TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A terrifying combination has turned university campuses into nurseries for dogma-based religious radicalism: the education system`s failure and technologies for spreading information on a massive scale. Siska Nur Azizah, who appeared at the Mobile Brigade Headquarter to aid terrorism convicts, demonstrates why these two elements are vulnerable areas. Siska is a sixth-semester student at the Indonesia University of Education, Bandung, West Java.
To Siska, the people held at Mobile Brigade's detention center in Kelapa Dua, West Java, for murder and terror attacks are not terrorists. The 21-year-old even idolizes Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid's leader Aman Abdurrahman, charged with a death penalty for masterminding several bombings. Siska says she learned about the terror movement from the Internet and Telegram chat rooms.
Siska was, in fact, thinking critically as a student: she began asking a great many questions because she had been receiving too little information. She learned about the Islamic State (IS) when she studied geopolitics at university. Instead of providing a clear explanation about IS from a historical and geopolitical perspective, Siska's lecturers told her that IS was evil and was created by US and Israeli intelligence.
A confused Siska then did her own research on the Internet and found contradicting information. It has long been known that IS uses the Internet for propaganda. The terror group makes uses of algorithms to make it easier for Internet users to find their propaganda. Equipped with just a browser, Siska was able to easily find information on IS via the radical group's news agency.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) categorizes Siska as a radical student based on her actions and choices. She had gone beyond mere radical thoughts. Apart from Siska, over the last three years the BNPT has discovered that every student in state universities in Java and Sulawesi has been exposed to radical views, in the form of ideas and opinions. Some have simply accepted these views-based on rigid interpretations of religious dogma-to then put them into practice in discussions within organizations officially recognized by their universities.
According to the BNPT, intolerance is the seed for radicalism. Radicals, for the most part, feel they are the only ones who are right. Intolerance ends skepticism and causes people to reject other views-an attitude that runs counter to the norms of higher education.
This is how radical teachings have swiftly spread. Although the BNPT has found that the spread (of radicalism) began 30 years ago, technology has amplified these teachings on a massive scale in today's Google era. Agents of radical ideas no longer have to meet their targets face to face or hold discussions to agitate them. Radical propagandists simply need to lure their victims into Telegram and WhatsApp groups, and proceed by brainwashing them with deviant ideologies.
The government must come up with a strategy to prevent the spread of radicalism through the Internet. Most importantly, the role of universities as centers of knowledge and innovation must be strengthened.
The government must nip radicalism in the bud by producing curricula that reinforce logic so that students do not easily fall for dogmatic teachings. Teachers must be given more training in the humanities and in pedagogy so that school and university students can rely on a strong intellectual foundation as they explore the vast range of information provided through technology.
Terrorism is an extraordinary crime against humanity. It needs to be dealt with through long-term tactics and strategies because terrorism has to do with ideology and thought. The Indonesia University of Education (UPI) meant well by teaching geopolitics to provide its students with greater insights. But in the case of Siska, the lesson ended in disaster because the lecturers were unable to explain complex material.
An education system with competent lecturers and integrated curricula will save higher education from radical teachings that stifle common sense. Deradicalization is not the BNPT's responsibility alone, but must now be a cross-institution effort. How radicalism is addressed in educational institutions will not only shape the future of our education system, but also the future of Indonesia.