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The Translation of Radical Resources into Indonesian Language and The Problem of Radicalisation

The edited version of this article was published in Counter-Terrorist Trends and Analysis March 2012, available at

The Translation of Radical Resources into Indonesian Language and

The Problem of Radicalisation

Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Zulkifli Mohamed Sultan


Translation for survival

One of the activities carried out by Muslim radicals to spread their ideology is translation of various articles and books to Indonesian Language. These materials are then uploaded to websites and personal blogs to provide free access and redistributed for the masses. There is, in fact, an effort to establish an online library compiling various resources of radical ideology in the form of text, audio as well as video.

Among these efforts is a website known as Maktabah Al-Tauhid Wal Jihad, which models the largest online repository of radical materials, Minbar Al-Tauhid Wa Al-Jihad, which is dedicated to Sheikh Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, a famous and respected radical ideologue.

The Indonesian webpage of Maktabah Al-Tauhid itself consists of more than 100 books and articles translated from Arabic and English, making up thousands of pages from the works of almost 50 radical figures, leaders and thinkers. This amount of translated works, added to many other materials already lying across the internet, definitely shoots up the figure of such resources.

Five top figures whose works have been translated are:  1) Abdul Qadir Abdul Aziz, from Egypt, 23 writings; 2) Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, from Jordan, 17 writings; 3) Abu Mus`ab Al-Suri, from Syria, 13 writings, 4) Abu Mus`ab Al-Zarqawi, from Jordan, 12 writings; 5) Abdul Mun`im, 11 writings.

What is interesting to note from this effort in the pursuit of achieving an online library is that it is being done voluntarily. Radical activists who operate this site imitated the model of Wikipedia page, a free online encyclopaedia, which uses voluntary public contributions from the public.

Moderators of this website will only upload a list of resources which requires translation and later inviting anyone who is willing to do the translation voluntarily.

Apart from that, the website administrators also invite those who may have come up with their own translations to post their works to be uploaded.

This invitation generally gets good responses from the viewers. From the information gathered from the site, there are at least 4 individuals and 2 groups who are engaging actively and responding frequently to the invitation.

The results of these efforts are:

·        quick production of translated materials

·        mobilisation of skills and energy for the purpose of radicalisation

·        effecting radicalization at many levels i.e new recruits, sympathisers and hardcore activists

·        sustaining radical ideology and radicalization process in the society 

Insights for counter-radicalism  

This phenomenon has shed some light for counter-radicalism works.

Firstly, this vigorous act of translation shows that ideas matter for the radicals. It benefits them personally and also an important means of winning the sympathy of people and recruitment of new members. It is argued that the radicals would not have spent so many resources and efforts on ideational materials as demonstrated in their translation works, if they are not important to them, do not serve his cause or if there are no demands for them.

Secondly, radical groups are dynamic and creative ones. They always strive to overcome any challenges and take good advantages of any opportunity that comes in effectively to achieve their objectives. Thus, counter-radicalism works must hold the same traits. They need to observe the changes in the radical landscape and modify their response. Failure to do so will result in any policy that was formulated before this becomes ineffective due to counter-action by the radicals.

Thirdly, this effort of vigorous translation would not have succeeded without a pool of radicals that contribute to sustain and maintain radicalism at the worrying level.

Fourthly is the fact that resources in the Arabic language hold great value and influence among the radical groups.

Closing remarks

 Although translation activities represents only one aspect the radicals’ activities, it provides good data on the high level of their commitment and determination. This means there are still more to be done in fighting against radicalism in Indonesia, despite hundreds of radicals have been incarcerated before and increase counter-radicalism activities.

On this regard, translation of counter-radical materials from Arabic to Indonesian should be considered, especially the revisionist works of the leaders of the Egyptian Al-Jamaah Al-Islamiah and also Sheikh Abdul Qadir Abdul Aziz, a.k.a Dr Fadl, who are now the biggest critics of Al-Qaeda. It is worth to note here that the radicals are still distributing the old writings of Sheikh Abdul Qadir while ignoring his recent ones.

Thus far, the revisionists (former jihadists) have produced more than 25 volumes to explaining their past ideological flaws and also condemning Al-Qaeda. These writings have contributed to the effort of deradicalization which made a number of radical group members turned over a new leaf in Egypt, Algeria and Libya. The spread and distribution of these materials can pose big challenge to the radicals’ efforts as highlighted by this article.

Muhammad Haniff Hassan is an Associate Research Fellow and Zulkifli Mohamed Sultan is a Research Analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.


About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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