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Number of potential extremists sets off alarm bells

Indonesian survey reveals 12 million Muslims with hard-line beliefs

Number of potential extremists sets off alarm bells

Members of Indonesian radical group, the Islamic Defenders Front, stage a protest in Jakarta. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)


A recent survey has revealed that 8.1 percent, or 12 million adult Indonesian Muslims have hard-line beliefs or the inclination to commit extremist acts.

The survey by the Wahid Foundation, an organization looking to promote religious harmony, and the Indonesian Survey Institute, was published on Aug. 1 in a report titled, "The potential for radicalization and socio-religious intolerance among Indonesia Muslims."

More than 1,500 respondents across the country were surveyed between March 30 and April 9 to identify perceptions of intolerance and radical tendencies among Indonesia’s 150 million adult Muslims.

The survey found that among the 8.1 percent who were considered to have radical views, 7.7 percent of were willing to participate in acts of extremism and 0.4 percent had done so, such as attacks on houses of worship.

 "It is worrying," Wahid Institute director Yenny Wahid, told ucanews.com on Aug. 2.

Although the 7.7 percent of the 12 million 'radicals' who are willing to commit extremist acts appears small at first glance, that number is alarmingly high as it represents more than 700,000 people, she said.

Radicalism and intolerance is growing because radical ideology is still growing, fueled by social and economic conditions.

More needs to be done by the government to check this potential threat such as upholding the law and giving people a better quality of life, she said.

"Also, more efforts must be made to instill the value of tolerance among the younger generation," she said.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, executive secretary of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said one of the main causes of radicalization is a narrow understanding of religion.

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Religion has been reduced and manipulated to suit the interests of certain elites and for political purposes.

"It often becomes the dominant factor," he told ucanews.com Aug. 3. "It allows people to be easily provoked to attack places of worship."

Another factor, he said, is that perpetrators of violence against other faiths in the past have not been suitably punished.

"Perpetrators feel they are above the law," he said, urging law enforcers to uphold the law and impose stiffer punishments on those who commit acts of intolerance. 

However, Bishop Yustinus Harun Yuwono of Pangkalpinang, chairman of the Indonesian bishops’ commission for interreligious relations, said imposing stiffer punishments on perpetrators is a secondary solution.

"Primary efforts in countering radicalization lies with religious leaders by cultivating values of tolerance, love, and mutual respect to followers," he said. 

"Religious leaders should show to followers that God is a compassionate God," the prelate said.

"If our followers commit crime against people of other faiths, it should be seen also as a failure by their leaders to educate their people."

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