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Long-term Al Zaytun employee links group to separatist movement NII

Jakarta Globe - August 17, 2023

Candra Kurnia, Indramayu – A former longstanding employee of the controversial Muslim organization, Al Zaytun, has come forward to assert that the group is closely associated with a broader separatist movement known as the Islamic State of Indonesia, or NII.

The NII is a locally rooted movement with decades-long history to differentiate it from the international militant organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al Zaytun, which operates a range of Islamic educational institutions, from elementary schools to a university, situated in the West Java town of Indramayu, initially garnered attention amid accusations of promoting an alternative interpretation of the Quran among its students. The group's founder, Panji Gumilang, was recently arrested by the police on charges of blasphemy.

The revelation connecting Al Zaytun with the NII was brought to light by Heru Kismanto, who claims to have served within Al Zaytun for 12 years.

Heru said that Al Zaytun functions as the headquarters of the NII, with all its employees being inducted as members of the separatist movement.

"The induction ceremony took place in Jakarta. Individuals assigned to work at Al Zaytun were carefully chosen, required to pledge allegiance [to the NII], making every single employee a member of the NII," Heru told reporters in Indramayu on Wednesday.

This disclosure followed Heru's participation in a government-sponsored deradicalization program, during which he took an oath of loyalty to the Republic, effectively renouncing his earlier commitment to the NII.

Heru said that he was already an NII member before joining Al Zaytun twelve years ago, and was responsible for overseeing a subdistrict of the movement's branch in Koja, North Jakarta.

The 53-year-old former employee asserted his involvement in the construction of Al Zaytun's educational facilities and offices in Indramayu from their inception.

"Working conditions within Al Zaytun became unbearable, demanding labor from 6:00 a.m. until midnight. After four years, the workday was reduced by just one hour," Heru recalled.

While admitting to the influence of NII principles during his tenure, Heru eventually chose to join the deradicalization initiative due to the NII's perceived deviation from the core tenets of Islam.

"The NII required its members to pledge allegiance, misinterpret the Quran, and even allowed theft from non-members," he stated, revealing his own involvement in the theft of a donation box and audio system from a mosque in Tebet, South Jakarta, which were later handed over to the movement.

Heru acknowledged his role in recruiting new members for the NII as well. However, he refuted allegations that Al Zaytun's students were being taught against fundamental Islamic teachings.

"These distorted teachings were primarily targeted at employees. The government can work to reeducate Al Zaytun students, but decisive action should be taken against all those affiliated with the NII," he said.

The National Police have transferred the case against Panji Gumilang to the prosecutors, with charges including blasphemy, money laundering, and corruption linked to government education funds.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/longterm-al-zaytun-employee-links-group-to-separatist-movement-ni