The clarification by the Prime Minister’s Office that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s remarks regarding the Islamic State in Iraq and The Levant (ISIL) had been taken out of context raises more questions than answers.
The PMO statement said ISIL was “mentioned briefly and in passing” and that the prime minister “in no way indicated any support for ISIL”. It said “any allegation to the contrary is completely false”.
The PMO statement stated:
“Indeed, the Malaysian government classifies ISIL as a terrorist organisation and we are doing our part to combat them, for example by arresting suspected ISIL members in Malaysia.
“The prime minister’s strong stance over many years against violence and extremism is on record and remains undiminished. The prime minister has called for a Global Movement of the Moderates, rejecting extremism in all its forms, and he will continue to advocate for moderation.”
The Prime Minister’s Office statement did not say how Najib’s reference to ISIL, which is more commonly known by the translation of its Arabic name, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), had been taken out of context nor did it attempt to place Najib’s remarks on ISIL in the proper and correct context.
Media reports about Najib’s remarks about ISIL seemed to be fair and straight reporting.
Najib had said at the dinner to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Cheras Umno: “For example, when someone dares to fight to their death, they can even defeat a much bigger team.
“As proof — whether we agree or not is another matter — the group ISIL with the strength of just 1,300 people, can defeat an Iraqi army of 30,000 soldiers, until four, five generals with three, four stars run for their lives, jump out the window at night.
“Why? Because they are afraid of those who are brave.”
Media reported that Najib had said this when he asked UMNO members to emulate the exploits of the Middle Eastern militant group ISIL, which defeated an Iraqi force outnumbering it, when outlining bravery as one of the six virtues UMNO needed to survive and flourish in the country.
How had the media report of Najib’s remarks gone “out of all context”.
Clearly, the Prime Minister’s Office was trying to deny the undeniable that Najib had glorified ISIL/ISIS terrorism which is regarded as too extremist even by al-Qaida – although Najib did make the qualification of “whether we agree or not is another matter”.
But this only raises the further question whether Najib is a secret admirer of the ISIL/ISIS jihadists?
Be that as it may, it must be recognised the Najib’s praise/glorification of ISIL/ISIS jihadists is a major faux pax for a Malaysian Prime Minister and one who had called for a Global Movement of the Moderates, advocating Wasatiyah to reject all forms of violence and extremism, whether political or religious.
Malaysians as well as our ASEAN neighbours and the international community want to believe that Najib is not a secret admirer of the ISIL/ISIS jihadists, but the statement by the Prime Minister’s Office trying to deny the undeniable is incapable of achieving this objective.
Let Najib himself state clearly and unequivocally what he really meant in his speech at the Cheras UMNO 20th anniversary on Monday.