I thought of religion as the way to find meaning, and after the first Bali bombing, I became interested in jihad. On reflection, I don’t think my involvement in the 2009 attack on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels can be separated from my interest in studying Islam.
I met with Islamist groups, and with more radically minded clerics. In 2005, I became acquainted with Syaifuddin Zuhri who began to directly mentor me. He gave tausiah, or religious sermons, and explained how his groups’ actions in the name of jihad were justified in religion.
‘There was a bond between me and Syaifuddin Zuhri. I was willing to contribute my energy, my money, my thoughts, everything to help him in his activities’
Soon Syaifuddin said he deemed me worthy to join in his plans to bomb those hotels. We carried out the attack on July 17, 2009. I was on the run for about one month before the authorities caught up with me.
Throughout my detention, I was stubborn and maintained that the attack was religiously justified. Some of those imprisoned with me did not agree with what I had done. The prison also invited several knowledgeable clerics to build a dialogue with us. I reflected on my actions. I came to understand that I had swallowed radical preaching raw before I had learned how to critically consider whether certain things were right or wrong. In Indonesia, there are no obstacles to worship; we are free. If a country is already safe why should I be trying to make it unsafe? I had attacked my own community, exploding a bomb resulting in the death of my fellow innocent Muslims.
When I got out of prison people around me were a bit awkward, and a little scared. But I had friends and NGOs who gave me advice and helped me. When there was a community service I could get involved with, I decided to join. By getting involved with the community, people started to trust me and see the change in me. They even trusted me to lead a prayer at the mosque. This had a positive impact on me.
I feel like we can prevent terrorism by consulting more ex-terrorists. We have valuable experiences and knowledge to share.