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Learning from Middle East : It Is Not Islamic and It is Not a State, But it Could be Us within It!

Universitas Riau - Azhari Setiawan Alumni International Relations University of Riau - The world order usually changed by one dramatic ‘defining moment’ to the another one. 9-11 is the defining moment for the beginning of ‘War on Terrorism’. After twelve years war on terrorism, Paris Attack November 2015 occurred and shows another ‘defining moment’ that tells us the war is not over yet. Even a global coalition has been established with enormous number of member states. 60 states which are equal to 1/3 number of all states in the world still cannot defeat ISIS and Terrorism.

To understand ISIS deeply, we need to figure out few things that I feel urgent to be concerned with. We need to understand the nature of ISIS (terrorism) itself. In global security perspectives, there are three major causes of terrorism. Those are: 1) Psychological/Social Factors; 2) Ideological Factors; dan 3) Environmental Factors. 

A young person with few life prospects may choose to join a terrorist organization for the expected thrill of life in the underground, or as a way to enhance his or her self-esteem by becoming a ‘Defender of the Community’. This condition shows us that something that all terrorists group have in common is their normality. This normality is not came or emerged by itself. It is not originate from a vacuum. There is ‘something’ beyond those social, psychological, and ideological phenomena. What I called as ‘something’ before refers to the system that a state has constructed or produced.

Four fundamental factors form and sustain the socioeconomic, cultural, and political roots of radicalism in Middle East that is totally different with Indonesia. But these condition sometime might occur if we still ignore these potential matters originating the terrorism and alike. First, geopolitical manipulation and facilitation of terrorist groups by ‘secular’ and religious authoritarianism alike. We know that Indonesian constitution is not a secular one and also not an authoritarians. We stand on religious and humanist platform. Radicalization is not our spirit on governance.

Second, dogmatic history books and school curricula that canonize the ‘infallible’ historic caliphate. We, Indonesians have a huge problem on our history. Too many versions, debates between all interest parties try to dominate the Indonesia’s history. We all understand that “history is only for the victory one” and now “History sometimes is for sale”. But our history books and school curricula never teach us about radicalism. Most of our historical books in schools teach about fighting against colonialism and imperialism. These don’t have any sense to terrorism alike.

Third and I personally believe that this could be potential to Indonesia, decades of horrible human rights violations and impunity, intolerant discourse and hate speech against ‘others’ nurtured by ‘secular’ and religious autocrats, influential organizations, and personalities. 

The brutalities of the henchmen of al Baghdadi do not originate from a vacuum. They build on, are logical conclusions of and take to the ultimate unimaginable barbarism the official public beheadings in Saudi Arabia, official public executions and public stoning to death in Iran, and the razing to the ground of entire cities and communities by Ba’ath parties in al Assad’s Syria and Saddam’s Iraq as well as Gaddafi’s barbarism against Libyans.

Fourth, also could be potential, a lack of social justice and genuine citizenship, crony capitalism, and ubiquitous corruption at the highest levels of authority. This led to the collapse of state institutions, the exclusion of groups, and, as result, has provided a sort of ‘social base’ and recruits for radical groups. We acknowledge there are still some radical groups in Indonesia that live in hatred atmosphere to the superstructure system that we call as “state”. And for some cases, these groups reject the state system because it is not what has been told by their interpretation of their religious understanding about government and governance. But we also acknowledge that our state system is too far from “justice” and “law enforcement”. Our sate system is too corrupted with all numbers of crimes from time to time.

In the other hand, Indonesia is a country that tolerates and guarantee all ideological matters that is not come and go out far from the context. Out of the context is a radical and extremis characteristic. We need to get all religious prominent figures together in an effective and efficient discourse on humanity, government, and civilizations. The role of ulama’ is really important as the bridge and voices for Indonesians. Harmony between all religions in Indonesia will build a strong foundation for the country and also diminish all potential hatred thoughts and movements.

One thing that I can say about terrorism and ISIS, It is not Islamic and It is not a state, but it could be us within it!

About the Author
Azhari Setiawan is academician at Postgraduate Program of International Relations Department, Universitas Indonesia. He is also a researcher at Center of ASEAN Community Studies, Universitas Riau.

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