In Madiun, enlisting the Internet to combat terror

Young people log on at an Internet shop in Jakarta on February 2nd, 2012. Religious leaders in Madiun, East Java are hoping to disseminate messages of tolerance and non-violence via the Internet. (Romeo Gacad/AFP)Religious leaders in Madiun have armed themselves with a new tool to preach non-violence: YouTube.

The city’s Religious Communication Forum (Forum Komunikasi Umat Beragama/FKUB) is preparing a 30-minute programme specifically for the video sharing website that it hopes to launch early in 2013.

“In this forum, we are designing a method of promoting tolerance through YouTube. So far, we have religious leaders from five religious backgrounds involved in the programme. We hope the 30-minute teaching programme display in YouTube will be done soon,” said Effendy Bachtiar, a FKUB member.

The programme features short sermons as well as dialogue among the participants, promoting tolerance and harmony among young people in East Java and beyond.

“We hope in the future we can translate the programme into three languages: Bahasa, Arabic, and English,” he said. The forum hopes to launch the Bahasa version in January, followed by the other languages.

“Even though our target is youth in our region, we hope we can reach more viewers across the globe,” he said.

Countering terrorist messages

The comments came as FKUB members gathered in Madiun on November 22nd, shaken by the arrest of two terrorism suspects in the city in late October, and determined to use all means at their disposal to counteract violence.

Effendy said that it is important to involve all stakeholders and resources the city may have to prevent, solve, and counter terrorism.

“We should be engaged in counterterrorism efforts in various ways, including through the Internet,” he said.

Yakobos Mariyadi, a Christian pastor attending the meeting, agreed.

“I think the Internet can be a valuable tool to inhibit the spread of radical teachings by terrorist groups,” Yakobos told Khabar.

He noted that if a terrorist can use such media such as YouTube for recruitment, it is possible to use the same tool to spread teachings of tolerance.

“We should be able to compete, to make a counter-discourse. However, we must make it more persuasive and not by violence,” he continued.

The Internet reaches most youth and is the most common form of networking, especially among more affluent and educated young people, the leaders agreed.

Surprisingly, most suicide bombers and planners are college graduates, acting from a misunderstanding of Islamic values despite their education.

Cleric: extremists misunderstand the Qur’an

Choiril Iskandar, a member of FKUB and the chairman of the Islamic boarding school Al-Islah, said the act of citing the Qur’an or hadith in defense of distorted thinking is not new.

“In interpreting the verses of the Qur’an, people often just read one verse without an understanding of the verses before and after. Even worse, some people just use a piece of a verse and use it as guidance for negative acts,” he said.

Islam teaches jihad in a positive manner, he said.

“We are not taught to remain silent when we are physically attacked, but we are also not taught to physically attack another person without justified reasons from God,” he said. “There is no reason for a Muslim to attack or to kill.”

Burhan Aziz Salman, a professor at Islamic University in Madiun, said combating terrorism through social media is a good approach and can be persuasive.

“I wish we had more blogs promoting tolerance and anti-radical thought,” he said.

Many bloggers have undertaken online deradicalisation efforts, but their numbers are still not comparable to those promoting radicalism, hatred, and terror, according to him.

“We need support from everybody. The war for peace against any hatred and terrorism will not end easily,” he added.[]

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