MEDAN–In 2015, Islamic teacher Khairul Ghazali founded the Al-Hidayah Islamic boarding school in order to educate the children of Indonesian terrorists.
Located in North Sumatra, currently hosts 20 boys between 9-15 years old, whose fathers are Islamic militants. Fishponds and vegetable plantations help fund the school.
Teaching from Example
As a former terrorist, Ghazali’s mission through the Al-Hidayah Islamic boarding school is particularly important. At only 17, he was recruited by Abdullah Sungkar, whose organization was responsible for the Bali bombings. Ghazali would eventually recruit new members and orchestrate terrorist attacks.
In 2011, Ghazali was arrested for masterminding a bank robbery in order to fund terrorist activity. Seeing the effects of his arrest on his children convinced him that his violent methods were detrimental to his cause.
While in prison, Ghazali began writing books in support of the police, including Mereka Bukan Thaghut, or “They (the police) are not evil.” After his release, Ghazali used money from book sales and tours to establish the Al-Hidayh Islamic boarding school.
Ghazali teaches his students that Islam is a religion of love and mercy, challenging the misguided ideology followed by the boys’ fathers. The school also shows support for the police and military, which has led the Indonesian military to support the deradicalization efforts of the Al-Hidayah Islamic boarding school.
National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT) Chief Commissioner General Suhardi Alius, interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, discussed the dangers of sons seeking revenge for their jihadist fathers. He cites Samundra, one of the participants in the 2002 Bali bombings, as an example. After Samundra’s execution, his oldest son became a fighter for the Islamic State.
To stop this cycle, the BNPT has invested in Ghazali’s school, even building its mosque. The military sees Al-Hidayah Islamic boarding school as a role model for other schools and wants to open more in the future.
The students are reported to behave like typical young boys, with a love for soccer and dreams of being law enforcement officers or religious teachers. This is a shift from mistrust in the military and the police. Though some still see their fathers as justified fighters for Islam, several students now see their father’s actions as ones they do not wish to repeat. The school eventually hopes to house daughters of militants and children with ordinary backgrounds.
Ghazali believes that Indonesia should be united under Islam and is using the Al-Hidayah Islamic boarding school as a means to teach his students peaceful methods to make this a reality.
– Cortney Rowe