Interesting. Hadn’t really thought much about this being an issue, but I can understand the concern. You would definitely want to be careful about your friends or acquaintances. If not because they’ll try to convert you, then simply that they might use an obvious traveler as an unwitting smuggler or transporter of goods. That’s always a problem (never carry something for someone you don’t know), but perhaps more so in countries currently involved in terrorist-like warfare. Students abroad are in a dangerous situation of being obviously naive, unfamiliar with local rules, and in a strange situation–it makes them vulnerable to being taken advantage of.**DB
A number of Asian governments – among them Indonesia and Malaysia – are concerned their citizens who study abroad in the Middle East could become exposed to Islamic State doctrine, or, due to the proximity of Turkey to Islamic State strongholds in Syria, could be recruited from Turkey.
Reports from Jakarta, Indonesia, suggest students returning home from the Middle East have been monitored by the Indonesian government for evidence of radicalisation.
However, a wide-ranging study of Indonesian students studying in Egypt and Turkey over the past five years has found the students are not being radicalised, even though many of them, particularly those studying in Egypt, are religious students.
The just-released report by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Australia in collaboration with the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Jakarta, examined the effect of political unrest in Egypt and Turkey, and the rise of Islamic State – variously known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh – in Iraq and Syria on Indonesian students’ views on democracy, religion, political leadership and terrorism.
“Religion is only one criterion by which they [students] judge political events,” the report’s authors said.
“What came through in this study, in common with others [other studies], is that people are not radicalised, by and large, in the Middle East,” said Anthony Bubalo, deputy director of the Lowy Institute, launching the report in Sydney, Australia, on 15 April. “People tend to go to the institutions and study with Islamic scholars that reflect their existing outlooks in Indonesia. They are not suddenly exposed to extremist ideology.”
Students saw events in countries like Egypt – such as the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 in what some called an ‘Islamist coup’ – as having “only limited relevance to the situation in their home country”, he said.
‘Firmly against IS’
Indonesia is particularly concerned about the threat from returning students, after major terrorist attacks by groups linked to al-Qaeda, notably the 2002 Bali bombing which killed over 200, including foreign tourists.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a shopping mall in Jakarta on 14 January that killed eight and injured two dozen.
From the research, and interviews with some 47 Indonesian students in Egypt – mainly at Al-Azhar University, an Islamic university in Cairo – and Turkey, “there was no sense at all that any of the Indonesian students would change the system they already have [in Indonesia] even though they were critical, in some cases, of the political system in Egypt”, said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Jakarta.
The students interviewed were “very firmly against Islamic State”, she said, noting Indonesians known to have joined Islamic State had not come from universities and schools in the Middle East.
“Overwhelmingly the people that have joined [Islamic State] have come from Indonesia and not from studying abroad,” Jones said. . . .