Teach the virtue of radical moderation

– Jakarta Globe
31 March 2015

The latest survey of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace should come as a dire warning: The poll of nearly 700 students from 76 high schools in Jakarta and 38 high schools in Bandung shows that 7% of respondents agreed with the Islamic State movement’s aim of establishing a global Islamic State – meaning one in every 14 students agrees with the militants’ aims.

Those surveyed who agreed with Isis’s mission said they did so because they believe the IS has established an Islamic caliphate.

More worrisome, the students said they agreed that Indonesia’s five founding principles, Pancasila – which enshrine the right to religious freedom and tolerance of others’ beliefs – should be replaced with a universal Islamic ideology.

The ability to accept others’ beliefs as equally valid to one’s own is perhaps the highest virtue – and one we must teach in schools.

Radical moderation and pluralism are the only responsible lessons our society can offer in the face of alternative extremisms.

This means welcoming the Indonesian Military (TNI) in waging war on Isis as an emergency measure only and more strictly limiting its involvement in civilian affairs than if Isis’s threat did not exist, since repression complicates efforts and invites violence. We should fight ideology with ideology.

If we can deter the Isis ideology taking root in schools without the military, a draconian terrorism law or the government’s excessive presence in people’s private lives. Crucial to fighting radical ideology is preserving freedom of expression, perhaps Indonesia’s proudest achievement since Suharto’s fall.

Indonesia is both majority Muslim and majority moderate. It’s time for the moderates, especially its clerics, to speak against Isis’s ideology and work with government to stop extremism before it grows up. – Jakarta Globe, March 31, 2015.
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