KUALA LUMPUR: Most of those caught for their involvement in extremist activities do not come from religious background, said Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"Based on the profile of the 75 persons caught so far, only 5 per cent have a religious background or come from religious schools.
"They may be looking for a shortcut to heaven," the Home Minister said after closing the Youths Reject Extremism campaign here yesterday.
He added that of the 75, most had expressed regret.
"They expected to go to a war zone and fight, but it was not like that," he said.
He added that his ministry had set up a special bureau to identify fabricated and false hadith to thwart attempts by the Islamic State and other militant groups to recruit Malaysians.
Dr Ahmad Zahid also expressed optimism that the proposed Prevention of Terrorism Act, which would be debated in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow, would be well accepted.
Earlier during the event, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said there were five major reasons why youths in Malaysia were turning to extremism.
The five reasons are the lack of a platform for youths here to be heard and to express themselves, socio-economic factors, the need to change the world, loneliness, and the injustices happening in other parts of the world.
"Much has been done by the Government but more room is needed to allow youths to share opinions and contribute to the country.
"They feel constrained and become frustrated and angry because they cannot express themselves," he said in his speech.
He said there had been 60 youths identified in Malaysia and 63 others who had already left the country to be part of extremist activities.
"The failure to secure jobs or salaries that don't pay enough as well as the quality of education that does not fulfil the needs of employers are also making youths to lose interest in their careers," he said.
Khairy, who is also Umno Youth chief, said a purely security or religious approach was not enough to fight extremism among youths.
"We need to look at socio-economic and psychological approaches as well," he said.
Programmes such as the Youth Parliament and the National Youth Consultative Council, he said, gave an opportunity for youths to contribute to the nation.
The Malaysian Youth Volunteers (MyCorps), he said, had been redesigned to allow Malaysian youths to go overseas to help their peers in terms of health, education and the general quality of life.
"My ministry has also started a programme called Project Angkat dan Upaya (Padu) to mentor 'high risk' youths identified by their schools and the police," he said.