This Quiet, Island Boarding School May Be An ISIS Factory In Disguise

REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A boarding school located in rural Indonesia may be churning out radical jihadis.

Authorities believe that the Islamic State has more than 1,000 followers in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, and hundreds have gone to fight for ISIS in Syria.

At least 12 people — eight teachers and four students — from Ibnu Mas‘ud, an Islamic boarding school, traveled to the Middle East to fight for ISIS between 2013 and 2016, Reuters reports. Another 18 people with ties to the school have been convicted or arrested for involvement in one of several deadly terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

ISIS first attacked Indonesia in January of last year, detonating bombs in the capital city of Jakarta and firing on crowds in commercial areas. Four people were killed in the attack. Another attack, a suicide bombing, in May of this year killed several police officers at a transit station in the capital.

Ibnu Mas’ud came under scrutiny last year after ISIS’ surprise attack in Jakarta.

Indonesia is home to around 30,000 Islamic boarding schools like Ibnu Mas‘ud. While a spokesman for the school denied connections to ISIS, authorities state that some of these schools are tied to radical Islamic terrorism.

Ibnu Mas‘ud is located in the secluded little village of Sukajaya and is home to roughly 200 students from elementary school to junior high.

The nature of the country’s laws reportedly prohibit the counterterrorism divisions from cracking down on these schools. “Basically, it is not our domain, it’s the religious ministry,” said a spokesman for the deradicalization department at the national counterterrorism agency.

Ibnu Mas‘ud apparently never registered with the religious ministry, and the local government has struggled to get clear answers on the school’s studies. “We have no curriculum,” the school said, explaining that the focus is the study of the Quran. “We’re focused on the tahfiz, on memorizing the Koran, and the Hadith … We teach students about the Arabic language, about faith and the history of Islam.”

“Ibnu Mas‘ud ensures that Muslim children are preoccupied with efforts to understand their religion correctly so they become a generation that understands the religion and will fight for the religion,” the principal, who promotes the right-wing version of Islam known as Salafism, said in a video outlining the school’s purpose.

Some locals have asked the school to move, but the school is negotiating to stay.

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