Jakarta – A number of victims of violent extremism have been witnesses to the real damage from these activities. in fact, the suffering suffered by victims is clear evidence of how the effects of terrorism destroy lives. According to former extremist Iswanto, the situation made him rethink his actions. In fact, he was inspired by the toughness of one of the victims of the action.
“In the past, I struggled because I was instructed by the teacher, but now because of the teacher’s encouragement I also realized the impact of violence,” he said at an Indonesian Peace Alliance (AIDA) activity in Indramayu, recently.
Iswanto also later reviewed the understanding of jihad. He reread Arabic religious reference books, then he realized that the meaning of jihad was not limited to war activities taking up arms. He firmly believes that studying seriously is solely due to Allah, also including jihad. After leaving the violence group network, he chose to continue his studies at university. He currently works as a teacher at a school in Lamongan.
“What I learned about jihad in the past is apparently not true. I realized that jihad does not always mean taking up arms. I used to take up arms, now I hold a pen teaching science to children, “he said.
Iswanto’s determination and intention to emigrate was even greater when AIDA brought him together with a number of victims of terrorism. He listened to the testimonies of the victims while experiencing various sufferings due to acts of terror. What amazed him was the magnanimity of the victim. Despite being injured or losing a loved one, they are able to rise up and even forgive people who have been involved with the world of terrorism.
Iswanto imagined how it would be if a terror incident hit himself or his family. He claimed not to be able to forgive as did the victims. From the bottom of his heart, he apologizes to the victims of terrorism in Indonesia.
As a form of accountability for his past who once joined a violent group, Iswanto is now struggling to campaign for peace. On various occasions of AIDA’s activities, he stressed that violent methods will not solve the problem. “I listened to stories of victims who were physically and psychologically injured, as well as many of those who felt the effects of the action after years. My message is don’t respond to violence with violence,” he said.
Before his conversion, in 1997 at the tender age of 19, he had pledged allegiance to join the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group, affiliated with Al-Qaeda. During his time in the extremist network, he had been involved in acts of violence that occurred in Maluku and Sulawesi.
At that time, the young Iswanto’s understanding was practically the same as what was taught by his teachers, considering jihad as a war to take up arms against those who were perceived as enemies of Islam. The Indonesian government is categorized as including those who must be opposed because they are judged not based on Islamic teachings. One of the ideals of the group is to turn Indonesia into a religion-based country.
After the 2002 Bali bombings that killed hundreds of people, Iswanto began to question the group’s doctrine. Although he was not involved in the terrorist act, he realized that the perpetrators were his fellow JI members. He claimed his conscience was whispering, is it true that religion allows such actions, which kill ordinary people, who do not know anything about the affairs of the terrorist group. Iswanto’s anxiety heightened when one of his respected teachers, Ali Imron, told him to stop all forms of struggle with violence.
In his reflection, Iswanto also realized that many of the victims of the actions carried out by his group were innocent people, just passing by near the location but also becoming victims. He felt, the teacher’s factor was very influential in his life. From the teacher he was recruited into a violent group, but it was also from the teacher that he was able to repent and return to the path of peace. [NIT]