Nine months after the glowing and laudatory tribute paid by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to Islamic State, even urging UMNO members to emulate the courage and dedication of Islamic State (IS) fighters, the nation was yesterday given the most grim and bleak picture about the threats posed by Islamic State and Islamic extremists in the country.
And this “grim and bleak picture” of the threats to Malaysia posed by IS and Islamic extremists did not come from the Prime Minister himself, or the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi or the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, but by the Bukit Aman’s counter-terrorism director Datuk Ayub Khan Mydin at the first special briefing for civil servants where said that evidence gathered so far of Malaysian involvement in the Islamic State (ISO) has led the police to believe that attacks by the groups on Malaysian soil is imminent.
Ayub said it “was just a matter of time” before an attack is launched.
“It is not a matter of if we will be attacked but when,” he declared.
The counter-terrorism director also revealed that Malaysian IS members have made direct threats to attack Malaysia, including plans to bomb entertainment spots as part of its plan to “punish” Malaysia for being an “apostate” country.
“They view us as apostates. First they deem us bidaah (deviant), then they say we are apostates and then then next thing is to say our blood is halal,” Ayub revealed.
He said one such plan was uncovered by the police last April.
Ayub presented evidence at the briefing to support his claim but the details were barred from public disclosure.
To date, there are an estimated 63 Malaysians in Syria fighting with the IS.
On top of that, as many as 240 Malaysians have been identified and were arrested from 2001 to 2009 for links to Jemaah Islamiyah, a group with an extensive network in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern Philippines that has professed support for the IS.
“And these groups have already announced a few times that they will launch an attack on Malaysia and we have so far been lucky that no lives are lost as yet,” the counter-terrorism director said.
Ayub later said Malaysians are drawn to the IS ideology that those who fight with them are guaranteed a place in “jannah” (heaven) and that those who go against them are considered as apostates that Islam ordains to kill.
He added that this has driven them to believe that their own country is a part of an international conspiracy by infidels bent on preventing the rise of the Islamic caliphate as supposedly promised by Prophet Muhammad.
“They really view us as infidels. And they believe that as infidels, we deserved to be sembelih(decapitated),” he said, pointing to one Facebook threat made by a Malaysian IS member who said that he would not hesitate to murder his own family members if they too supported the government’s fight against the IS.
The question that cries out for answer is why Members of Parliament, whether from Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, who had all taken the oath of an MP to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution, had not been briefed on the updates of the threats from Islamic State and Islamic extremism?
When did the threats from Islamic State and Islamic extremism in Malaysia suddenly become so grim and bleak?
A month after Najib’s faux pas of making a glowing and laudatory tribute to Islamic State, the Home Minister gave an assurance to Malaysians that the IS threat was under control.
He said the “militant groups” were trying to band together as a single “terror coalition” but they will not succeed in Malaysia as the authorities will not allow these groups to gain a foothold in Malaysia.
But from the account of the Police Anti-Terrorism Director, it would appear that IS and the auxiliary “militant groups” had succeeded in gaining a foothold in Malaysia.
Parliament and the Malaysian people are entitled to a full explanation why the police counter-terrorism campaign had failed to prevent IS and Islamic extremists from gaining a foothold in Malaysia.
With such a “grim and bleak” account of the threats posed by Islamic State and Islamic extremists to Malaysia, it is all the more regrettable that the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had been barking up the wrong tree in the past year or so – twittering his attacks on Pakatan Rakyat leaders, NGO and civil society activists who want to bring about political changes through peaceful and democratic means but who completely renounce the tactics and strategy of terrorism.
The IGP should on top of the war against terrorism in Malaysia as represented by IS and Islamist extremists, and not on top of the war against PR leaders, NGO and civil society activists who want to effect peaceful and democratic change.
The battle against Islamic State and Islamic extremists espousing terrorism is not just the presentation and enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and other terrorism-related bills in Parliament, for as Ayub Khan has rightly pointed out, this is finally an ideological war and equally if not more important are the role and success of the government and all agencies in educating Muslims about the threat of IS and Islamic extremism.
The whole subject of the war against terrorism, not just the anti-terrorism laws but also the ideological battle to win the hearts and minds of Muslims for a moderate Malaysia in the face of the threats from Islamic State and Islamist extremists, cannot be won purely as a police operation but must involve all levels of society, including a bi-partisan Parliamentary Select Committee against terrorism.
The Home Minister, Zahid Hamidi, should defer the seven anti-terrorism bills scheduled for Parliament debate and enactment next week to the next parliamentary meeting starting on May 18.
In the meantime, a Parliamentary Select Committee on Terrorism should be set up next week to study not only the seven proposed anti-terrorism bills, but to delve into the whole subject of terrorism with greater depth, with assistance from the Police Anti-Terrorism Unit, and submitting a report to Parliament not only on the seven proposed anti-terrorism bills but the whole subject of the threat of IS and Islamic extremists before the next meeting.
The spate of anti-terrorism bills must serve two objectives:
• Firstly, to be an effective instrument in the fight against the threats of Islamic State and Islamic extremists in Malaysia;
• Secondly, to ensure that dissent which are completely unrelated to terrorist threats of Islamic State or Islamist extremist or any form of terrorism do not fall victim because of the wide ambit and arbitrary powers conferred, which are not open to judicial review or parliamentary scrutiny.
A Parliamentary Select Committee on the seven terrorism laws would also provide opportunity for a fuller study to address the doubts and concerns that non-violent and peaceful dissidents would also be targeted under the new anti-terrorism laws.