By Lim Sue Goan
July 01, 2014
Malaysian youths are taking part in jihad in Syria, even becoming suicide bombers, while the police have arrested 19 armed terrorists in the country. This is without a question a huge irony to the country's advocacy for a "global moderation movement."
If we are really a moderate country, why on earth are there so many armed terrorists in this country? These militants are moving around us. Is our country slowly becoming a hotbed for international terrorism?
It has been reported that more than 100 Malaysian youths have already taken part in the holy war in Iraq and Syria, although the Malaysian police have squarely refuted, saying instead the number is just around 20.
The question is not so much about the number of people involved, but why so many Malaysian youths still believe in "jihad" and would join an armed militant organization in the like of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)?
Neither have these youths been under any form of oppression or starvation threat. They lack no material supplies. Why then should they believe they will be rewarded 700 times over for sacrificing their lives on the battleground? This highlights a huge disparity between their realistic lives and the religious teachings they have been fed on.
According to a report, one such Malaysian youth drove an ammunition laden military truck towards the Iraqi police headquarters on May 16, and was instantly killed to become the first suicide bomber from Malaysia.
If these youths later decide to return to Malaysia, it is very likely they will bring home their extremist beliefs and terror warfare tactics, and this is poised to disrupt the social and religious harmony we have been enjoying thus far.
As a matter of fact, foreign terror outfits have set their sights on Malaysia since many years ago, given our religious environment, trying to set up an operation base in the country. For instance, Jemaah Islamiah which master minded the Bali bombings in 2002, has planned several terror attacks on the country but their attempts were foiled.
After a quiet intermission for several years, both Jemaah Islamiah and the residual members from the Malaysian jihadist movement have recently become active again, catalyzing the formation for four new terror outfits.
The activities of these outfits have not only poisoned the minds of our youngsters, but also our military. Among the 19 ISIL-related terrorists rounded up by the police were some naval and security personnel. If even these disciplinary forces have been breached, some of the country's confidential intelligence could be at stake.
In addition to terror outfits originating from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Malaysia also comes under the threats from the Sulu terrorists of southern Philippines who are perpetually on the prowl for an opportunity to strike. Among the six suspected Sulu terrorists recently arrested by the Malaysian police in Kunak, Sabah, one was reported to be a police corporal.
The religious factional conflicts in the Middle East have intensified the extremist religious sentiments in this country. If this is not stopped or blocked, it will impact the whole Muslim community.
While the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) and the Mufti have issued guidelines to the Muslims in the republic, explaining the situation in Syria, their Malaysian counterparts have been slow to act, such that even former prime minister Tun Mahathir has urged religious scholars to state their views on Malaysians suicide bombers.
It is imperative for the authorities to block the infiltration of terrorism from different approaches, including stepped up monitoring of Internet, students studying in the Middle East, religious education in the country, community environment as well as any suspicious foreigners.
Next, interfaith dialogs should be re-initiated. Malaysia's pluralism and cultural diversity are our strengths in promoting moderation. Unfortunately, after the last dialog of civilizations in the 1990s, we have allowed extremist thinking to flourish.
Such a dialog helps eliminate our mental myths while cultural interaction removes radical thoughts.
Acts of extremism must never be condoned by politicians for the sake of their own political gains. More and more people are beginning to believe that the extremists are wrong, and such wrongful concept will eventually lead to more terrorism.
At the same time, religious rivalry, including the issue on the implementation of Hudud law, will also have catalytic functions on terrorism. Malaysia should firmly embrace secularism to ensure long-lasting social harmony and peace.
From Jemaah Islamiah to ISIL, the ultimate goal of these terrorists has been the establishment of a '"super Islamic state."
To be a truly moderate country, we need to display traits of moderation. The presence of terrorists definitely does not augur well for a moderate country.