Ibnu Mas’ud, a “pesantren,” or Islamic boarding school, near Bogor city 70 km south of Jakarta, had been ordered to close by last Sunday, and nearly 100 people protested outside the school on Monday, demanding that it close its doors.
However, after a meeting with local authorities of Bogor district administration in West Java province, on Monday, the school owner, Agus Purwoko, head of Al-Uruwatul Usro Foundation, told Arab News he would make every effort to comply with government regulations.
The authorities told Purwoko in the meeting, Monday, to officially close the school and properly apply for permits, registering the school with Religious Affairs Ministry, before he can open it again.
“I was told to apply for a school permit to the district administration and register it with the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Purwoko said. His initial intent was not to establish a formal education institution but a place for social service, to provide shelter to underprivileged children, and teach them Islamic values and how to read the Qu’ran, he said.
The closure order followed an incident last month when a student caretaker, Mohammed Supriyadi, 17, burned red and white bunting used as street decoration for Indonesia’s Independence Day celebration on Aug. 17. Police accused Supriyadi of destroying the national flag, although Purwoko said the boy was mentally challenged.
Andi Menir, the local neighborhood chief, said the incident had stirred anger among local people, who considered Supriyadi’s action anti-Indonesia. “We also don’t like that our village is labeled as a terrorist village,” he told Arab News.
Purwoko had expected protests on Sunday, and by last Friday he had sent home 260 of the school’s students, mostly under 16, and ceased operations.
Rakyan Adibrata, a board member of the Certified Counter Terrorism Practitioner program, told Arab News it would be better if the government handed the school over to be managed by moderate Muslim groups.
“Otherwise, it would trigger more hatred from the radical community, who already regard the government as apostate and would use it to justify more terrorist attacks,” he said.
Ade Bhakti, executive director of the Centre for Radicalism and De-radicalization Studies in Jakarta, said their research suggested that two people with direct links to this school had gone to Syria to fight with Daesh. A former caretaker at the school, Munawar, was in Syria, from where he helped to arrange for Indonesian militants to go to the southern Philippines in 2015 and 2016 to join Abu Sayyaf for paramilitary training. Three staff members and a teenage student from the school were also stopped by Singapore authorities last February last year when they tried to leave for Syria, and were deported back to Indonesia.
Purwoko denied that his school was a breeding ground for Islamist militants. He said he never felt it necessary to check the children’s backgrounds, as he only wanted to provide them with a place where they could feel safe and welcome. He also denied any association with Aman Abdurrahman, a terrorist linked with the fatal January 2016 attack in central Jakarta.
Alghiffari Aqsa, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation, a group in Jakarta that supports the pesantren, said any terrorist linked to the school should be treated as an individual case, instead of blaming the entire school.
“Don’t mix an individual terrorist conviction with the school as an institution,” said Usman Hamid, the director of Amnesty International Indonesia, who also supports the school.