride in its diverse and largely moderate society, but the world’s most populous Islamic country is trying to curb resurgent radicalism.

According to the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), IS has used an economic approach – not just an ideological one – to recruit followers from Indonesia.

“They are lured with promises of a big salary, up to 50 million rupiah [U.S. $3,635 monthly],” said Brig. Gen. Hamidin, BNPT’s prevention director, during a seminar on radicalization in late October at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java province.

The spread of radicalism among the younger generation is due to a narrow interpretation of the word “jihad,” BNPT Director Saud Usman Nasution told BenarNews.

“They think that jihad is all about fighting against infidels. But that was only during the era of the Rasulullah [Prophet Muhammad],” he said.

Prison pledge

Radicalism has infiltrated schools, universities, cyberspace, and prisons, Saud said.

“Not all convicts who serve time in prison come out as better individuals. Some of them even preached [their beliefs] and recruited new followers in prison,” he said.

Last year, photos of convicted terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir and other inmates posing with an IS flag at the Nusakambangan penal island circulated widely online. The inmates reportedly posed for the picture after pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.

Bashir once considered the spiritual head of al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, is serving a 15-year sentence for raising funds to finance a paramilitary training in Aceh province.

The director general of correctional facilities at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry admitted at the time that the pledge of allegiance was off its radar because of weak prison surveillance.

Underlying forces

The number of Indonesians who have joined jihadist groups is insignificant compared with the size of Indonesia’s population (250 million), according to Noor Huda Ismail, research director at the Jakarta-based Institute for International Peace Building.

But their presence is linked to a more widespread problem plaguing Indonesia.

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The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, sign an MoU to counter radicalism, Oct. 27, 2015.

“Radicalism has many layers. The terrorism layer represents a small part of society. But there are underlying forces that keep terrorism and radical views alive. The first and foremost is intolerance, and it is the most acute problem in Indonesia,” Noor Huda told BenarNews.

He cited as an example elements in the Muslim community who are hostile to other Muslim sects such as the Ahmadiyah and Shia.

“They consider those fellow Muslims as enemies, let alone non-Muslims such as Ahok,” said Noor Huda, referring to Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama by his nickname.

Hardline Muslim organizations protested when Ahok  – a Christian, and the first ethnic Chinese governor in Indonesia – assumed the post.

A survey conducted in Greater Jakarta by the Federation for Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) last month found intolerant attitudes present in close to 90 percent of public schools, especially those in regions on the outskirts of Jakarta, such as Depok and Bekasi.

These early signs of radicalism are mainly evident in students who take religious extracurricular activities. They refuse to shake hands with teachers who are of the opposite sex. They also denounce the state philosophy of Pancasila, which embraces pluralism, and they refuse to line up for the flag-raising ceremony.

The survey, which was viewed by BenarNews, also found that schools play a role in seeding radicalism by setting rules that cater to the religious majority: requiring all students to recite the Quran every morning and female students to wear headscarves, rather than promoting Indonesia’s state motto of “unity in diversity.”

BNPT’s Saud acknowledged that radical views have penetrated public schools and said the agency had undertaken routine visits to campuses across the country to thwart it.

Multiple approaches

IS targets young people through public sermons, as well as chat groups on mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp and BBM dan Telegram, according to Muhammad Taufiqurrohman, a senior researcher at the Research Center on Radicalism (PAKAR) and Abdurrahman Wahid Center-University of Indonesia.

“These new members are very enthusiastic to go to the Middle East and this was largely through propaganda spread by IS media activists who propagate through web sites such as www.azzammedia.net, www.manjanik.com, www.islamkini.com, and www.daulahislamiyyah.com,” Taufiqurrohman said.

But according to him, the most successful promotion of radical views has been done out in the open through mass public sermons (tabligh akbar ) and trainings (dauroh) that introduce IS and its so-called caliphate in mosques.

Such activities are also conducted behind closed doors, he said, adding that this model had been detected in Medan in Sumatra, Makassar and Poso in Sulawesi, and Bandung and Bekasi in Java.

Disengagement vs. de-radicalization

Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute for International Peace Building, is a proponent of disengagement, which emphasizes changes in behavior rather than changes in belief.

“Disengagement is more realistic. They no longer do violent terrorist acts, even though their ideology and belief remains the same,” Taufik said.

He added that his foundation has counseled and rehabilitated terrorism convicts so they no longer have the intention to carry out violent acts, although the foundation does not interfere with their ideology.

Taufik said the most important element in this process was the convict’s willingness to participate.

“We want the initiative to come from them so they don’t feel like they are forced. This makes it easier to work with them,” Taufik said.

The foundation asks inmates about their plans after they finish their prison terms. If they want to start a business, it supports them until they are self-reliant.

This does not always succeed.

One former prisoner, Machmudi Hariono (also known as Yusuf Adirima), opened a restaurant called “Dapoer Bistik” in Semarang, Central Java. In 2010, he was approached by someone who tried to persuade him to join a paramilitary training camp in Aceh.

Yusuf, a veteran of Moro Islamist Liberal Front (MILF) in the southern Philippines, refused the offer and chose to stay in Semarang.

Another former inmate tried to run a fisheries and shrimp ponds business in Central Java, but got involved in terrorism activities again and is now back behind bars.

“Based on our evaluation, we realize that the program suitable for former inmates is something that keeps them busy so that they no longer have the time to think about radical ideology,” Taufik said.

“Running shrimp and fish ponds didn’t keep them occupied enough, so they had a lot of free time to think about those radical views.”

Heny Rahayu contributed to this report. Published with permission from BenarNews

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Syria ISIS
Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Will the Latest Message From Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Provoke New Attacks in the West?

IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses in United States and Europe

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Islamic State
This image taken from a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (VOA)

Washington, September 30, 2017 : U.S. intelligence officials examining the latest audio statement claiming to be from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi say, so far, they have no reason to doubt its authenticity.

However, there are questions as to whether the message from the leader of the collapsing, self-declared caliphate will cause IS operatives to spring into action. Some analysts see Baghdadi’s continued call to arms as almost a shot in the dark, aimed at rekindling interest despite the terror group’s fading fortunes in Syria and Iraq.

The still-early U.S. intelligence assessment comes just a day after the Islamic State’s al-Furqan media wing issued the 46-minute audio recording featuring Baghdadi, in which he calls on followers to “fan the flames of war on your enemies, take it to them and besiege them in every corner.”

“Continue your jihad and your blessed operations and do not let the crusaders rest in their homes and enjoy life and stability while your brethren are being shelled and killed,” he says.

islamic state
A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighter takes cover behind a wall on a street where they fight against Islamic State militants, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, Syria (VOA)

Despite such threats, U.S. officials say the release of the latest audio message is not changing Washington’s approach.

“We are aware of the tape,” a National Security Council spokesman said Friday. “But whether it’s al-Baghdadi or any member of ISIS, the Trump administration’s policy is destroying ISIS in Iraq, Syria and around the globe.” ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

Still, intelligence and counterterror officials, both in the United States and in Europe, warn that IS remains a potent organization, despite its continued losses on the ground.

“We do not think battlefield losses alone will be sufficient to degrade its terrorism capabilities,” the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, warned in written testimony to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week, calling IS’s reach on social media “unprecedented.”

And while Western counterterror officials say the expected wave of returning IS foreign fighters has yet to materialize, the experience and skill sets of the operatives who have made it back home are ample reasons to worry.

But some caution the new Baghdadi audio message may have more to do with the terror group’s long-term strategy than its desire to carry out attacks in the near term.

“The broadcast boosts morale by contextualizing the hardships facing the group as their losses accumulate by reminding Islamic State militants and their supporters that day-to-day actions are part of a broader struggle, and metrics of progress shouldn’t be assessed in a vacuum,” according to Jade Parker, a senior research associate at the Terror Asymmetrics Project (TAPSTRI).

ALSO READ  intelligence officials , Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Furqan, war, enemies, threats, US officials, raqqa, National Security Council, isis, Iraq, Syria, U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, Nick Rasmussen, terrorism, Terror Asymmetrics Project ,

Parker also believes that while it is “extremely unlikely” the latest Baghdadi audio will spark or accelerate any IS plots, it might prevent fraying within the organization’s ranks.

“Baghdadi’s silence during the final days of IS’s battle for Mosul was a sore point for many IS fighters and supporters who felt confused and abandoned by their leader,” she added. “This statement was likely released in part to avoid that sentiment with respect to the fight to retain ground in Raqqa.” (VOA)

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Rituals Exist in All Cultures and they are Important

Rituals play a prominent role in every culture

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Religion
Ancient Indian Religion.

Hinduism is a practice, which is known for its rich rituals. From the Vedic ages, Hindus perform certain activities right from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they sleep. These activities may include, Pooja (worshipping lord) and Karya (Working), which integrate their culture. The events manifest a certain beauty, without which Hinduism is incomplete.

Different sects of Hindus worship different deities. Various Poojas are held for different festivities and occasions called the ‘Utsavas’. People during different festivals not just gather to worship the god, but also come together to celebrate life, with beautiful colours, clothes and delicious food. This itself proves that rituals manifest the beauty and celebration of life in Hinduism.

Meaning Of Rituals:

However, certain sections of the society have a preconceived notion about the rituals Hindus perform, which leads to them being called ‘superstitious’ or ‘overtly religious’. But is it fair to tag them? What is the meaning of the ritual? Ritual can be any activity which you perform. It is a way of communication. A teacher teaching his or her students can be a ritual. A mother feeding her baby is a ritual. Ritual is a generic term, which must not be linked with traditions, religion and beliefs? And, even if it is associated with these customs, then Hinduism should not be the only target. Every religion follows some beliefs. For example, a Muslim reading Namaz is a ritual; Christians visiting church on every Sunday is a ritual or Thanksgivings, when people have dinners with their friends and families. Hindus may have more rituals to act on than Muslims or Christians, but this gives no one the right to invalidate their belief. The rituals which Hindus perform don’t just have a connection with God, but also scientific reasons behind them. For example, Surya Namaskar is good for health as facing the light at that time of the day is good for your eyes, and makes you a morning person.

Also Read: Navratri 5th Day, The Tales That Speaks About Mother-Son Relationship

The reason why people not like rituals is due to their stifling and obligatory nature. Since our childhood, we have been asked to adhere to certain activities, and never taught the reason behind them. This develops disconnection towards them.

Benefits Of Rituals:

Rituals should be seen as art. We must not do it for the sake of doing it. We must sense its meaning like we sense the meaning of art. There is a side of these customs which we don’t want as well, but at the end of the day, they generate a sense of unity and belongingness. They bind you as a community. As long as we live as humans, these practices will have an integral role to play in our life, which can not be neglected.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.      Megha can be reached at Twitter @ImMeghaacharya.