Indonesia's Muslim leaders see red over fingerprinting plan

Updated On: Dec 09, 2005

Jakarta – The campaign has only just begun but the government's new-found determination to crack down on Islamic militants is already starting to rattle "moderate" Islamic groups and Muslim politicians. Many find a police plan to fingerprint all 3.5 million students of Islamic boarding schools (pesantrens) in Indonesia as insulting since it is tantamount to pinpointing the schools as a source of terrorism in the country.

      The fingerprinting plan was approved by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla on Dec 2. National Police chief, General Sutanto, said the fingerprint collections are only one part of the war against terror. "The basic idea is to pre-empt people, including Muslim students and other communities, so as not to be influenced by terrorist groups," Gen Sutanto said. 
      However, Muslim leaders such as legislator Almuzammil Yusuf  said the plan had cast suspicion on all pesantren students. "Look at Azahari Husin. He was not a product of the pesantrens. He was educated in the West,” Mr Almuzammil said, referring to the Malaysian university lecturer-turned-terrorist who was killed in a police shootout in East Java in November. 
      Mr Ali Maschan Moesa, the head of the Nadhlatul Ulama's chapter in East Java, said he felt "insulted" by the plan. The NU is the country's largest Muslim organisation. 
      "Some boarding schools, which have NU ideology and use the organisation's yellow book, are against terrorism. Therefore, it is not fair if all boarding schools are viewed as one because NU's schools are against terrorism," he added. 
      Mr Kalla said the government is aware that the fingerprinting proposal is a sensitive issue. However, the plan will be implemented because it aimed at protecting the country, he added.  
      "This is our war against the people who fight us, Indonesia, without any reason. This is total war," he told a seminar in Jakarta on Dec 7.
      "There is no need for an allergic reaction. Look at it in a positive way," said Mr Kalla, who had earlier ordered the Indonesian Ulama Council, the highest religious authority, to monitor the pesantrens’ curricula. 
      Some 3.5 million students, aged between seven and 18, study in about 15,000 pesantrens across the country. Most have been set up by the NU and the Muhammadiyah, the second biggest Muslim organisation. 
      But there are also pesantrens run by individuals, such as the Al-Mukmin boarding school in Solo, which was founded by jailed militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

* Kalla defends plan to fingerprint students of religious schools (The Jakarta Post, Dec 8)

* Islamic school students in Indonesia to be fingerprinted (The Straits Times, Dec 7)

* NU attacks police's new anti-terror tactic (The Jakarta Post, Dec 6)