Planned ISIS supporters' gathering in Central Java stopped by Indonesian police

SEMARANG, JAVA (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - Indonesia police say they have halted a plan by alleged supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group to hold a gathering in the Central Java city of Semarang scheduled for Sunday.

National Police spokesman, Senior Commander Agus Rianto, told reporters on Thursday that police in Semarang, East Java, had talked organisers of the event into cancelling it.

"Yes, a group of people promoted the gathering at a mosque by putting up posters that depicted the ISIS flag, but we have met with them and they have agreed to cancel it," Agus said at National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

The poster, which was first published on Indonesian hardline website al-mustaqbal.net, invited people to join a talk titled "They are jihadists, not those who abandon Islam: Defending the Caliphate that has been defamed" at Madyo Mangunkarso mosque in Semarang on Sunday.

The poster features the ISIS flag along with pictures of some well-known figures, including Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

The poster went viral on social media, prompting Semarang Mayor Hendrar Prihadi to alert the local police.

Although the police have prevented the gathering from taking place, terrorism experts are calling on the authorities to remain alert to similar events that could occur in the future.

Institute of International Peace Building founder Noor Huda Ismail said the police should keep a close eye on the Semarang event's organizing committee, which included hard-line group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, for any suspicious activities.

"ISIS supporters attending such an event in public mosques will not openly state their support (for the movement). However, many Muslim activists end up joining ISIS after they attend such gatherings, like Bahrumsyah," he said, referring to a Jakarta college student who appeared in an ISIS video last August.

Although the police cannot arrest people who join such gatherings as they are not joining open ISIS recruitment sessions, Noor Huda said they could conduct surveillance on individuals.

The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has said that more than 500 Indonesians have joined ISIS in the civil war in Syria and Iraq.

Last month, Malaysia deported 12 Indonesians, mostly from East Java, who were allegedly on their way to Syria to join ISIS.

Terrorism expert Al Chaidar said hard-line movements were active in Semarang and Yogyakarta, with many young people interested in joining the extremist movement.

"People are being told that jihad is the only way for Muslims to go to heaven without having to go through Judgement Day. It's all based on the fear of doomsday," he said.

Meanwhile, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said that ISIS did not constitute a threat to the country.

Komnas HAM deputy chief Siane Indriani said the government should be more concerned about the widening gap between rich and poor that could drive people to join extreme movements.

Siane said that to deal with such extreme groups, the government needed to firmly uphold the law.

"Enforce the law on radical groups, because the longer the government defers action, the more power it grants such groups to defend their violent actions," Siane said.