Malaysia ramps up fight against ISIS

Malaysia ramps up fight against ISIS
Jakim’s Jihad Concept Explanation Action Committee aims to stem the spread of deviant ideology by addressing the misconceptions of jihad through various anti-terrorism activities on campus. Seen here is a student studying the Quran in the women’s quarters of Madrasah Ad-Diniyyah Al-Bakhriyyah in Kota Baru, Kelantan.

Malaysia's Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has set up a committee that will fight the spread of terrorist ideology by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in schools, universities and the Internet.

The committee will come up with a clear plan of action to address misconceptions about jihad, or holy war, as police investigations and analysts showed that militants were luring young people with their ideology of jihad.

"Having free access to information and following their emotions are some of the reasons that students are vulnerable to the militant doctrine, so we are working to clarify the true meaning of jihad to them," Jakim director-general Othman Mustapha told The Star in an interview published yesterday.

Last month, The Straits Times reported on an ISIS video, titled Education In The Caliphate, which depicted Malay-speaking boys studying, praying, eating and undergoing defence and weapons lessons in territory held by the militants.

The group also uploaded "exclusive" photos of students at the Abdullah Azzam academy, which uses Malay as a medium of instruction and was set up for the children of South-east Asian fighters.

Jakim's Jihad Concept Explanation Action Committee is made up of representatives from six agencies: the Home Ministry's Malaysian Civil Defence Department, the Prime Minister Department's National Security Council, Royal Malaysia Police, Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim), Al-Hijrah Media Corp and Institute of Islamic Strategic Research Malaysia (Iksim).

Its primary focus will be varsities across the country and it will identify student leaders to address the misconceptions of jihad through various anti-terrorism activities on campus.

"We are also trying to reach out to the young through takmir (official) and dakwah (religious preaching) programmes at mosques and surau (prayer halls)," Datuk Othman said.

"It is the youth who are most vulnerable, as they are the biggest users of new media and technology... If this is not nipped in the bud, it can grow into a cancer affecting the country's multi-ethnic harmony and national security," he added.

However, some analysts think the problem lies elsewhere.

"The problem is not with the students but the lecturers who bring radical and extremist ideologies into campuses.

They are the ones who are actually propagating (the ideologies) and recruiting new members on campuses," said political analyst Mohd Azizuddin Sani.

Dr Wong Chin Huat, political and social research head at the Penang Institute, a think-tank, said anti-terrorism measures will continue to fail as long as politicians and the authorities continue to propagate the perception that Muslims in the country are under threat from other communities.

Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a social anthropologist, said Jakim's new anti-terrorism campaign would face a similar fate as its previous programmes where the outcome was not made public.

This article was first published on April 20, 2015.
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