In this webinar, Dr A’an Suryana and Dr Faizal Musa present and discuss their latest research on the prevalence of non-violent extremism in social media and its impacts on the social well-being of people in both Malaysia and Indonesia.
REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME
Tuesday, 30 March 2021 – Dr A’an Suryana and Dr Faizal Musa, both Visiting Fellows at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute gave a presentation based on their recent research papers on non-violent extremism in Indonesia and Malaysia. While Dr A’an Suryana focused on the prevalence of non-violent extremist rhetoric among Indonesian social media preachers, Dr Faizal shed light on how the ideas of Syed Naquib Al-Attas has contributed to the rise of mono-cultural extremists in the context of Malaysia. The session was moderated by Dr Norshahril Saat, Coordinator of Regional Social and Cultural Studies Programme at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
Dr A’an Suryana began the presentation by highlighting the lack of research contribution on non-violent extremism in terrorism studies despite the growing concern of the Indonesian government on the spread of religious extremism. In contrast, studies relating to extremism and social media tend to focus on the use of such platforms for terrorist recruitment. Hence, Dr A’an sought to contribute to the gap in the studies through the research on social media preachers. He used the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a parameter to determine whether views exhibited by the preachers are extreme. In his survey of the top 11 most followed preachers on social media, Dr A’an found several recurring extreme views such as the belief in men’s superiority over women and the mandatory implementation of hudud and qisas. Dr A’an also contended that non-violent extremism is not an underlying cause of terrorism, but acts as an enabler that fans hatred and may result in physical violence, repression of human rights and polarization within the community. He demonstrated his arguments via two case studies: physical attacks against Ahmadiyah’s properties in Manislor and sectarians attack against former Jakarta governor, Ahok.
Dr Faizal Musa continued the webinar by shedding light on how Al-Attas’ enthusiasm for Malay-Islam in the field of culture and the arts has turned into and an extreme form of pursuit among his followers and students who include office-holders in the government. Al-Attas’ idea on Malay-Islam has resulted in a generation of activists who believe and strive for the idea of “ketuanan Melayu Islam” (the superiority of Malay-Muslim). Similar to Dr A’an Suryana, Dr Faizal Musa also argued that non-violent extremism is a stage before violence ensues. To end the presentation, Dr Faizal Musa delineated several policy recommendations including encouraging civil society and the media to take responsibility for discourses disseminated as they may promote intolerant views and hatred.
During the Q&A session, Dr A’an Suryana responded to a query on existing initiatives against rising non-violent extremist views of preachers. He noted that organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah have set teams to deal with misinformation and online radical ideas, while university administrations actively police student bodies and prevent them from inviting preachers known for conservative views. Meanwhile, Dr Faizal Musa responded to a query on the difference between extreme and conservative ideas in which he explained that extremism entails hostility whereas conservative people may be open to conversations. Both, nevertheless, agreed that tackling non-violent extremism such as hate speech is challenging as both Indonesia and Malaysia are democratic countries that uphold freedom of speech.
The webinar drew an audience of 79 participants from both Singapore and abroad.