10/17/2005, 00.00
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Police officers to study Qur'an and Arabic

Government wants to infiltrate Islamic schools, potential terrorist bases. Police Chief warns that tougher laws are needed.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian policemen will study the Qur'an to infiltrate Islamic schools so as to more closely monitor would-be terrorists. The measure is part of a wider strategy against Muslim extremism pursued by the government following the latest attacks in Bali that forced it review its anti-terrorism policies and build up the police's human capital.

Surakarta Police Chief Abdul Madjid has made it mandatory for all Muslims within the local police—both police officers or civilian staff members— to learn to read and write Arabic and to recite the Qur'an. Lessons will be held at police headquarters in the morning, from Monday to Thursday, for the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting, which is seen as a favourable time in which to pursue a deeper understanding of Islam.

The measure is designed to train would-be agents to infiltrate the country's Islamic schools which are potential bases for wanted terrorists.

Islamic schools are also thought to serve as terrorist training bases for Jamaah Islamiyah, a terrorist network blamed for bomb attacks in Jakarta and Bali.

Some Indonesian analysts view positively Madjid's initiative but are also sceptical about its effectiveness. In general, Islamic schools are weary of new applicants who are not recommended by former members. Proficiency in Arabic must be high and would-be agents must be familiar with the coded language Muslim extremists use to communicate among themselves.

In the meantime, Indonesian authorities are vetting new measures designed to avoid attacks like the one that killed 25 people on October 1 in Bali.

The Anti-Terror Desk, previously under the Ministry for Security, Law, and Political Affairs, answers directly to the President and can exert more practical powers than it did before.

"The new body is needed to guarantee speed in curbing possible threats," said Minister for Security, Law, and Political Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto, who also stressed the need to review the country's anti-terror legislation.

Police Chief General Sutanto also expressed great concern over the current law's weakness compared to Malaysia's and Singapore's Internal Security Act and the US's Patriot Act.

"I think we need a strong law that gives police full access to [. . .] any terror suspects. The police should be given the legal authority to hold any suspect at least a week for interrogation, not the current 48 hours," he said.

The general also complained about the slowness of the court system. "It takes three days before the police is authorised to take anyone into custody.   It's too long. We need a quick response to move in the real field".

Last week, Jakarta accepted Australia's offer of assistance to review its anti-terror laws.

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