Civis 002/2016

Preventing and Overcoming Radicalization


As a body of one nation, we actually have a natural or innate ability to fight against all forms of sectarian violence.

Besides, Indonesia is a very plural nation, which is consequently prone to horizontal social conflicts. Its history has cultivated the ability to fight the potentials for social conflict, which keeps growing and needs to be kept, because it might weaken if it is not maintained.

In its existence as a very plural nation and one which settles in thousands of island, this nation has been exposed to various influences for a long period of time. In such situations, our ancestors were able to develop the local knowledge to enable us to keep up and develop in diversity.

Our elders, our founding fathers had wisely pledged in the famous 1928 Youth Pledge: One Land, One Nation and One unifying Language, Indonesia.

The Proclamation of Independence on August 17, 1945, the Pancasila as the state foundation, the Preambule to the 1945 Constitution, the Red and White heritage flag and the national anthem Indonesia Raya completes our identity as a nation in our plurality, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

Our unifying language derives from the Malay language, and was used (originally) in the Eastern region of Sumatra, Riau and West Kalimantan, instead of the Javanese-the language of the majority.

Indonesian people are able to see themselves as one nation, regardless of different tribes and ethnic (demos nation), different from many other nations in the world which is likely to associate a nation with a particular tribe or religion (etnos nation).

Indonesia is one of a small number of nations that celebrates independence with folk celebration even up in the rural areas.

Indonesia is a nation rich with patriotic songs.

For our brothers in North Sumatra, for example, it is common to refer to fellow citizens who come from another tribe as “saudara kita Jawa” (our Javanese brother) or “saudara kita orang Timor” (our Timor brother). For Batak people for example, when asked of their clan someone will ask “Ise Marganta Hamu?” (What is our clan?)

All the tribes in Indonesia tends to be inclusive, to position themselves as “we” and “us” rather than “I” or “we” who are dealing with “them”.

There is an inclusive attitude that is deeply embedded within everyday life.

It should be noted that outside influences now also entered our daily lives, both positively and negatively.

Events like Charlie Hebdo is a bad example which was publicized through digital telecommunications technology.

Arbitrarily, the cartoon magazine Charlie Hebdo, managed by the atheists and leftist, insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad SAW and cursed Jesus Christ, the Christian’s God and the Savior of the world. Brutally, three radical Muslims stormed in and shot dead the manager of the cartoon magazine.

Various incorrect and tendentious news circulated through the Internet, inciting and pitting people. Similarly, false teachings of various religious backgrounds spread, including how to make bombs, even nuclear bombs.

Similarly, decadent lifestyle, materialism, consumerism and hedonism are very widespread, along with the spread of communications technology revolution, worked its way through the boundaries of family, community and state.

In such a state of culture shock, shallow and literal-textual answers were more ready for use. Thus religious laws were used literally, out of context, dried black-and-white.

Meanwhile, those who are “right” were less active to fill the space for global information exchange with the correct ideologies. Even if some understandings were circulated, often times it was too hard for lay people to comprehend.

Therefore, one of the main tasks of the community leaders, especially the scholars, is to enrich and exchange thoughts about the importance of understanding the true religion so that the meaning of religion which is rahmatan lil ‘Alamin and loving will be internalized by the people.




Basically the local capacity to overcome religious radicalization is large. The habit of mutual respect, tolerance, and teamwork has been entrenched throughout history.

Amid the changes that brought progress, consciously leaders, especially among the community, the clergy, traditional leaders and so on, need to continue to support that habit.

At the level of national life we have to hold on to our personality, based on the Pancasila and upholding dialogues.

We return to our inclusive personality, which looks at the other people, although different, as “us”.

The bustle of the modern world has actually made inter-personal relationships sparse.

Amid the flurry of taking care of people and others, let us deliberately dedicate time and space to establish and maintain communication between each other.

Know each other personally, as exemplified by our predecessors, between Mohammad Natsir, Mohammad Rum with Leimena or Kasimo for example, between the leaders of the Muslims with the leaders of the Christians/Catholics in the province, is the main capital to prevent radicalization.

(This paper was presented by the writer in “Building Interfaith Collaboration in Overcoming Radicalism” session, in the Strategic Forum of Church and Politics, in Jakarta, June 2-4, 2015).


Jakob Tobing, MPA. President of Leimena Institute; Program Doctorate – Van Vollenhoven Institute, Rechtshogeschool, Universiteit Leiden; Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of Korea (2004-2008); Chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly’s Ad-Hoc Committee I for the amendment of the 1945 Constitution (1999-2002); member of the General Election Committee (KPU, 1999-2002); Chairman of Indonesia’s National Election Committee (PPI, 1999); Vice Chairman of National Election Monitoring Committee (Panwaslu, 1992); and member of Parliament (1968-1997, 1999-2004).