Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A "fun" boarding school

Well, this is a slow week. Either nothing really significant happened or perhaps people are just getting used to the demonstrations in Cairo and Amman and the regime's brutality in Syria and civil war in Libya.

So let us find an interesting distraction, which I found in a small island called Bima in Indonesia, where the head of a really small Islamic boarding school surrendered to the police. This was the culmination of a chain of events that started on Monday, July 7, 2011, when an explosion reportedly occurred at the boarding school.

200 police were sent to surround the Ummar Bin Khattab Boarding School and after a day standoff, they went in and found the boarding school to be completely empty. There they found several Molotov Cocktails, home-made bombs, and as usual, VCDs on Jihads. Apparently, the explosion came from a class that went wrong, where Firdaus, alias Abdullah, an instructor-cum-treasurer, was attempting to teach the students how to make their own bombs and the bomb blew up in his face, killing him.

On Saturday, after several days on the run, the head of the boarding school surrendered himself to the police after pressures from his family.

Interestingly, this boarding school has been in trouble since its establishment in 2004. There are reports that inspectors from the Ministry of Religion were forbidden to enter the school. People complained that the students and instructors were aloof, unfriendly, and never socialized with the locals. Not a long time ago, an 18-year old student from this school was arrested for stabbing a police-officer to death under the name of "Jihad."  There are also revelations that the leaders of this school have connections to Jamaah Islamiyah, and actually Abu Bakar Bashir acknowledged this connection!

In short, there are lots of warning signs, and yet the government never attempted to enter and to disband this school. Therefore, the proper question to ask is why? And how could this happen?

A cynic's answer is that they are allowed to be there, for use whenever bad things happen and the government needs something to distract the public's attentions. An old political trick. There is some truth in this accusation. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration has been under siege in the past few weeks, thanks to the revelations of corruption and bribery within the Partai Demokrat (SBY's party) and electoral manipulations in 2009. So the timing was perfect, and yet the public didn't bite, likely because there was no victim (aside from the dead bomb-instructor).

Still, I'd say the biggest problem is actually very mundane: simply the incompetence and ego-driven motives of officials. Unless there's public pressure to clean up the radicals, the police never take an pro-active stance for a simple self-interested reason: there's no money to gain for them. With public pressure, there is usually an increase in the budget allocated for various security-related departments, and well, you get the point.

So nothing new here, move along. There's no new terrorist network. Just the remnants of JI. No wonder people are giving a collective yawn.

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