Sun, June 26, 2022


Urgent need to counter in-family radicalisation

The recent Surabaya bombings on churches and a police station highlighted the use of family members in terror attacks rather than “lone wolves”.

This is not new. The pattern is also found in the San Bernardino attack in the US in December 2015, which was committed by a married couple. The attacks against the Boston marathon in 2013, Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in 2015 and Brussels airport in 2016 all involved siblings. Brothers Ali Gufron, Amrozi and Ali Imron were executed for the 2002 Bali bombing.
Research published in New America in 2015 showed that a third of Western foreign fighters had family connections. In the case of 9/11 in the United States, 6 of the 19 hijackers were brothers. A study on the Italian Red Brigades in the 1970s  found almost 25 per cent of the terrorists were related.    
Familial-based radicalisation is not a random phenomenon. And the Surabaya bombing revealed that terrorism can involve all family members, including young girls.
Family members, as microsystems, can share religious beliefs and ideologies that they rarely question. Often, they see religion not as personal exploration, but as teachings that are absolute orders. A study on patterns of thinking in militant extremism revealed that violence  often starts with a strong feeling that the group one belongs to is under threat.
Being raised together and exposed to the same set of stories and ideology, siblings use moral and religious reasons to justify their feelings of anger and hate. Moreover, there is a feeling of trust due to a common upbringing – a bond that becomes stronger when you are doing something with someone who is intimate with you. 
These terror groups recruit women as often as possible, as they see them as playing a vital role in families and as having a large influence on shaping their children’s ideology. Keeping recruitment within the family makes it more difficult for security forces to detect attacks. Psychologically, high-risk missions require trust and commitment, which can generally be assumed within a family.
How do we tackle in-family radicalisation? The literature is still limited, but we can look to other countries.
Denmark has developed he “Aarhus model”, a policy to dissuade young people from joining Islamic State or Al-Qaeda by offering counselling  for those who have been radicalised. They conduct rehabilitation by involving parents, family networks, social workers and teachers,
Belgium has launched the “Mechelen model” with strong focus on prevention, in which policing and community dialogue go hand in hand. Unlike other cities in Belgium, nobody from Mechelen left to fight in Syria or Iraq.
The UK has its “Contest” prevention strategy based on four Ps – pursue, prevent, protect and prepare.
Indonesia, has no specific systematic programme to tackle in-family radicalisation issue yet. It is the right time for us to start developing our own counter-terrorism programme that is relevant to our context and needs.

JONY EKO YULIANTO is a  lecturer at Ciputra University in Surabaya

Published : May 30, 2018