ISSN 2477-1686

Vol. 8 No. 17 September 2022

Counting Impacts of Corruption on Radicalism/Terrorism



Any Rufaedah

Division for Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR), Universitas Nahdlatul Ulama Indonesia


Indonesia has fought against corruption for decades, as indicated by the issuance of the rule regarding Efforts to Eradicate Corruption (Langkah Pemberantasan Korupsi) in 1957 and established some institutions afterward (Harruma, 2022). Though the performance of the anti-corruption squad did not always meet people's expectations, in particular when the New Order regime took control of the government, efforts to eradicate this crime have always existed. In this reform era, this mission is led by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which was established in 2002, along with the Attorney General's Office. KPK has applied many strategies to halt the emergence of new cases both in prevention and arrest operations. A research-based journal, managed under the institution, has also been created to gather explanations about corruption from wider perspectives. Unfortunately, many governmental officials, and businessmen in many cases, do not seem to be frightened of the consequences of corruption. In the last three years, people witnessed multiple cases such as some of which involved state-owned insurance enterprise Jiwasraya, corruption by former Minister of Social Affairs Juliari Batubara, parliament member Azis Syamsuddin, Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi, Mayor of North Penajam Paser Abdul Gafur Mas’ud, and Regent of Langkat, North Sumatera Utara Terbit Rencana Perangin-angin. KPK also recently caught Pemalang Regent and rector of the University of Lampung, along with some other university officials. Moreover, the current “Sambo” controversial crime has sparked rumors about many corruption practices, including police-online gambling connection and unjustified promotion in the police department. 


Studies have examined the impacts of corruption on the economy, politics, and society in general; nonetheless, the discussions connecting corruption to radicalism and terrorism are relatively limited. Shayes (2015, in Piotrowski & Ingrams, 2016) agreed with it, stating that studies on how corruptions affect the emergence of radicalism and terrorism were quite rare. In Indonesia, the lack of attention to this effect is easily recognized, that when a corruption case was surfacing, the primary topics discussed was its impact on the economy, state image, trust crisis, and poverty. In fact, corruption has become a push factor to join extremism. How does it work? It can be tracked from one push factor: grievance. 


Studies on radicalism both overseas and in Indonesia, including those that used psychological approaches (e.g. Bindner, 2016; Duits et al., 2021) found that grievance has become one of the important factors triggering jihadism. An analysis by Dowd (2015) stated that Islamic terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Mali, Kenya, and Nigeria, were driven by grievance in at least four domains: economy, politics, perceived treated unfairly by government, and law inequality. Similar to the finding, research on Indonesian terror convicts also found that this factor encouraged the convicts, including Bali bombing masterminds, to carry out attacks (Putra & Sukabdi, 2013). They felt justified to terrorize the government because they were considered to have failed to build an ideal society. Crimes, morale, and corrupt practices within state institutions were used as examples to legitimize their terror acts. 


Corruption is like another proof of a failed governmental system, which is later used by jihadists to convince people to join their extremist groups. Timilsina and Okeke (2018) discovered the same pattern, that corruption is used as a “legitimizing tool” to validate extremist ideology and to recruit more people. They added that young people, women, and poor individuals are vulnerable groups to radicalism because they get impacted by corruption the most.


Reflecting on this impact, new perspectives on how to view corruption in relation to radicalism are highly required. Government officials, as those that potentially engage in corruption practices, should start counting the impacts of corruption on radicalism. They should be aware that when a security issue is rising, losses that will be suffered by Indonesia are doubled. In the economic sector, for instance, it can be a moderating variable that causes worse losses due to the due to decrease in international transactions. It does make sense because foreigners, both tourists and businessmen, will not spend their time and capital in an unsafe country. Leaders should start mainstreaming this perspective at their institutions, with the Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs leading the effort. 





Bindner, L. (2018, February). ICCT policy brief February 2018. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague. ISSN: 2468-0486.


Dowd, C. (2015). Grievances, governance and Islamist violence in sub-Saharan Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies53(4), 505-531.


Duits N, Alberda D.L., & Kempes, M. (2022). Psychopathology of young terrorist offenders, and the interaction with ideology and grievances. Front. Psychiatry 13:801751.


Harruma, I. (2020, February 19). Sejarah pemberantasan korupsi di Indonesia. Kompas. Retrieved August 29, 2022, from


Piotrowski, S. J. & Ingrams, A. (2016). Linking corruption with institutional failure, terrorism, and religious extremism. Public Admin Rev76, 360–363.


Putra, I. E. & Sukabdi, Z. (2013). Basic concepts and reasons behind the emergence of religious terror activities in Indonesia: An inside view. Asian Journal of Social Psychology16(2), 83-91.


Timilsina, A., & Okeke, J. (2018). Reducing corruption could help prevent violent extremism. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).