In search of solutions to tackle terror

Amid fears of more terror attacks, commentators discuss ways to counter violent ideology. Here are excerpts:

Policemen are seen outside Saint Joseph's Catholic Church after a suspected terror attack on a priest during Sunday service in Medan, Indonesia, on Aug 28, 2016, in this photo taken by Antara Foto.
Policemen are seen outside Saint Joseph's Catholic Church after a suspected terror attack on a priest during Sunday service in Medan, Indonesia, on Aug 28, 2016, in this photo taken by Antara Foto.PHOTO: REUTERS

Deradicalising the radicals

Editorial The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Whatever the motive and whoever was behind the attack on a Medan church on Sunday, Indonesia could be facing a new security threat in the form of people, particularly youth, who sympathise with the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and are willing to manifest its creed of violence in this country.

Failure to anticipate similar attacks may stretch religious harmony and the state's commitment to protect religious minorities to the limit, despite the fact that terrorism knows no religion.

First, the police have to find and capture the people who reportedly ordered the suspect, who will turn 18 next month, to commit the attack. The police investigation has revealed that the suspect was inspired by the slaughter of a Catholic priest at Rouen Cathedral in northern France last month and was offered 10 million rupiah (S$1,027) by someone to perpetrate the attack.

Those two important findings will not only help to explain the circumstances of the assault in Medan, known as a hot spot of sectarian riots in the early 2000s along with Ambon in Maluku and Poso in Central Sulawesi, but also serve as an impetus to improve counter-terrorism policies, especially the much-debated deradicalisation programme.

As outlined in the documentary Jihad Selfie by Indonesian scholar Noor Huda Ismail, the country's deradicalisation programme is facing far more uphill challenges than policymakers ever imagined.

The film shows a man who runs an Islamic boarding school in West Java deliberately preparing his small child as well as his followers to go to war in the Middle East with ISIS. With the ISIS battlefields now spreading across the globe, there is a risk that ISIS adherents will wage what they see as a holy war in Indonesia some day.

There is no data about how far radical ideas have become entrenched in the minds of our youth and people in general, but several surveys that revealed a growing level of intolerance in our society should prompt an overhaul of the deradicalisation programme.

House of Representatives lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari has suggested that deradicalisation be focused on the fight against hate speech, given indications that, as in the Medan incident, perpetrators are victims of agitation, if not brainwashing. Arrests, and oftentimes killings, of terror suspects alone will not stop acts of terrorism as long as certain people feel free to spread their hatred and slander against others, including through social media.

Revise organised crime law


The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

The threat of terrorism has been growing across the world. It is essential that Japan also takes measures that would deter terrorism.

The government has worked out a Bill to revise the Law on Punishment of Organised Crimes, which would enable it to impose punishments for serious organised crimes even while the offences are still in the plotting stage. Discussion is under way towards submitting the Bill to an extraordinary Diet session this month.

The revision Bill features the addition of a new constituent element of the crime of conspiracy, worked out by narrowing down the scope of those who would be subject to the provisions of the law. It was drawn up on the basis of the relevant Bill concerning the creation of provisions on conspiracy, which has been dropped three times without passing. The name of the crime that constitutes conspiracy is to be changed to "the offence of making preparations for terrorism and other organised crimes".

With the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics slated for 2020, it is important to make necessary legal arrangements so as to prevent attacks by terrorist groups.

There is no end to terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking across national borders. It is highly significant for a country to become able to closely exchange intelligence about those listed as suspicious individuals by being part of a framework of international cooperation through the improvement of relevant laws.

Creating a counter-narrative

Muhammad Nurul Huda

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Are we witnessing the growth of a pernicious subculture of extremism wherein violence against other fellow beings is justified as religious cause? To the curious observer, it might be interesting to note that over the years, in Bangladesh, particularly since 1975, a quarter has quietly usurped considerable space from the state by creating an extensive network of schools, madrasahs, medical facilities, ambulance fleet and social welfare organisations. This has reportedly created enormous political and social capital for the said quarter which can, if desired, manipulate political gains. The question is, have such quarters created a parallel narrative of hope and strength in times of crisis, and thereby expand its political capital? Does such a narrative stand to gain in a climate of despondency resulting from political conflict?

Upon scrutiny, one would find that a large number of the country's imams belong to the Deoband school that promotes an uncompromising, puritanical and exclusive fundamentalism.

The imams, apparently, have good reason to suspect the motives of Western establishments and their influence on our ruling class. Among other happenings, the loss of Palestine has become a potent symbol of the humiliation of the Muslim world at the hands of the Western powers. The European occupation has often left a legacy of bitter conflict as in India, or deliberate effort to control the economy after independence, as in the Suez Canal crisis.

An important issue is whether the authorities have been able to agree as to the contents of a historically credible and religiously correct counter-narrative to confront the extremists. Should we not project Islam as being just as rational as any Western system?

The counter-narrative needs to recognise that politics had been the theatre of religious quest of Muslims. Salvation for them does not mean redemption from sin, but the creation of a just society in which the individual could more easily make that existential surrender of his or her whole being that would bring them fulfilment. Our youth need to know that no ruler in Islamic history has been able to command the sole spiritual and political power over all Muslims and it does not guarantee the survival of any Muslim ruler.

  • The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner ANN, a grouping of 21 newspapers. For more, see
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'In search of solutions to tackle terror'. Subscribe