Lessons from Aceh Terrorist De-Radicalization

by Mark Woodward, Ali Amin & Inayah Rohmaniyah

Although the International Crisis Group’s reports on radicalism in Indonesia are extremely detailed and well informed, their recommendations tend to be short-term solutions aimed at preventing terrorist acts in the near term. This report argues the value of a longer term approach to both prevent radicalization as well as to rehabilitate jihadis who have been identified and arrested. Although the ―soft‖ approach to imprisoning arrested jihadis is more successful than harsher approaches, this approach still has counterproductive shortfalls, such as allowing unrepentant radicals the opportunity to preach to inmates and guards. Allowing ustad and imam with similar theological backgrounds but without sympathies for terrorism would be an effective way to counter radicalism in prisons as it would not represent a major shift in theological views of terrorists but rather in how they act with respect to terrorism.

This report also shows that although there appear to be three different groups that have emerged from Jemaah Islamiyah, their goals remain the same and they differ only with regard to which tactics to employ. Thus, disengagement efforts aimed at shifting perceptions of operational or tactical matters may be more effective than attempts at de-radicalization that require the transformation of worldviews and identities. However further research is needed on the cognitive restructuring processes involved in these kinds of transformations.