Fight against radicalisation begins at home: Film-maker

A screenshot from Jihad Selfie, a film by Indonesian deradicalisation advocate Noor Huda Ismail (above) which documents the radicalisation of a teenager who aspired to join ISIS.
A screenshot from Jihad Selfie, a film by Indonesian deradicalisation advocate Noor Huda Ismail (above) which documents the radicalisation of a teenager who aspired to join ISIS.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN
A screenshot from Jihad Selfie, a film by Indonesian deradicalisation advocate Noor Huda Ismail (above) which documents the radicalisation of a teenager who aspired to join ISIS.
A screenshot from Jihad Selfie, a film by Indonesian deradicalisation advocate Noor Huda Ismail (above) which documents the radicalisation of a teenager who aspired to join ISIS.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

Every day, Mira looks out the door of her home in Jakarta waiting for her husband and 15-year-old son to return, hopefully alive.

She has not seen them since they left home last year, purportedly for the Middle East, to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This newspaper is not using their real names to protect their identities, but it is families like this one that academic and deradicalisation advocate Noor Huda Ismail hopes to help through a new documentary film project he recently started.

"The film will follow the struggles of the mother as she deals with the loss of her young son," he said. He hopes the project will spread the message that many may be suffering the same fate, and need support.

Mr Noor Huda's first film Jihad Selfie, which documents the radicalisation of 18-year-old Teuku Akbar Maulana who aspired to join ISIS in Syria, has been screened in many countries including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the Netherlands.

He said the film, completed in June, has helped raise awareness that terrorism is not just a security issue, but also a social one which could affect anyone in Indonesia.

Akbar was just 16, a high school student, when he won a scholarship to study in Turkey. There, he was influenced by friends to cross the Turkish border into Syria to join ISIS.

But unlike other youth who did not inform their parents before doing so, Akbar phoned home to ask his mother for permission.

"Who will care for me if you go and later die there?" was her reply, Mr Noor Huda said last Friday.

The mother's reply prevented Akbar from taking up arms for ISIS and underlined the importance of family in the fight against radicalisation, said Mr Noor Huda.

"The importance of a family's bond, like the one enjoyed by Akbar starting from his childhood, can prevent radicalisation," he said, adding that he has always believed that "no child is born a terrorist".

"It is events in their lives that may cause them to fall into terrorism."

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Fight against radicalisation begins at home: Film-maker'. Print Edition | Subscribe