HomeInternationalTerrorist Deradicalization And Rehabilitation In Indonesia And Singapore: A Comparative Case Study

Terrorist Deradicalization And Rehabilitation In Indonesia And Singapore: A Comparative Case Study


1.1 September 11 Attacks and Terrorist Deradicalization Programs

September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers in the year 2001, which was orchestrated by Al Qaeda against the USA not only exposed the weaknesses of the current world order and US security but also showcased the potential dangers posed by global terrorist organizations that roam freely. The entire complexion of the terrorism paradigm experienced a massive shift. For some, terrorists were seen as protagonists fighting against the tyrannical state apparatus. While majority considered them as nothing more than insurgents that would take the state to the brink of anarchy and chaos. And now, it became evident that the terrorists could operate and carry out attacks on large scales in faraway places, as evidenced by the fact that Al Qaeda could pull off such a heist against the USA from a far way, a backward country like Afghanistan[1]. Worst of all, with the trends of globalization and mass media, the radical ideas of Al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations could be propagated much more easily and effectively, leading to further radicalization and home-grown terrorist attacks.

Keeping that in mind, governments of many countries have been ever more focused on developing more “fail-proof” and effective strategies to reduce the spread of terrorism and limit the radicalization of the young generation[2]. By having a better understanding of the radicalization process and why do people become terrorists in the first place, it is possible to formulate proper steps in order to counter any violent extremist ideologies. In the effort to counter-terrorism and violent extremism in all of its forms and appearances, there has been an increasing focus on prisons for several reasons. Firstly, in the absence of proper and essential safeguards, prisons could potentially turn into a “safe haven” where terrorists can start networking in the form of comparing and exchanging tactics from other inmates, recruit and radicalize the inmates, and may even orchestrate deadly operations outside the prison. Secondly, most detained terrorists will be released inevitably and eventually[3]. In order to reduce the possibility that these individuals would recidivate or return to terrorism after their release, it is extremely important to find ways to help them deradicalized and disengage from violent activities.

In this term paper, the focus is on our two Asian countries of interest, Indonesia and Singapore. In fact, both are neighbouring countries in South-East Asia. Aside from their proximity to one another, both countries have one of the most diverse ethnicities in the world. However, the rise of Islamic terrorism in both these countries after the 2001 Twin Tower attacks and 2002 Bali Suicide Bombings is a cause for concern as it could potentially destroy the fabric of their social cohesion and culture as well as leading the states to anarchy[4]. Surprisingly, Indonesia and Singapore emphasize heavily in the “soft” approach of counter-terrorism, in the form of deradicalization and disengagement. Deradicalization and disengagement programs followed by rehabilitation is the forte of both these countries.

1.2 Research Objectives

An off-shoot of Al Qaeda called Jemaah Islamiya (JI) under the leadership of Riduan Isamuddin, popularly known as Hambali a Soviet-Afghan War veteran, wanted to establish an Islamic Caliphate in South-East Asia[5]. For that to happen, JI needed to overthrow the Government of Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world as far as the population is concerned (211,513,823 people in the year 2000)[6]. Despite such status, Indonesia follows the ideology of Pancasila[7] (Five Principles) and Bhineka Tunggalika (Unity in Diversity and Diversity in Unity) due it is ethnic diversities, which sounds very secular to both Al Qaeda and JI respectively. Moreover, they even had plans for destabilizing Singapore, a direct neighbouring country of Indonesia and also an ethnically diverse country where Muslims are the minority[8]. So, our objectives for the term paper would be.

  1. To understand the reason behind the JI incursions in Indonesia and Singapore within the timeframe of 2001 to 2002.
  2. To test the Prison-Based Approach of Gabriel Hoeft vis-à-vis the terrorist deradicalization and rehabilitation of Indonesia and Singapore respectively.
  3. To identify the practical reasons behind the “soft” approach to deradicalization and rehabilitation by both Indonesia and Singapore.
  4. To understand why Singapore uses Islamic teachings to motivate its terrorist detainees despite being a secular country.
  5. To understand why Indonesia uses secular teachings of Pancasila and Bhineka Tunggalika to motivate its terrorist detainees despite being a Muslim majority country.
  6. To identify the reasons behind the heavy investment of Indonesia in the after-care and counselling programs sector with reference to less investment of Singapore in the same sector.

1.3 Literature Review

Indonesia and Singapore are very distinct countries as far as their deradicalization and rehabilitation of terrorist detainees are concerned, even though both the countries apply the “soft” approach in counter-terrorism. Idea may be the same, but the methods and techniques applied by these two countries of interest are different. So, our question is,

1) What are the major differences in the terrorist deradicalization and rehabilitation programs of Indonesia and Singapore?

1.4 Literature Review

Mira Noor Milla, Joevarian Hudiyana and Haykal Hafizul Arifin in their literature Attitude toward rehabilitation as a key predictor for adopting alternative identities in deradicalization programs: An investigation of terrorist detainees’ profiles made a breakthrough as they discovered that when terrorist detainees adopt alternative identities (identities alternative to their jihadist identity), their legitimization of jihad as a war against infidels would be lessened, even if they strongly hold on to the jihadist ideology. They found in their research that lesser support for jihad as a war against infidels was influenced by a more positive attitude toward the deradicalization and rehabilitation programs, and this was in turn strengthened by the adoption of alternative identities or personas. These findings further solidify the fact that even when a person possesses a strong moral commitment to jihad, this may not manifest into violence when they adopt alternative identities and goals.

Kumar Ramakrishna’s “The “Three Rings” Of Terrorist Rehabilitation And Counterideological Work In Singapore” explains how the failed embassy bombing of December 2001 in Singapore by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists of Indonesia changed the way Singapore perceives terrorism forever, leading to three rings of the radicalization process. He believes that the work of voluntary and non-profit agency like RRG has led to many successful cases of deradicalization and rehabilitation of detainees using Islamic teachings, despite Singapore being a secular country. Also, even though the government doesn’t spend too much in the after-care facilities and counselling programs, its role in growing awareness about the dangers of terrorism amongst its citizen is very praiseworthy.

Zora A. Sukabdi’s “Terrorism in Indonesia: A Review on Rehabilitation and Deradicalization” gives us close insights into the counter-terrorism programs of one of the largest Muslim countries by population in the world. She wanted to identify the transformation process of terror activists’ behaviour, critical development areas that were needed in changing the terrorists’ behaviour, followed by the parameters of effective deradicalization programs according to those who have successfully disengaged from violence and criminal activities. She found that behaviour transformation is indeed possible and there are six dimensions of critical areas of development needed in disengaging terror activists in Indonesia.

Rehabilitation & Deradicalisation in Singapore: Lessons From The Religious Rehabilitation Group” by Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan gives us insights into the activities of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) in Singapore, which undertook the difficult task of helping the detained terrorists by correcting their ideological misunderstanding of Islam and Jihad through religious counselling sessions. He also added that beyond counselling sessions, the RRG also takes the responsibility of spreading awareness amongst the public on the dangers of extremism and radicalism.

Irfan Idris and Muh. Taufiqurrohman in their “Current State of Indonesia’s Deradicalisation and Rehabilitation Programme” describes the role of INP and BNPT in deradicalization and rehabilitation of terrorist detainees in Indonesia, as far as the “soft:” approach is concerned. Even though both organizations are government-run, they do suffer from a lack of human resources management as well as rampant corruption that looms in the law and enforcement sector in the country. However, they praised the activities of BNPT who are trying to promote both the secular and Islamic aspects to the detainees are indeed praiseworthy, despite Indonesia being a Muslim country.

1.5 Methodology

This term paper is a product of Qualitative research. In order to achieve my objectives, I applied the Comparative Case Studies (CCS) Approach, in which I have taken the terrorist deradicalization and rehabilitation programs of two South-Asian countries, Indonesia and Singapore as my case study. This approach urges us to consider the logic of comparison while tracing the key notions of culture, context, place and space in the already existing rich bodies of influential and traditional case study literature related to Indonesia and Singapore’s deradicalization and rehabilitation programs. It is worth mentioning that the context of the JI incursions in Indonesia and Singapore from 2001 to 2002 should not be defined on the basis of place or location, but rather be conceptualized on the basis of spatial and relational point of view as seen in the prison regime of Indonesia and Singapore. Moreover, in this type of research, we tend to avoid the static or bounded notion of culture in favour of more dynamicity in its nature, since it is the 21st Century and socio-political and cultural notions relating to the “soft” approach of counter-terrorism that considerably changed in Indonesia and Singapore as it was in the past.

Using the Comparative Case Study Approach, I compared the Policy Set I (Putting counter-weights to Radicalization and Terrorist Activities), Policy Set II (Exploiting the ‘Push’ and ‘Pull’ Factors of the Terrorists) and Policy Set III (Giving After-care and Organizing Counselling Programs) of the two countries of interest Indonesia and Singapore in addition to identifying what factors influenced it, on the basis of Gabriel Hoeft’s Prison-Based Approach to deradicalization and rehabilitation of terrorist detainees. These comparisons immensely helped me in two different ways. Firstly, I could identify the reasons as to why Indonesia fell in the negative spectrum of Policy Set I despite being in the same plain as Singapore. Secondly, I could identify whether Gabriel Hoeft’s Prison-Based Approach is applicable to the terrorist deradicalization and rehabilitation programs of Middle-East and South Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America.

1.6 Data Sources

For my data collection, I mostly sought after the primary and secondary sources of data. As for my primary sources of data, I took direct references from the official website, fact sheets, journals and articles of regional organizations like the INP and BNPT of Indonesia as well as IDP and RRG of Singapore. I also looked at the websites of international organizations or agencies like the Global Counter-Terrorism Foundation (GCTF), International Institute of Counter-Terrorism (ICT), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch etc.

As for my secondary sources of data upon which I was heavily dependent, I took references from popular news agencies (The Guardians, The Daily Mail, AFP, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, DW etc.), journals, articles and literary works of prestigious and well-renowned researchers and research institutions around the world.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Read