The lure of jihad, the story of one Indonesian student and ISIS

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has attracted would-be jihadists from across the globe. One of those the group inspired was a 17-year-old Indonesian student, Teuku Maulana.


Senin, 12 Sep 2016 11:33 WIB


Ade Irmansyah

One of the scenes from the film, 'Jihad Selfie'

One of the scenes from the film, 'Jihad Selfie'

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has attracted would-be jihadists from across the globe.

One of those the group inspired was a 17-year-old Indonesian student, Teuku Maulana.

But he had a change of heart after meeting Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism expert in 2014.

KBR Journalist, Ade Irmansyah has the story.

Seventeen year-old Teuku Akbar Maulana is from the westernmost Indonesian province of Aceh.

At school, he was a brilliant student, even being offered a scholarship to study in Turkey.

Akbar chose to go to Turkey at the end of 2013 to attend the International Imam Khatip High School in Kayseri.

However he tired of the school after just a few months, he says.

“It’s common for students and teenagers. They feel worried not only because of love, but also because of the lessons. We were studying something that I had learned before, so I wasn’t getting what I wanted,” Akbar said.

Bored, Akbar, who was 15 at the time, started to spend more time on social media, including Facebook.

And his FaceBook account was flooded with brutal videos of what was going on in neighbouring Syria. 

There was even one post from his Indonesian friend Yazid, who had joined ISIS, showing him proudly carrying an AK-47 gun.

Akbar admits that he found it quite alluring at the time.  

“They have a slogan, ‘This is the land of men’. So indirectly they want to say, you're not a man if you are not here. So we feel challenged. Moreover, a teenager needs a challenge,” Akbar revealed.

The stream of videos from Syria eventually motivated Akbar to cross the border into the country to join the extremist group.

Even though he knew little about ISIS or what was happening in the Middle East at the time.

But one day in 2014, he met Noor Huda Ismail, an Indonesian terrorism expert, in a kebab shop in Kayseri. 

Akbar was waiting for someone to take him to the Syrian border.

But as they got talking in his native Indonesian tongue, the words of Akbar’s parents rang in his mind – especially that of his mother who had expressly forbidden him from going to Syria.

“The most important thing was that I thought of my parents, especially my mother. What if I went there and then died. Regardless of whether God receives us or not, our parents would be so sad. Then I was thinking whether that was right according to God or not, about how God could bless us when our parents wouldn’t,” Akbar remembers.

Akbar canceled his trip to Syria and returned home, where he joined Noor Huda on a different project, making a documentary film entitled, ‘Jihad Selfie.’

Speaking from Jakarta, Huda noted that ISIS has grown adept ay utilising social media – like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube – to recruit new members.

The militant group targets impressionable teens, he says.

“Those children are smart, knowing very well the Quran, but they’re also tempted by ISIS. On social media there are evocative images of masculinity that encourage them to join,” Huda said.

Huda estimates that around 500 Indonesians have joined ISIS in Syria.

To prevent more, he said, parents need to tackle the issues head with their children.

“The emotional connection and happiness within the family can beat it (social media). So if there are problems on social media, children can get a second opinion from their parents.” 

Huda continued, “unlike Akbar, three people who went to Syria, they were looking for a ‘father’ figure. One was not close to his father, who is soldier, one of the boy’s father died and another was a victim of polygamy.”

Today Akbar has a different understanding of jihad.

Which he has proved through a series of achievements at school, various competitions and event in sporting competitions.

Akbar has also written his first book titled, Boys Beyond the Light, about how he was tempted to join ISIS but thought twice.

The book will be launched at the end of August.


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