CAIRO - Trying guns and handcuffs, Indonesian authorities have found that police forces were not enough to uproot terrorism, turning to Muslim scholars to help discourage youth from getting involved with terrorist groups.
We have had a big success in fighting terrorism physically, Ansyaad Mbai, the head of the National Counterterrorism Agency, told the Washington Post on Monday, August 27.
But now we need to focus on fighting ideas.
Indonesia has cracked down on militant groups following a terrorist attack in the resort island of Bali in 2002, which left more than 200 people dead.
In just over two years, 33 terrorism suspects have been killed, mostly in shootouts with police, and nearly 200 have been arrested.
The security operations have proved success, with no civilians have died in terror attacks in the past two years and a half.
Trying to kill terrorism in its buds, Mbai said authorities need to deploy more than just guns and handcuffs to defeat terrorism.
The counterterrorism official decided to visit a Qur'anic academy, south of the capital to speak to 500 Muslim scholars with a clear message that stopping would-be bombers is your job, not mine.
Only you have the capacity to compete, using Islam, with radicals, Mbai told the scholars.
Torn between its attachment to new democratic freedoms and its revulsion toward terrorism, Indonesia has struggled for years to agree on ways to keep mosques, boarding schools and other institutions free of militant views.
Counterterrorism is working, but there has been almost no progress on immunization against extremist teaching, said Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based expert on Southeast Asian terrorist networks with the International Crisis Group.
There is a huge resistance to anything that is seen as stigmatizing Islam.
But the new drive is opposed by some officials on the ground that social problems, not religion, are the main factors behind terrorism.
Terrorism is not due to religious teaching and will stop only if the government solves people's problems, Nur Mahmudi Ismail, Depok Mayor and a former chairman of the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs also sees no link between Islam and terrorism.
Police officers are welcome to come to mosques to pray but not to control sermons or anything else concerning faith, said Religion Minister Suryadharma Ali.
The Indonesian Religion Ministry publishes pamphlets promoting the correct nonviolent interpretation of jihad as a spiritual struggle for self-improvement and other Islamic concepts that have been hijacked by extremists.
Ali warns that any effort to rein in wayward scholars would only backfire.
Under President Suharto, Indonesia's authoritarian ruler for more than three decades, Islam was politically controlled, he said.
The result was that radical views grew secretly and uncontrollably.
In an attempt to break opposition to the idea that radical interpretations of Islam can spawn violence, the counterterrorism agency has turned for help from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one of the world's largest Muslim organizations.
Security forces can only use repressive actions against militancy and thus need help from Islamic leaders if they are to succeed, said Haysim Muzadi, who headed NU for a decade.
Muzadi, who runs the Depok Qur'anic college that is collaborating with the National Counterterrorism Agency, said e realized the danger posed by radicals during a 2002 visit to New York's Ground Zero.
Everything became clear to me. I saw the threat. Radicals threaten not just America, but the whole world, he said.They also endanger Islam.