Universitas Indonesia. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Universities in Indonesia are scrambling to find ways to fight religious extremism after National Counterterrorism Agency statistics show vulnerability in tertiary institutions.

Muhammad Vikri, a final year sociology student at the University of Indonesia, told Channel NewsAsia that he was lonely at the campus and needed friends. He said he wanted to learn more about Islam and a mentor has been guiding him in a religious study group, or “liqo”, where he made new friends.

Such study groups have come under scrutiny due to a rise in campus radicals in recent years. Three alumni of Riau University who allegedly plotted terror activities were arrested during a raid on June 2, The Jakarta Post reported previously.

Religious study groups in universities require intensive monitoring, including scrutiny of what kinds of topics and issues are discussed during their meetings, as some study groups could be a potential form of recruitment for extremists, said Dete Aliah, director of the Society Against Radicalism and Violent Extremism.

The National Counterterrorism Agency said university students are potential targets of external extremist forces.

The University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java has several student bodies in place to safeguard nearly 60,000 students on campus, with a mechanism that helps students report radical activities on campus. Fresh undergraduates in the university must undertake a nationalist education class set up as part of an effort to curb radicalism.

Anti-terrorist specialists said extremism has been in Indonesia for almost 30 years while recent arrests of extremists on campuses were cause for public alarm.

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