Why It Matters

Protect maids from radicalism

The arrest of two women over separate plots to bomb targets in Jakarta and Bali last December showed that militants now have no qualms about using wives, mothers and daughters to carry out murderous acts.

Indonesian police who foiled the attacks and arrested Dian Yulia Novi and Ika Puspitasari, among others, said the women had worked as maids overseas - Dian in Singapore and Taiwan, and Ika in Hong Kong. Both confessed to have been radicalised via the Internet while away from home.

A study by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac) released last Wednesday said that while Dian and Ika were seduced by male militants into joining the violent struggle, many other women who become extremists are no longer just victims of unscrupulous men. Some have reached out to the men on their own because they were interested in their cause, said Ipac analyst Nava Nuraniyah.

In an interview with Time magazine from prison, Dian said that while men and women are different in Islam, joining the struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam is mandatory for all Muslims.

As the number of Indonesian migrant workers - most of whom work as maids - continues to rise due to growing demand for their services abroad, so too will the pool of these women vulnerable to recruitment by Islamic extremists.

The Indonesian government must work with recruitment agencies and civil society groups overseas to prevent the women from being drawn to extremism, said Ms Nava.


And to protect them from being radicalised, there must also be a sea change in the hiring and training of these women, she added.

This will ensure that they are aware of their rights, as well as the risks of exploitation - not just by abusive employers, but also the men they meet online or radical Islamic preachers who may take advantage of their religious zeal to turn them into extremists.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Protect maids from radicalism'. Print Edition | Subscribe