Tag: middle east

Indonesian university wages war on ISIS — with animations

Ahmad met his friends Udin and Ari at a mosque, and Ari asked him why he had not been around for some time.

When Ahmad said he had just returned from Syria, Ari replied in awe that he, too, wanted to go there to wage “jihad”.

When a teacher approached them and asked Ahmad the same question, Ari replied, saying: “He (Ahmad) just returned from Syria to wage jihad. Isn’t that cool?” But Ahmad told both men the caliphate propaganda was false and many innocent people had been killed in the name of the caliphate.

“They were Muslims just like us,” he said. The teacher closed the conversation by saying that Ari had learned his lesson and should understand he did not have to go far to wage jihad. The teacher then asked Ari to join him assisting elderly people.

“This is also jihad,” he said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 12.11.39
A screen grab from “Kembali dari Suriah” showing Ahmad, Udin, Ari and their teacher. The four characters appear in an animated clip aimed to counter radicalism among teenagers.

Ahmad, Udin and Ari are characters in an animated film entitled “Kembali dari Suriah,” or “Returning from Syria,” produced by the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (Cisform) at Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta. The short film — one of 20 animated clips produced to counter extremism among teenagers — was launched in Jakarta on Wednesday, following the February release of the first 20 clips in Yogyakarta.

Muhammad Wildan, Cisform’s director, said the films had been made to counter radical propaganda after earlier efforts to publish two short comics largely failed because of the poor reading habits of Indonesian teenagers.

“We decided to develop these animated short clips to expand our reach. They will be more accessible through social media,” Wildan said.

Most of the clips are between 90 seconds and three minutes long, depending on the content.

Wildan said the real challenge was to condense the message with the correct reference to Qur’an and package it in a maximum three-minute clip.

“We are careful when choosing our arguments that cite the Qur’an and the Hadith,” Wildan said.

Lecturers from the university had offered their expertise on specific subjects, he said.

Also present at the film launch was 20-year-old Nur Shadrina Khairadhania, who went to Syria as a teenager with her extended family. She shared her own account of emigrating to the so-called caliphate and explained why going to Syria to wage jihad was wrong.

Speaking to an audience of high school students, Khairadhania said that after her interest in Islam began to grow, she fell victim to ISIS online propaganda introduced to her by an uncle.

“I watched their videos, which showed that life would be really good in the caliphate. I was enticed to join,” Khairadhania said.

She convinced her father, Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a high-ranking civil servant in Batam, Riau province, as well as her mother and two siblings, to migrate to Syria.

A group of 26 extended members of her family, including two uncles and a grandmother, left for Syria in 2015. After 19 managed to cross the border to Turkey, they quickly discovered that life in the caliphate was very different to the propaganda.

“Everything is contrary to Islamic teaching. A male family member was forced to fight and was put in detention for months when he refused,” she said.

The family tried for a year to leave and finally returned to Indonesia in August 2017.

Family members completed a rehabilitation program run by the national counterterrorism agency, but now her father and uncle are facing terrorism charges.

Rebuilding her life had been difficult because of the stigma of her past, she said.

“But God gave me a second chance to live. This is probably my jihad, to tell the truth to people so no one will be deceived like us,” she said.

This story was first published in Arab News

Mixed views on whether Indonesia should join Saudi-led alliance to fight terrorism

Indonesia says it has yet to decide whether to join a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism, as observers weigh in on the merit of taking part in the initiative.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Indonesia would have to learn the terms of reference and modalities before agreeing to such an international alliance.

“Saudi Arabia can’t show us the terms of reference yet,” Arrmanatha said at a press briefing on Wednesday

“We need to learn the modalities to determine whether they are in line with our foreign policy,” he added.

Hamdan Basyar, a Middle East expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said there should be no harm for Indonesia to join the initiative because of its purpose to combat militant armed groups.

“We should join for the sake of tackling violent groups like ISIS. It would create a sense of togetherness in this cause,” he said.

The head ofthe Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI)’s international relations and cooperation department, Muhyiddin Junaidi, said Indonesia should not join the alliance,  which gathers 34 Muslim and Muslim-majority countries.

He said there were indications that the initiative was meant to target a certain group and given that there are ongoing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is not a member.

Muhyiddin, who also heads the same department in Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, said Indonesia should stick to its free and active foreign policy.

“We should refrain from taking sides in a dispute,” Muhyiddin said, adding that the Indonesian people should also understand that the conflict in the Middle East has nothing to do with Shia and Sunni rivalry.

Hamdan said that the perception that the Middle East conflict stemmed from the Shia and Sunni conflict may have caused Indonesia’s reluctance to join the cooperation.

He added that it would be irrelevant to tie it with the geopolitical rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabis, and this was not the cause why Iran is not included on the list.

“It’s more about jostling for dominance in the Middle East,” Hamdan said.

The Saudi Arabia Foreign Ministry said in a press release on 15 December that the 34 Middle Eastern and African countries listed in the statement have decided to form a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism and they would establish an operational center based in Riyadh to coordinate and to fight terrorism.

“More than ten other Islamic countries have expressed their support for this alliance and will take the necessary measures in this regard, including Indonesia,” the statement said.

“We were surprised because the invitation was not to form a military alliance,” Arrmanatha said.

He acknowledged that Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was contacted by her Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir and talked about joint cooperation, but Retno stressed the need for further discussions before Indonesia could  agree on any cooperation.

“I think all countries support efforts to fight extremism though they may have their own ways to do it,” Arrmanatha said.

Indonesian lawmakers question visa for Israeli badminton player

Indonesian legislators have questioned a decision to grant a visa to an Israeli badminton player to compete in the World Championship this week.

Indonesia initially refused to give a visa to Misha Zilberman to play in Jakarta, but relented following intervention from the World Badminton Federation. Zilberman was eliminated in the first round.

“This is a bad precedent,” a member of the House of Representatives, Ahmad Zainuddin, was quoted as saying by Viva.co.id.

“How could it be that an Israeli managed to obtain a visa, while Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel?” he said. “This has to be explained.”

He said he suspected that the decision was made after pressure from Israel and the international pro-Israel lobby.

“If that’s true, it shows how hollow is our stated principle of supporting Palestinian independence and opposing Israel’s colonization,” Zainuddin said.

BWF said it had assisted Zilberman in his visa quest.

“BWF has worked extremely hard with both local and Israeli stakeholders,” it said in a statement on its webiste.

“However, BWF chose not to engage in a public discussion to avoid any distraction while focusing on a solution, as such public attention could have endangered the ultimate objective – to get Misha Zilberman to play in the World Championships,” it said.

Another lawmaker from the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party, Mahfudz Siddiq, said he was informed that the Foreign Ministry was not consulted in the decision.

“It shows that there’s no coordination with the immigration department,” he was quoted as saying by inilah.com.

Indonesia has at least twice refused to play Israel in sports tournaments, and excluded the Jewish state from participating in the 1962 Asian Games hosted by Jakarta.

No more “degrading” work: Indonesia to stop sending domestic workers to Middle East

Indonesia will stop domestic workers from going to 21 Middle Eastern and North African countries over concerns about “degrading” working conditions and abuse, the Manpower Ministry said. Continue reading “No more “degrading” work: Indonesia to stop sending domestic workers to Middle East”