Inherited Jihadism: Like Father, Like Son
Inherited Jihadism: Like Father, Like Son
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia 3 minutes

Inherited Jihadism: Like Father, Like Son

With the arrests of two top Jemaah Islamiyah leaders in Indonesia last month, all the attention was on the adults in the organisation. We should be thinking about their children.

We already have two generations of sons who followed their fathers' footsteps but had access to ideas and technologies that their fathers never dreamed of.  We need to ensure that the career options of a third generation do not include terrorism, and that means thinking as much in terms of social work as law enforcement.

A few weeks ago Abu Dujana's eight-year-old son, Sidik, testified before the Indonesian parliament about how police shot his father in the leg after he had already been captured.  However valid are concerns about police procedure, that child, egged on by his mother, is a perfect candidate for carrying on the JI tradition. The chances that he sees his father as a role model are high.

We already have inherited jihadism. One top JI leader, Abu Rusdan, now in his late 40s, is the son of a man imprisoned by Soeharto in the early 1980s for involvement in Darul Islam, the Islamic rebellion that gave birth to JI. At the age of 15 his son was inducted into the father's organisation. Abu Jibril, a contemporary of Abu Rusdan, supervised the creation of a JI cell in Karachi, Pakistan that consisted of his own son, Mohamed, and the siblings of several fellow JI members.

In the last three weeks, we've seen the police arrest a JI logistics supervisor named Taufik Kondang, whose 16-year-old son appears to have been working as an aide to Abu Dujana, and one of the young Australian embassy bombers was sent by his JI father, an Afghan veteran, to study bomb-making.

But it isn't just a question of the fathers providing inspiration. JI has a systematic indoctrination program that starts with pre-kindergarten playgroups and moves into kindergartens for Quranic study, Islamic elementary schools and a small group of pesantrens - religious boarding schools - across Java. The close family ties ensure that the children in these schools will grow up in a network where the parents have already bonded, and where the ideology serves to strengthen a social and economic network that could survive dozens more arrests.

We have cases where whole families have gone to JI schools. One of the men convicted in the Marriott bombing was the fifth of eleven siblings. In 2004, his youngest sister Aisyah, then 13, was attending a JI school together with her 15-year-old brother. Aisyah is now 17. Where is she now, what has she learned, who will she marry, and what will she teach her children?

While adolescent children and siblings of current JI leaders, particularly the boys, are likely to succeed them, there are some mitigating factors to be considered as well.

Enrollment in some of the flagship JI schools seems to be declining. This may be due to the stigmatisation of terrorism, but it may also be rooted in the restrictive environment - no music allowed, for example - or the lack of opportunities afterwards. One young man told me he realised he had graduated with no marketable skills and is only employable in other JI schools. He yearns for something that will fulfill his ideals of fighting for a just cause without violating his religious principles and earn him some money at the same time. It's also possible that some in JI families will see their brothers' imprisonment as a deterrent.

The jihadist movement could self-destruct, but we can't count on it, especially with the war in Iraq, a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Gaza, and the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict. International factors by themselves don't determine recruitment but they provide a critical backdrop.

How are we going to draw children out of the jihadist network before the indoctrination sets in? Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Work with educational departments of local state Islamic universities to map the  networks of JI schools and try to develop quality alternatives.
  • Develop an outreach  program for the families of those detained that might include subsidizing the children's education at state schools.
  • Encourage the local business community to invest in on-the-job training programs or youth activities in areas where JI schools are based.
  • Draw on experiences elsewhere. What programs were put in place for IRA children? Are there any experiences from the work with child soldiers that would apply to children schooled in jihadism?

If we see the problem of terrorism as being confine to the adults, we miss the long-term dangers. It's not Abu Dujana who could be a problem ten years hence; it's his children, who need to be shown a different path.

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