In this webinar, Dr A’an Suryana provides in-depth interviews with student activists, campus authorities and government officials during a one-month-long field trip to some major Indonesian campuses in Yogyakarta in regards to religious extremism among students in Indonesian universities.
REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Friday, 28 Jan 2022 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute held a webinar moderated by Dr Norshahril Saat (Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) titled “Religious Extremism Among Students in Indonesian Major Campuses”. The webinar featured the research findings of Dr A’an Suryana (Visiting Fellow in ISEAS – Yusof Ishak) on extremism amongst students in major Indonesian campuses and two organisations – Gema Pembebasan and Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front [KAMMI]. Gema Pembebasan emphasises the strength of ideas such as the Islamic caliphate and that Islam is a comprehensive solution to human problems. The continuous internalisation of these extremist ideas is the strength of Gema Pembebasan, in comparison to other student organisations. As for KAMMI, it is debatable whether it is an extremist organisation. Students participated in Daurah Marhalah training program and liqo or Islam and Al Quran study forum, both of which also serve as informal recruitment systems for KAMMI.
In Dr A’an’s research, he found that the internalisation of the extremist religious narratives in systematic and structured ways, facilitated by the relative absence of moderate discourses of Islam, contributed to the growth of the extremist ideas of Islam. As part of anti-extremism efforts, Indonesian campuses require students to participate in religious moderation workshops, such as those being done at the State University of Jakarta (UNJ). Universitas Gadjah Mada has abolished tutorial sessions in Religious Courses on Islam (Asistensi Agama Islam-UGM) because these sessions have become fertile sites for the dissemination of extreme ideas of Islam. From the government, there was a 2018 Ministerial Decree allowing moderate extra-campus organizations to return to campuses. Dr A’an also explained that government and campus policies have not been effective in anti-extremism efforts since they largely work in silos. There needs to be a response in the form of an integrated program that involves parent and student organisations.
In response to a question on what was lacking in campus guidelines, Dr A’an elucidated that some campus officials are aware that Gema Pembebasan are present but some are not, but for KAMMI, campus officials are quite receptive and KAMMI works with the campuses. On whether campus policies can be instrumental, they can be instrumental if given authority by the ministry but right now they lack authority, for example, to expel students or to fire staff if the latter is found to have involved in promoting extreme ideas of Islam. However, because they do not have the authority to expel, they can only prevent people from taking up key positions in universities such as prohibiting extremists from running campus mosques or student dormitories. In response to the query on lecturers or teachers who have extremist ideologies, Dr A’an said that this has been a problem in several universities, where some lecturers and teachers have been removed from power. For example, a prominent university lecturer was removed from his position after it was revealed that he was affiliated with Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which promotes the Islamic caliphate movement. Some scholars have accused that Gema Pembebasan has some links with HTI, although Gema Pembebasan has denied it.