Not only Malaysians, but our ASEAN neighbours and the international community are still digesting the implications of the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s dubious distinction of being the first advocate of Wasatiyyah and the first ASEAN leader to glorify the terrorism of ISIS which is regarded as too extremist even by al-Qaida.
When speaking at the 20th anniversary of the Cheras UMNO Branch on Monday night, Najib surprised not only Malaysians but our ASEAN neighbours and the international community when he said UMNO members could emulate the exploits of the Middle Eastern terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) which defeated an Iraqi force outnumbering it.
It is a measure of the success and charisma of the leader of ISIS, known by his nom de guerre Abu-Bakar Al-Baghdadi, that the Sunni jihadist group which started as an al-Qaida affiliate, has become the group of choice of thousands of foreign would-be fighters who have flocked to his banner which disavowed notions of statehood and national boundaries.
ISIS, which is so hardline that it has been disavowed by al-Qaida, now present itself as an ideologically superior alternative to al-Qaida within the jihadi community and has increasingly become a transnational movement to set up an Islamic caliphate with immediate objectives far beyond Iraq and Syria.
Najib’s glorification of the exploits of the ISIS terrorists is not only a matter of great concern for local Malaysian politics but for ASEAN relations and international affairs.
For local Malaysian politics, it has come at a time of the nation’s worst racial and religious polarization, with a relentless promotion of hate speech and the incitement of conflict and intolerance of racial, religious, cultural and political diversity in Malaysia when it should be Malaysia’s distinct and unique characteristics and strength.
What is worse, Najib’s glorification of ISIS terrorists was made on the same night of the morning threat by Perkasa information chief Ruslan Kassim to “chop off the heads” of those who insult the Selangor Sultan or insult Islam, in utter disregard and contempt of the rule of law, the maintenance of racial and religious peace and harmony in plural Malaysia.
Najib’s glorificlation of ISIS terrorists raises the question whether Ruslan and Perkasa can expect protection, immunity and impunity for blatant criminal threats in utter disregard of the rule of law and the maintenance of racial and religious peace and harmony in Malaysia.
The ASEAN and international implications are far-reaching, with the allegation by the Permanent Representative of Syria to the United Nations in a recent press conference that 15 Malaysian nationals who had joined ISIS had been killed in Syria.
It was also alleged that apart from Malaysians, nationals from other countries including several Asean countries, are also involved in such activities in Syria.
It has been earlier reported that a quiet 26-year-old Selangor factory worker Ahmad Tarmimi is Malaysia’s first suicide bomber linked to ISIS as he is credited with blowing up 25 elite Iraqi soldiers at Iraq’s SWAT headquarters in al-Anbar on May 26.
Reports state that Ahmad Tarmimi, who received militant training in Port Dickson at the end of last year, drove a military SUV filled tonnes of explosives into the SWAT headquarters, blowing himself up in the process.
The bombing preceded an attack on the headquarters by ISIS commandos.
The ISIS official website in a report entitled “Mujahidin Malaysia Syahid Dalam Operasi Martyrdom”, which featured his photograph and described Ahmad Tarmimi as the first Malaysian suicide bomber in Iraq, stated that the ISIS militants had seized a large weapon cache from the headquarters.
Wisma Putra has come out with a statement that “As a peace-loving country that practices moderation, Malaysia abhors and does not condone any acts of terrorism or extremism by any parties, including its own nationals”.
If so, Najib should explain to Malaysians, ASEAN and the international community why he is glorifying the “exploits” of the ISIS terrorists.