Last updated on 12/08/2014 - 11:10
12/08/2014 - 16:00
COMMENT: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should take a leaf out of Indonesia's book and reaffirm Malaysia’s commitment against groups that promote religious radicalism.
While Najib had clarified his controversial call for Umno members to “emulate” the bravery of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the early days of the group’s uprising, the damage has been done as it was seen as an indirect endorsement for right-wing Malay-Muslim groups.
There are also Malay-Muslim men who are blinded by the prospects of "helping out" Muslims in need and more so, to fight and die in the name of Islam.
The growing number of ISIS sympathisers in Malaysia is certainly a cause for worry, according to a report by the South China Morning Post on Aug 11, quoting Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism division senior officer Datuk Ayub Khan.
Malaysian police have arrested at least 19 people suspected of having links with ISIS in the last seven months but the report quoted Ayub as saying that the "real numbers" of those involved are likely higher.
ISIS was set up to claim territories in Iraq and Syria but Ayub said that police intelligence has indicated there are home-grown followers of the Al-Qaeda offshoot looking to topple Putrajaya and replace the government with a fully Islamic government based on Syariah law.
"During questioning, they (the suspects) admitted one of their main objectives was to attack the government,” Ayub was quoted as saying by the English-language Hong Kong daily.
"They also discussed planning attacks against a disco, pubs in Kuala Lumpur and a Carlsberg factory in Petaling Jaya," he added.
Indonesia, meanwhile, announced an official ban against spreading of any teachings backed by ISIS last week as it was deemed to be going against the Constitution.
English daily The Jakarta Globe quoted coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs Djoko Suyanto as saying: “The government bans ISIS from developing in Indonesia, because it goes against the ideology of Pancasila, the unitary Indonesian nation-state and pluralism.”
“Every attempt to promote ISIS should be prevented, Indonesia should not be the place to spread [this ideology],” Djoko told a press conference after a special cabinet meeting chaired by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his office, accompanied by several high-ranking Indonesian government officials.
“The activities of ISIS and now IS (Islamic State, as the movement officially calls itself) have since the beginning been monitored by some ministries, (including) the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the National Police,” Djoko said.
It has now been a week after the announcement and Indonesian authorities are stepping up on follow-up preventive and corrective measures to enforce the ban.
Online portal Tempo.co on Aug 11 quoted Inspector-General Ronny Frankie, who heads the Public Relations division for Indonesia's central police headquarters in Jakarta (equivalent to Bukit Aman), as saying that authorities are increasing vigilance on the ISIS local network based on their own intelligence data.
This follows the reported arrest on Aug 9 of Afif Abdul Majid, an Indonesian ISIS member who also heads the Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, a radical Muslim organisation linked to cleric and terror convict Abu Bakar Ba’asyir.
Ba’asyir, from his high-security prison cell at the Pasir Putih penitentiary on Nusakambangan Island, Central Java, had together with 23 other prisoners reportedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS on Aug 4.
The Jakarta Globe on Aug 4 quoted Handoyo Sudrajat, the Indonesian penitentiary directorate general, as saying there is a growing list of Indonesian-Muslim supporters for the radical movement that has launched an ongoing extermination of religious minorities in areas under their control.
It was earlier reported that the ban was announced following discovery of an ISIS video, recorded in Bahasa Indonesia, which has gained traction in several cities after it was distributed online to recruit supporters from the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Media reports over the past week also indicated that ISIS has attempted to set up operations in Malang, Bima and Solo, among other cities in Indonesia, but were met with backlash by a majority of local residents.
Apart from cracking down on the ISIS movement in Indonesia, authorities are also monitoring Indonesians who plan to travel to conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East and South Asia, preventing them from taking part in what they believe to be a “jihad to defend Islam”.
Unlike in Malaysia where authorities are often seen to pass the buck to each other when handling cases that touch on racial-religious sensitivities, the coordination between ministries and enforcement agencies in Indonesia is something which must be commended.
ISIS has been on a quest to form an “Islamic state” but its actions, senseless attacks on minority communities and destruction of purportedly non-Islamic structures are far from Islamic.
Rather than waste time mulling a proposal to censor the Internet following incidents of alleged abuse, Malaysian authorities should send a clear signal that there is no place for racial-religious radicalism of any kind in Malaysia.
The Federal Constitution should be upheld as a guide for all Malaysians and there must be no tolerance for any movements that go against its provisions.
~ The Ant Daily