Online radicalisation has been – and continues to be – a growing concern in Southeast Asia, where internet use has surged in recent years and allowed many to connect with more individuals in search of belongingness and identity. Using popular social media sites, extremists have been known to find and communicate with vulnerable individuals, expose them to propaganda, and recruit them to join extremist groups, drawing them further into violent radicalisation.
In this episode of Pretty Good Podcast, author, filmmaker, and activist Noor Huda Ismail discusses the strategic online dissemination of extremist ideology in Southeast Asia. He zeroes in on how social media algorithms influence online radicalisation, and how using the same technology can help targeted individuals reintegrate back into society.
The episode is part of the Association for Progressive Communications’ (APC) Challenge project, with the aim of “challenging hate narratives and violations of freedom of religion and expression online in Asia”.
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- In 2008, Noor Huda Ismail established Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (Institute for International Peace Building) a non-government organisation that aims to respond to threats of terrorism by advancing a compassionate approach to the deradicalisation of former extremists. The institute conducts and publishes research to deepen understanding on peace and conflict; conducts capacity-building programs; and provides assistance to former terrorists and their families, children in networks of terrorism, deportees, and returnees.
- Read more about these initiatives:
- Noor Huda was also elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013 for his work to build a more humane means to reincorporate former terrorists back into Indonesian society. Read more in this profile.
- To help counter online radicalisation, Noor Huda created two platforms that aim to prevent vulnerable individuals from being exploited by extremists online:
- Ruang Obrol (Chat Room) is a community website that hosts chat rooms and articles written by deradicalised individuals from Indonesia sharing their personal stories. The website uses the same keywords or search words commonly used by algorithms that typically lead to online radicalisation websites. Through this approach, vulnerable individuals using these search terms are diverted away from extremist circles and instead directed to this website.
- Ruang Migran (RUMI), which means Migrants’ Space, is a platform for Indonesian migrant workers to chat and connect with other migrants, share challenges, and help each other while working in foreign countries.
- As a filmmaker, Noor Huda has sought to humanise the individuals who have gone down the path of extremism. In his films Jihad Selfie, Seeking the Imam, The Bride, and Radically Romantic, he explores stories of individuals from various social groups simply looking for connection and belongingness before being targeted by radicalisers online.
- How do notions of masculinity intersect with extremism? While masculinity has been used as a tool for recruitment in extremist groups, Noor Huda looks at the flip side and explores how this can also shape pathways to disengagement from jihadi networks. Learn more through the following articles:
- Beyond aiming to create change on an individual level, Noor Huda said that he is also aiming for structural change. To this end, he is working with Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who is involved in one of his films. The governor, who is running for the 2024 presidential elections in Indonesia, has recently faced controversy over his involvement in a dispute with the residents of Wadas Village located in the southern part of Central Java. The selection of Wadas Village as the location for andesite mining has caused unrest in the village, as local protesters against the land procurement project have been forcefully arrested. Learn more through the following articles: