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Jakarta, October 31, 2016: Indonesia is filled with counter-extremism programs, but one major criticism of them is that anti-radicalism efforts from moderate Muslim groups like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) target those who would probably not get radicalized in the first place.
But one group, former terrorists who fought with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980’s, has been working in recent years to address more vulnerable populations.
Indonesia’s self-styled “Afghan alumni” are men with radical sympathies who fought with Afghan rebels in the Soviet-Afghan War. When they returned home, they joined domestic militant groups like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), founded in 1993.
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But after decades of terrorism and multiple prison stints, many of the roughly 300 alumni had different priorities. So in 2011, nine ex-combatants set up the Forum Komunikasi Alumni Afghanistan Indonesia, or FKAAI, to stem the radicalization of younger Indonesians.
“By September of 2011, there had been several acts of terrorism in Indonesia, which, in our opinion, were not in accordance with Islam,” Ahmad Sajuli, the FKAAI chairman, told VOA. “We wanted to establish a forum so that we could explain to people that those acts of terror were not true jihad.”
Sajuli and his friends came up with the idea for FKAAI after attending “de-radicalization” workshops for former prisoners run by Nasir Abbas, the famous JI terrorist turned government adviser, and Sarlito Sarwono, a psychology professor at the University of Indonesia.
“After several former fighters went through our ‘post-prison’ workshops in Jakarta, they wanted to do more for the community,” Abbas told VOA. “They realized they needed to do something to promote peace and minimize other terrorists’ actions.”
Abbas and Sarwono helped the nine founding members of FKAAI register the forum as a non-profit, establish its internal structure, and connect with the BNPT, the national counterterrorism agency. And then they stepped back.
“We do appreciate what they were willing to do all by themselves,” said Abbas. “They were never asked by anyone to set up something like the Forum.”
FKAAI which now has 40 members throughout Indonesia, is headquartered in Menteng, an upscale Jakarta suburb. It holds a discussion group for members after Friday evening prayers. The BNPT also sponsors forum members to travel to schools in cities like Aceh and Poso, delivering speeches against extremism to vulnerable youth.
The small courtyard has attracted waves of radicals through the years: in 2015, the mosque right next to FKAAI headquarters, Masjid Al Fataa, was infiltrated by IS supporters.
One FKAAI member is Farihin bin Ahmad, the group’s PR manager who is now 50 and has immaculate jihadist credentials. He spent three years in Afghanistan, was later very active in JI in Indonesia and he a hand in the 2000 Philippines consulate bombing in Jakarta. He also did time in prison and few understand the appeal of jihad more than he does. And yet, he’s entirely dismissive of the so-called Islamic State.
“It’s useless. Don’t waste your time, is my message to young people,” he said.
For FKAAI members like Farihin, there’s a huge gap between their jihad in Afghanistan and the activities of the current self-styled Islamic State.
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“What we did in Afghanistan was not radicalism,” Farihin told VOA. “We were helping Muslims who were oppressed by the government.” In contrast, he said, the Islamic State has dubious religious credentials. “ISIS and [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi laid claim to a ‘caliphate’ whose authority is not recognized by mainstream clerics,” said Farihin.
Return to normal
Besides undermining the appeal of IS, FKAAI members also talk candidly about the stigma they faced when returning to civilian life as “ex-terrorists.” Sajuli said he returned from stints in Afghanistan and Malaysia without a penny to his name, and struggled until he finally found his footing, in middle age, as a kebab seller.
This kind of detail, about the difficulty of returning to civilian life after sowing terror abroad, is rare in counter-extremism messaging. And it may be uniquely effective, since it helps puncture the mythology of foreign jihad.
“Being former jihadists, the ex-terrorists have added value in the eyes of their ex-terrorist comrades, as well as lay Muslims like the university students who are our and the BNPT’s target for counter-radicalization programs,” Professor Sarwono told VOA in an email.
Farihin says FKAAI specifically does not associate with moderate Muslim movements like NU and Muhamadiyya because, while they do good work, they are “too mainstream.”
“Young people listen to me because I was an actor in and witness to foreign jihad,” he said. “We don’t have much in common with groups like NU.”
Sujani says the students he’s met so far have responded “very positively” to FKAAI’s anti-radicalism messages. “After sharing my experiences with young people, both in high schools and Islamic boarding schools, my conclusion is that they have the knowledge to understand the threat of radicalism,” he told VOA. “When these young people see such activity, they try to avoid it.”
One limit of FKAAI’s efforts is that they have limited resonance with the “lone wolf” actors that are now typical of the IS brand of terrorism, according to Sarwono.
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“Ex-Afghan fighters are no longer the majority of imprisoned jihadists. Today there are pro-ISIS terrorists and ‘lone wolves,’ who self-radicalize through the internet, who have no relationship with the ex-Afghan fighters,” he told VOA.
He said they are disinclined to listen to “anybody except their own leaders,” and largely through social media. Despite this structural obstacle, said Sarwono, FKAAI members have unusual clout among students because of their jihadist past.
Both Farihin and Sujani bring surprising levity to their work. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon, per Sujani. “Back when I was active, they didn’t even call us ‘terrorists,’” he said. “We were all ‘anarchists!’” By their account, extremism is a cyclical problem that can be intelligently addressed. What the Afghan alumni hope is their voices can help break the cycle. (VOA)
By Monika Manchanda
Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs. Despite many studies and research on fruit consumption in diabetes, there are a lot of speculations on the right kind of fruit consumption and its relation to blood sugar levels.
Eating seasonal and locally available fruit has many health benefits ranging from reducing sugar and inflammation levels to fighting high blood pressure -- thanks to their abundant vitamins and mineral presence! They are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
The fruits listed below are not just diabetic-friendly but are loaded with fiber and water content which can slow down the sugar spikes and sugar absorption rate. Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. Turns out there is a truth in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", after all!
Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. | Photo by Pierpaolo Riondato on Unsplash
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. They are high in fibers as well, and have been linked with lowering the risk of diabetes. Berries: Adding berries is one of the best ways to add a variety to your diabetes-friendly diet. You can choose from blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries because all of them are power-packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Papaya is rich in natural oxidants, which makes it a perfect pick for people with diabetes. It reduces the chances of future cell damage.
Star fruit: This sweet and sour fruit is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also positively impacts anti-inflammatory processes and can help repair cell damage, and it has minimal fruit sugars as well. Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin E, K, and potassium, and they are low in fruit sugars as well, which makes it a perfect diabetic-friendly fruit.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. | Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash
Melons (Musk melon and watermelon): Powerful hydrating fruits like cantaloupe and melons are recommended for people with diabetes, and people with the risk of developing diabetes. Eat-in moderation for multiple nutritional benefits like fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, and C. Dragon fruit is full of dietary fibers, vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Pear are nutrient-rich, and they are known to fight inflammation and improve digestion.? Studies also suggest that consuming pears along with a healthy diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Orange: This citrus fruit is full of fiber that helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, and its vitamin C component helps improve immunity levels.
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . | Photo by Jo Sonn on Unsplash
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . Add nuts like walnuts and almonds to complement your fruit snack. you can also add flaxseeds to balance the glycemic load in the body. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Diabetics, Apples, Star fruit, Pear, Melons, Kiwi fruit
By Nimerta C Sharan
Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations, here's what you can look forward to :
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags 'Artycapucines - Chapter 3'. Six internationally -- acclaimed artists have transformed the black canvas of the timeless Capucines bag into beautiful art pieces. Each bag will be available in a limited edition of 200 and will be released worldwide at the end of October 2021.
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags. | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Add To Cart
Looking for a quick festive fashion fix for you and your loved ones? E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. The shopping platform has roped in stylista Sonam Kapoor as the face of the sale that will offer more than 2500 brands at discounted prices.
E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. | Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash
The country's leading design house, Good Earth, in collaboration with textile designer Madeline Weinrib will present its collection of 'butah' motif dinnerware and home textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe.
The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe. | Photo by Jean Vella on Unsplash
Sweet dreams are made of this! Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. Spread over three floors, the bakery currently has twelve macaron flavours, their signature pastries and tea cakes and other brunch and high-tea items on the menu. Bon appetit.
Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. | Pixabay
Bright And Beautiful
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. Inspired by the richness and diversity of Rajasthan, the collection consists of organza and silk saris and shararas, gota lehengas and kurtas and embroidered odhnis. The colours and silhouettes are just right for the upcoming festive season. (IANS/ MBI)
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. | Photo by Souravi Sinha on Unsplash
Keywords: Lifestle, AJIO, sale, Deepika PAdukone, saris, Motifs, artisan, art
Actress Kangana Ranaut has talked about how her weight adjustments for her latest 'Thalaivii' that "messed up many things" in her body and left her with "permanent stretch marks". For her role in the film, based on the life of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and former actress J. Jayalalithaa, Kangana had to gain 20kg and undergo major physical transformation several times.
She took to Instagram to share her experience, detailing that doing all that over the six months period left her with "permanent stretch marks". "Gaining 20 kgs in 6 months and loosing it all within 6 months that too in my thirties messed up many things in my bodya I also have permanent stretch marks as well but art comes to life with a price and more often than not price is the artist him/herself," she wrote.
"Thalaivii" showcases the varied aspects of Jayalalithaa's life, tracing her journey as an actress at a young age to becoming the face of Tamil cinema, as well as the rise of the revolutionary leader who changed the course of the state's politics. Talking about her upcoming works, Kangana currently has 'Dhaakad'.
She is also shooting for her next 'Tejas', where she plays a fighter pilot. The Indian Air Force was the first of the country's defence forces to induct women into combat roles in 2016. The film takes inspiration from the landmark event. 'Tejas' is directed by debutant Sarvesh Mewara. The film will be RSVP's second film which pays a tribute to the Indian military after the immensely successful film "Uri: The Surgical Strike" which was released in January 2019. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Kangana Ranaut, Thalaivii, bollywood, stretc marks, actress, tamil cinema