Writing on the wall for 'terror school'greenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
John Aglionby Tuesday October 22, 2002 The Guardian
The long, thin placard above the entrance to the Arabic lesson classroom at the Al Mukmin Koranic boarding school in the royal city of Solo leaves little to the imagination. On the left is a picture of an ornately decorated mosque. Then comes the slogan, in Indonesian: "We enter the cottage to study. We leave to struggle." This is followed by a picture of a masked intifada fighter carrying a huge rocket launcher and staring down at a tiny tank.
Welcome to the epicentre of Islamist terrorism in south-east Asia. Or that is what the Australian, American, Singaporean, Malaysian and Philippine governments, to name but a few, appear to be convinced of and would like the rest of the world to believe.
They have little doubt that the school's co-founder, Abu Bakar Ba'aysir, is also the founder and spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional organisation that allegedly has strong links to al-Qaida and is the prime suspect in the October 12 bombings in Bali that killed almost 200 people.
A dozen of the alleged terrorists detained around the region in the last year were educated at the school and intelligence agencies see it as little more than a breeding ground for terrorists.
Except the Indonesian authorities, who until last week said they had no evidence linking Mr Ba'aysir to terrorism. Then, under global pressure to act, they suddenly acquired evidence against the 64-year-old cleric and announced they would question him on Saturday in relation to a series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000 that killed 19 people.
Unfortunately 12 hours before he was due to appear at the police headquarters Mr Ba'aysir suddenly collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
So the police arrested the Al Mukmin headmaster in his hospital bed instead, but have said they will wait until he recovers before they take him to Jakarta for interrogation.
The team of doctors said yesterday he will need at least another couple of days in hospital to recover.
About a dozen of his students are guarding Mr Ba'aysir around the clock just in case the police decide to sneak him out. But otherwise learning at the 30-year-old rabbit warren of alleys, classrooms, libraries, dormitories and mosques spread over 10 acres appears to be continuing as normal.
After only a few minutes in the school it is easy to believe there is substance to the terrorist allegations, or at the very least that the staff and 2,002 students have something to hide. Foreigners are denied access without authorisation from the police, a rule the police deny. But officers nevertheless meticulously copy passports and identity cards of all foreigners who enter.
The students guarding the front gate speak passable English and are extremely congenial.
But their backs straighten a little bit and they suddenly exude pride and determination as they pass the propaganda placards fixed to the walls in a mixture of Arabic, English and Indonesian.
"Stupidness is ghost of life[sic]", "We were born to lead" and "Discipline is the key to victory" were three examples.
Every so often a student dressed in dark blue, grey and maroon camouflage fatigues strolls past. Some wear sweatshirts from the school's nature lovers club, which somewhat disconcertingly has as one of its logos a pair of crossed Kalashnikov automatic rifles.
Others wear sweatshirts of a different extra-curricular club: the Cadre of Holy Warriors in the Path of Allah.
Despite the paramilitary and terrorist overtones, everyone at the school denies they are committed to anything other than the peaceful dissemination of the "real" Islam, the Wahhabi interpretation from Saudi Arabia. [Beginning to sound drearily familiar, isn't it?]
"This is our only weapon," said the deputy headmaster, Ustad Haji Wahyudin yesterday, grabbing a pen from his shirt pocket and waving it in front of himself like a conductor's baton. "If you're accused with words you should defend yourself with words."
However the students, a mixture of boys and girls aged 12-18 who come from across the sprawling archipelago, do admit to receiving martial arts self-defence training during their austere education regimen.
The day begins with early morning prayers at 3.30am followed by 15 minutes of Koran reading. There is then free time until breakfast at 6am and classes start an hour later. "The syllabus covers a totality of subjects," Mr Wahyudin said. "Languages, religion, history and the common sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology."
Formal lessons end at 1.50pm and then there is more religious education as well as sport. One Friday a month the pupils are allowed out into the alleys of Solo beyond the spiked front gate.
Class sizes, at 30, are 30% smaller than the national average but it is debatable how much learning goes on.
In an English class the teacher was drilling the students in an exercise that was hard to grasp and did not seem to be registering with the majority of the boys (all the girls are taught separately out of sight).
"Blue is the colour but my shirt is red colour," the exercise went. "Can you give me the meaning of [something indecipherable], unripe, half-cooked, foreigner, smell, cool, warm and also lonely?"
Mr Ba'aysir denies as slander all accusations that Al Mukmin is a terrorist training school. Earlier this year he was quoted as saying: "I make many knives, I sell many knives but I am not responsible for what happens to them."
Mr Wahyudin is equally emphatic. "As long as he has been here his activities have been only praying and teaching," he said of his superior. "There's no connection with terrorism. I too have never done anything to organise anyone to do anything [against the law]."
That might be the school's public face, but the government, in the wake of the Bali bombings and introduction of new anti-terrorism regulations feels increasingly confident about clamping down on radical Islamist groups, despite not necessarily having conclusive evidence.
So it might well soon be putting its own writing on the wall at the school. And it is likely to be much more terminal than inspirational.
-- Anonymous, October 21, 2002