Indonesian youths are increasingly radicalised and religious study groups in several universities are dominated by those who have intolerant views, according to a researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
A LIPI researcher on radicalism, Anas Saidi, said Islamic propagation activities targeting youth on campus tended to take place behind closed doors, allowing intolerant messages to spread without being challenged.
The phenomenon, he says, could threaten the country’s unity because young people might see the state ideology “Pancasila” as no longer relevant.
Under the long-time rule of president Soeharto, which ended in 1998, dissenting views were suppressed and people accused of spreading “anti-Pancasila” ideologies were sent to jail.
“Mosques are controlled by certain groups who are intolerant, and when they graduate they bring those intolerant values to their workplaces and society,” Anas Saidi told The Parrot.
He said students should conduct Islamic studies openly and learn to settle disagreements peacefully.
“It is quite ironic since university students are supposed to be open-minded,” Anas said.
Anas was referring to a 2010-2011 study conducted in five state-run universities – Gadjah Mada University, the University of Indonesia, the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, the Airlangga University and the Diponegoro University.
The study found increased religious conservatism and fundamentalism among students, with 50 percent of the respondents approving radical actions.
The survey also found that 25 percent of the students deemed Pancasila not relevant.
“As head of the research, I followed up specifically on Gadjah Mada University until 2015 and found similar results. My colleagues from the other four universities found similar results as well,” he told The Parrot.
Radicalism among students that occurred after the reform era in 1998 spreads through Jamaah Tarbiyah (whose ideas are often linked to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), a branch of a transnational Islamic movement seeking the establishment of a caliphate in a peaceful way, Anas said.
“Most public colleges have been dominated by (those whose follow the ideology of) the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements,” according to Anas.
Pew Research Center survey in 2015 revealed that about 4 percent or about 10 million Indonesians support the Islamic State group, or ISIS, the majority of them young people.
“We are currently in the state of ‘ideological battle’ and the government should interfere because the future of Indonesia ten or twenty years from now is shaped today,” he said.
Despite being the largest Muslim-populated nation in the world, Indonesia has a largely secular government. However, in some parts of the country, sharia-inspired bylaws are in place.
Indonesia has experienced a series of terrorist attacks since 2000, most notably the Bali bombings which killed 202 people in 2002.
In recent years, the country has also struggled with rising intolerance against religious minorities. Mob attacks against Ahmadiyya, Shia and Christian congregations have cast doubts on Indonesia’s reputation as a democracy where citizens’ rights are respected.