08/05/2014, 00.00
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Storm breaks out over minister's failure to block pro-ISIS video

by Mathias Hariyadi
Pro-Islamist Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring finds himself in hot water. President Yudhoyono and the country's security chief call for drastic measures to stop extremist propaganda. Indonesian fundamentalists continue to recruit candidates for jihad in the Middle East.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Indonesia is caught up in a political storm after Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring failed to respond to requests to block a video in support of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) that has been online for weeks.

After the outcry from moderate Muslim groups and members of civil society, government officials, senior military officers and even outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono addressed the issue in the past few hours.

Most Indonesians are outraged by the minister who in the past promoted a 'holy war' against online pornography. Many believed that his failure and reluctance to act are not so veiled signs of support for Sunni extremist militias.

The video on YouTube shows an Indonesian Islamic fighter (who calls himself Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi) calling on "the brothers and sisters of the Muslim country" to join ISIS to create an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East. Then, he says in Indonesian, "we will have a Caliphate even here."

The video is a source of great concern in the Asian nation. According to the latest information, it seems that its author is a local terrorist, long sought for acts of violence in Poso (scene of sectarian clashes and targeted attacks against Christians, including the barbaric killing of three female students in October 2005).

Minister Tifatul Sembiring has been in politics for a long time. He is the former head of the pro-Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), known for its "inconsistent" and "contradictory" policies in the fields of public morals and behaviour.

In fact, while supporting the values ​​of honesty and good governance, its members (including Lufti Hassan) have been guilty of corruption and malfeasance.

Compared to the total war against pornography and scantily clad women that offend Islamic morals, the fight against international Islamic terrorism has been unimpressive.

Last night, President Yudhoyono personally addressed the issue during a cabinet meeting where he openly criticised Sembiring for doing nothing in two weeks to stop the online video.

In recent days, a spokesman for the minister stated that, in order to stop the video, a public outcry was needed as well as a demand for action by the judiciary and police.

This is why security head Djoio Suyanto and Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin intervened yesterday with an "official request" to ban the pro-ISIS video.

The president himself sought the same thing when he ordered the minister of Communications and Information to follow up the information provided by the government and the judiciary.

This became necessary by the fact that a growing number of Indonesian extremists - mostly in their 20s and 30s and from Solo (Central Java), as well as East Java, West Nusa Tenggara, Bengkulu and Lampung - seem willing to leave the country to join the jihad in the Middle East.

They start with a student visa or for humanitarian reasons, said chief of police General Sutarman, and when they return to their homeland, they "could set up new terrorist cells."

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