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Indonesia’s VP vows war against militant ideas

Indonesia will take tough action in its newly declared war on militant ideas that could include shutting an Islamic school co-founded by hardline jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the vice president said on Saturday.
/ Source: Reuters

Indonesia will take tough action in its newly declared war on militant ideas that could include shutting an Islamic school co-founded by hardline jailed cleric Abu Bakar Bashir if serious teaching deviations are found, the vice president said on Saturday.

Jusuf Kalla said the government would soon ban a widely circulated book of militant ideas written by one of the 2002 Bali bombers, Imam Samudra, who is on death row.

He said that would be one of a number of steps the government and mainstream clerics would take in response to the discovery of videos showing three suicide bombers using Islam to justify attacks in Bali on Oct. 1 that killed 20 people.

"There has to be two wars. Firstly, a physical war by the police and secondly an ideological war carried out by Muslim clerics," Kalla said in an interview.

Kalla summoned Muslim clerics from all major groups to view the tapes of the young bombers last week, prompting them to form a team to counter militant ideas and work with the police.

He said clerics had to correct or review religious curriculum and evaluate religious books in circulation.

The Religious Affairs Department had already been in contact with some Islamic boarding schools about their teachings, which would be corrected, said Kalla.

Asked about the al-Mukmin boarding school near the city of Solo, which was co-founded by Bashir, the alleged spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, Kalla said: "Yes al-Mukmin is certainly one that needs to be further analysed and given information so their curriculum will be in line with the national curriculum."

Asked if the school, where some convicted Islamic bombers have studied, could be closed, he said that would depend on the Religious Affairs Department.

"If there are some serious (deviations), automatically it has to be (closed). I mean serious deviations, if they have wrong teachings. It could come to that (closure)," he said.

Kalla cited one example where the school's 2,000 students were not allowed to salute the Indonesian national flag.

His comments are the strongest yet from the government against al-Mukmin, which the International Crisis Group has described as at the top of Jemaah Islamiah's "Ivy League" of schools where members send their children.

All major bomb attacks in Indonesia in recent years have been blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, a shadowy network seen as the regional arm of al-Qaida.

It usually recruits young, poor Muslims from teeming Java island as its foot soldiers.

Bashir is serving a 30-month jail term for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

Clerics are shocked
Kalla said he could not believe the images of the young suicide bombers on the videos. He said this had erased any doubts among clerics that they had a problem on their hands.

"I was shocked, not just me, but all of the clerics were too, (seeing) youths laughing and then saying that they would die and go to heaven the next day," Kalla said. "There were a lot of doubts before, but having watched the video then all the clerics finally said this was the case."

Mainstream Muslim organizations would meet in Jakarta on Dec. 2 to kick-start a national effort to fight this war against militant ideas, Kalla added.

There would also be a meeting of major Islamic boarding schools, known as pesantrens in Indonesia, but it was unclear if that would be incorporated in the Dec. 2 event.

The move by clerics is the first time moderate groups have agreed to play a decisive and united role in tackling terrorism.

In the past, they have been reluctant to criticise militants or have said fighting terrorism was the responsibility of the government and the police.

The special team gathers top preachers from the two mainstream Islamic groups in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, that have a combined 70 million members.

Anti-terrorism campaigns in Indonesia have often faced challenges because of a widespread belief that the United States wants to attack Islam.