16:59 GMT01 March 2021
Listen Live
    Get short URL

    Southeast Asia has long endured radical Islamists infiltrating the region to open up bases for training, funding and deploying terrorists for attacks around the globe. But Malaysia has mainly kept terror at bay and for good reasons. Tom McGregor takes a closer look.

    By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor, based in Beijing

    Amid the imminent collapse of the Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in the Middle East, terrorists aligned with the movement are fleeing the region and have started to re-coordinating efforts in spreading jihad to other parts of the world.

    An increasing number of terrorist incidents have ensued, particularly in Europe, Africa, and the United States, while a crucial target remains Southeast Asia, as some countries in the region, especially the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, have gotten mired in full-blown Islamist militant insurgencies.

    Well, many devout Muslims reside in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, but Kuala Lumpur has achieved some success to prevent terrorism nationwide on a rampant scale.

    Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015

    Kuala Lumpur has worked closely with other governments — Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, and Bangkok — to establish cross-border counter-terrorism networks to share intelligence and work with law enforcement agencies to crack down on international criminal organizations, such as Daesh and Abu Sayef Group (ASG).

    Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation, but many here endorse peace and harmony among different religions, while its government has taken a tough stand against jihad.

    Kuala Lumpur enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 2015 to ensure public safety with strict enforcement to inhibit the breeding of terrorist organizations.

    Yet, Malaysia’s Special Branch of Counter Terrorism, led by the country’s top police chief, Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi, has not completely ridden the nation of violence.

    Foiling a Beer Fest Blast

    Police Chief Fuzi held a press conference on Tuesday to announce that explosive devices, known as IEDs, were seized last week and eight suspects were arrested for allegedly planning an attack on an upcoming beer fest in Kuala Lumpur.

    Shortly after the police raid, the government canceled the "Better Beer Festival" from going forward. Some critics claimed the cancellation was an effort to placate to radical Islamists seeking to impose sharia law on the nation.

    Nevertheless, Fuzi dismissed such concerns, explaining “legitimate security threats” had been exposed. 

    "We (Malaysian Police) want to reveal (the evidence) and rebut that we are creating stories to create fear," ChannelNewsAsia quotes Fuzi as saying. "If the IEDs had gone off at the beer fest, I don’t know how many victims would have suffered the impact."

    Rooting out terror operations bases

    Meanwhile, foreign-born terrorists believe Malaysia is fertile ground to install bases deep in the jungles, such as in the Kelantar state, northeast Malaysia, but police forces have launched a series of raids this year to slowdown their activities.

    From January to Oct. 6, 2017, the Straits Times reports that 45 foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) have been arrested. Law enforcement officials had captured intelligence from Daesh, which instructed its agents to infiltrate other countries to launch more attacks.

    "We also discovered cooperation between Daesh and other terrorist groups, including the ASG and Bangladesh group — Jamaatul Mujahiden."

    The ASG was planning attacks in Malaysia and abroad, while they had also set up operations bases with other terrorist organizations to seek shelter, raise money, coordinate planning, as well as train and deploy would-be terrorists for future missions across the globe.

    A few Malaysians have already moved on to the Philippines to support ASG terror networks in Mindanao.

    Receiving a PhD in Jihad

    In a disturbing pattern, a few Malaysian academics have joined the cause of radical Islamist militancy and using their expertise to help them engage in money laundering, smuggling, and other covert criminal activities.

    According to ABS-CBN News, Filipino military forces are still on a manhunt to capture Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian, who was observed waving the Daesh black flag in the battle of Marawi last May.

    Dr. Mahmud, a former university professor, is considered to be the leading financier for the Daesh assault in Marawi and allegedly was acting as a money launderer and transporter of firearms, food and other supplies for Daesh and ASG terrorists in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

    Nevertheless, Filipino troops have largely stamped out the insurgency in Mindanao in recent months and Manila is expected to announce the lifting of martial law in the region, perhaps as early as next week.

    Curtailing Terror for Safer Tomorrow

    Malaysia has a large Muslim-majority population, but non-Muslims visiting or living in the country for business or pleasure have already witnessed its stability and peaceful surroundings. 

    "We Malaysian Muslims are different than some other Muslims you hear about," a Kuala Lumpur taxi driver told CCTV.com. "We are tolerant and do not condone religious intolerance, terrorism or extremism. We just want peace."

    The taxi driver’s words still ring true today and in all likelihood for the foreseeable future.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


    Filipino President Duterte Cancels Visit to Japan Amid Battle of Marawi
    10 Philippine Soldiers Killed in Friendly Fire Airstrike in Marawi
    Muslims Fleeing Jihadist Violence Shield Christians in Daring Escape from Marawi
    Daesh, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines
    Community standardsDiscussion