Explaining radicalism: it's not really about religion after all

Whenever I mention my Indonesian heritage to the folks here, questions pop out.

Of course, they're curious. Unfortunately, the Indonesia they know are indeed the Indonesia they see on CNN..which is the 'hellish' Indonesia.

Some softened version of Indonesia is also known...the Indonesia they see drowning by the tsunami.


I even remember someone asking me if I ever have to live in fear because of the bombings on Jakarta streets. To which I laughed.

One question comes out often, and I felt that it deserved a good explanation.

"Those fanatics you have there...why do they have so much hatred towards the West? How can they be so blinded by their religious doctrines?"

So I explained to them.

That when it comes down to the basics, it's not really about religion after all. And definitely not about hating the West in the first place.

It's about poverty.

Of the 240 million people in Indonesia, around 85% is Muslim and only less than 1% of that number is actually composed of radicals.

And from those 1% so-called "radicals", only from a very small number can we find the ""radicals" who truly believe in their cause. Like those with more gifted brains such as Amrozi or Imam Samudra.

A huge proportion of the rest do not even believe in the radicalised ideology. I daresay that even if one day the European Union or USA decided to give scholarship to all of their children, they would gladly accept it without questioning.


That huge proportion, who formed a majority of the so-called "radicals", live in poverty. They have family, live in small villages or earn mediocre wages working odd jobs or harvesting during these unpredictable seasons, and there isn't much glory to live for.

They just earn money today in order to bring that sesuap nasi (spoonful of rice) to the dinner table by dusk.

Just like them, their sons don't even finish the mandatory first nine years of schooling, and their descendants are doomed to live the lives like they had.

Until the day when the "recruiters" come...asking them to join a cause to fight for. A cause to die for.

Bombing malls and Western embassies or help the insurgents in Afghanistan, why not?

After all, there isn't much to thank the Western culture. They don't own a Toyota and their childrens don't have a Nike or a Blackberry or an iPod like their city counterparts do. If anything, the portrayal of Hollywood glamours only enhance what the "recruiters" say about how corrupted the West can be...while they have to struggle to live day by day.

Furthermore, by dying for that cause, they can become a martyr. Possibly bringing more spotlight to their impoverished villages and get the attention they are seeking.

Ironic, ain't it?

So it has always been the religion that gets the blame.

And I tell people, that it's not really about the religion after all.

akhlis  – (24 January 2010 at 10:50)  

Well explained, Toshi. Props to you. You should consider working for Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry. You can be appointed an envoy sent on bridging the two poles/nations, perhaps? Add that to your wishes list.

I figured that out, too. Why did Noordin M. Top and dr. Azahari who were Malaysians come to Indonesia? There're lots of moslems there, too. They could've exploded bombs anywhere in their homeland but why Indonesia? That's because poverty-stricken and uneducated folks are far easier to recruit and brainwash for the sake of 'jihad'. Malaysia is generally more prosperous and developed a nation than the neighboring Indonesia. It is assumed to be harder to find people being illiterate, starving and jobless in Malaysia than here in Indonesia.

What I didn't get is that why these people think Indonesian government is 'thogut' (satanic). Indonesian govt may be a loyal partner of the US govt but do they know Malaysian govt is also part of Commonwealth, which means it still pays allegiance to the British Crown (the US ally)?

toshi  – (25 January 2010 at 14:19)  

Thanks for your compliments.

I used to be interested in becoming a diplomat but nah, living in America had made me truly repulsed of politics :D

Malaysia... ah what a state. We shouldn't even talk of their allegiance whatsoever, just take a look at their flag...too eerily similar to the US flag, ain't it?

But anyway, I'm glad to become a true bridge for Indonesia (and the Indonesian Islam) that truly shows a tolerant version of Islam (compared to the intolerant and corrupted version that Malaysia has)

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