Jihad Selfie: “Listening to the other side”
A film screening and talk
Noor Huda Ismail
Writer and producer of Jihad Selfie and Independent Terrorism Researcher
Globally, we have been seeing increasing numbers of people from different parts of the world joining the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Noor Huda Ismail wanted to understand how these people, especially boys, were being recruited to join ISIS and then to willingly leave their homes for Syria, and to kill themselves and others in the name of religion.
By chance, he met one of these boys who wanted to join ISIS in Turkey. At a kebab stall in Kayseri in June 2014, he bumped into 16-year-old Akbar Maulana from Aceh. Two of Akbar’s school friends, also from Indonesia, had joined ISIS. They were recruited online via social media.
Huda continued to follow Akbar and documented his life as he considered following in his friends’ footsteps to become an ISIS fighter. Akbar’s story became one of the main narratives in the recently released documentary, Jihad Selfie, written and produced by Huda.
Radicalism is an extremely complex issue. It is influenced by various issues, ranging from the war in Syria, repressive political systems and lack of education in critical thinking, to poverty and issues of identity. From listening to “the other side” and thus understanding stories like Akbar’s, Huda is convinced that using a security approach is not enough to counter terrorism.
After screening Jihad Selfie, Huda will discuss not only “the other side’s” narrative propelling youths to join ISIS, but also draw from his own efforts to re-integrate former extremists in Indonesia to discuss how individuals, families and societal groups can counter the cycles of violence.
About the Speaker:
Noor Huda Ismail founded and established the Institute for International Peace Building in Indonesia (IIPB) in 2008. Prior to that, he worked as a special correspondent for the Washington Post Southeast Asia Bureau from 2002-2005, before leaving for St Andrews University, Scotland to study for a Masters degree in International Security on a Chevening Scholarship awarded by the British Government in 2005.
Through the IIPB, Huda runs programmes to reintegrate former political violence activists back into mainstream Indonesian society. The IIPB has also been empowering women who were directly affected by violence in post conflict areas such as Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Ashoka, a global social entrepreneur organization named Huda an Ashoka Fellow in 2013 for his social innovation in civic engagement.
His book, My friend, the terrorist? (Mizan 2010), was selected for the Frankfurt International Book Festival 2015. The book is part memoir, where Huda discusses his formative years studying in an Islamic boarding school, Al Mukmin Ngruki. It was at Ngruki where he befriended a boy who later became one of the 2002 Bali bombers.
Huda’s recent documentary film, Jihad Selfie, has been screened in more than 80 venues in Indonesia and other countries since its premiere in Geneva in June 2016.
Huda’s commentaries have appeared in a number of media outlets such as the Washington Post, The Rolling Stones, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Straits Times, The Jakarta Post, Tempo Magazine, Kompas, and The Conversation. He is also regularly interviewed on air by Indonesian TV stations Metro TV and TV One, and international news programmes ABC, SBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and CNA.
He has also given a TEDx Talk in Hong Kong and a series of public lectures in the US, Australia, UK, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. He is now working closely with Google on using technology to counter the spread of violence ideology.
Huda is currently working on a PhD thesis on the Indonesian foreign fighters, hegemonic masculinity and globalization at Monash University on an Australian Award Scholarship