Asia

Indonesian government to step up efforts to tackle radicalisation among civil servants

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government is stepping up efforts to combat what appears to be growing radicalisation among civil servants, said Vice President Maruf Amin.

In a 30-minute interview with CNA, he noted that the affected civil servants were mostly radicalised in college, before they were appointed public officers.

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“Some have been influenced at local colleges, some abroad. So when they became civil servants, it was not identified because it was not part of what was tested during the recruitment process,” he said last Thursday (Nov 28).

“So even though they were exposed (to radicalism), it was not known. Many became civil servants and some even joined the state-owned enterprises.”

After various research studies and surveys, the government is redesigning the selection process for civil servants. Part of the new process is to ascertain whether they have been radicalised, he said.

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This effort will involve several institutions, including the economy, education and religious affairs ministries, he added.

“For those who want to apply (as a civil servant), of course, this will be the standard of the (recruitment) tests. That means, if he/she has been exposed to radicalism, it will be known through various information, based on the interviews.

For those who are already in office, there will also be a deradicalisation (process),” the senior Islamic cleric said.

“There is information everywhere and from how he or she behaves when being re-interviewed, we can know whether the person has been radicalised. And then, we rehabilitate.”

Indonesian police escort arrested terror suspects to a news conference in Jakarta on May 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

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Indonesia has grappled with radicalism for years.

In 2016, Jakarta was attacked by gunmen, killing eight people including the attackers.

It was the first terrorist attack in Southeast Asia which Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for. Following the attack, it was believed that some civil servants had resigned from their posts and tried to join IS in Syria.

A few weeks ago, authorities arrested a suspected terrorist identified as an employee of state-owned enterprise steel company Krakatau Steel.

In what is regarded as a clear signal to combat radicalism, President Joko Widodo has appointed Military General (Retired) Fachrul Razi as the religious affairs minister and former police chief and ex-head of the National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT) Police-General (Retired) Tito Karnavian as home minister.

READ: Jokowi's new Cabinet shows commitment to fight extremism, improve education: Analysts

The government has recently launched a website for the public to inform about civil servants who are thought to have been radicalised.

There are also plans to certify ulemas and ban niqabs as well as cropped pants among civil servants.

“MORE RELIGIOUS DOESNT MEAN MORE RADICAL”

There have been concerns over whether Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, has become more religious.

When asked if the average Indonesian is more religious as compared to 20 years ago, Mr Amin replied: “I think yes. More religious but that doesnt mean more radical”.

“And more religious, but that doesnt mean more conservative,” he added.

He noted that there are more Indonesians wearing the hijab now, while more are also taking part in religious activities.

“Friday prayers are bigger, Quran recital sessions are more crowded, but these dont make them conservatives,” he said.

“Because we Muslims, even though we are religious, we dont reject democracy. We dont reject transformations, we dont reject innovations.”

READ: After Baghdadi death, Southeast Asia expects long fight against Islamic State's influence

Despite that, Mr Amin stated that there are radical groups in Indonesia, apparent by the recent bombing in Medan police headquarters last month and the stabbing of then minister Mr Wiranto in October.

Police officers stand guard at the gate of the local police headquarters following a suicide bombing attack at the compound in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia on Nov 13, 2019. (Photo: AP/Binsar Bakkara)

“We are watchful of those little groups so they dont transmit their beliefs to society,” he said.

“COMPREHENSIVE” APPROACH NEEDED

During the interview, Mr Amin said there needs to be a comprehensive approach to tackle radicalism.

“It must be handled comprehensively. From upstream to downstream, involving various institutions, various ministries,” the senior cleric said.

“The first is making the community immune from the influence of radicalism. This must be carried out as a precaution from upstream to downstream.

Anti-terror policemen stand guard following a bomb blast at police office in Surabaya, Indonesia May 14, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Beawiharta)

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