Archive for category Islamic state

The Amman Message and intra-Muslim peace

— Syed Farid Alatas
Malay Mail Online
February 1, 2016

FEBRUARY 1 — Hostility between Sunnis and Shiites has become a dominant feature of intra-Muslim relations today. Indeed, the first decades of the 21st century will be known as a period of protracted conflict between these two major denominations of Islam.

Twelver Shiites, who form up to 29 per cent of the global Muslim population, are in the majority in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq. They also constitute important minorities in countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

The history of Islam is characterised by numerous instances of violence and hostility between Sunnis and Shiites. The confrontations were often initiated by Sunni rulers and, sometimes, by the religious elite who were co-opted by the state. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘The Economist’: While Indonesia fights Islamic State, Malaysia politicises Islam

Malay Mail Online
January 24, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 ― Indonesian social movements are attempting to counter jihadist influence, but the Malaysian government has completely politicised Islam until there is little space for more peaceful interpretations, The Economist said.

In an analysis of the Jakarta bombings published yesterday, the London-based weekly publication noted that supporting or joining the Islamic State (IS) is not illegal in Indonesia, though the Indonesian government is considering preventive detention laws to curb terrorism.

“The country’s two biggest Muslim social movements — Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama — have been trying to counter jihadist propaganda.

“In Malaysia, however, the government itself has thoroughly politicised Islam, leaving little room for dissent from its harshest rules. A study last year found more than 70 per cent of Malaysia’s ethnic-Malay, Muslim, majority support hudud laws such as stoning for adultery. Another found that 11 per cent of Malays viewed IS favourably,” said The Economist in an article titled “After Jakarta.” Read the rest of this entry »

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What Indonesia Knows About Blocking the Islamic State

Joshua Kurlantzick
Bloomberg
January 20, 2016

Smart strategy has made the largest Muslim-majority nation a tough environment for the Islamic State.

In the wake of last week’s attacks in Jakarta, which killed seven people, fears are growing that the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world is going to be hit by a wave of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings. The potential for mayhem seems obvious. Indonesia’s open society and high social media penetration make it easy for young Indonesians to access Islamist sites and Facebook pages, and the Sunni Muslim insurgency has released several videos in Indonesian in an apparent recruiting effort.

Indonesia is a country of thousands of islands, with porous borders and many soft targets: The militants launched bombs and opened fire in broad daylight in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Jakarta. And Indonesians have fought in Syria and Iraq and returned. The Soufan Group, a consulting security consulting group, believes that at least six hundred Southeast Asians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and then come back to their home countries. Indeed, the alleged ringleader of last week’s Jakarta attacks, a militant named Bahru Naim, is currently living in Raqqa, Islamic State’s hub. Read the rest of this entry »

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Islamic State Eludes Southeast Asian Authorities With Telegram App

By NEWLEY PURNELL and RESTY WORO YUNIAR
Wall Street Journal
Jan. 19, 2016

Terrorist group using encrypted messaging app to recruit members in Malaysia, Indonesia

Communications app Telegram Messenger is in the spotlight after the deadly terrorist attacks in Jakarta last week, with experts in Indonesia and Malaysia saying Islamic State radicals in Syria have used the platform to recruit members from Southeast Asia.

The revelations underscore both the apparent popularity of the Berlin-based app among members of the terror organization and the challenges it poses to authorities in tracking its private, encrypted chats.

Malaysian police on Saturday said its counterterrorism unit last week arrested four suspects, three of whom were recruited to join Islamic State in Syria by a Malaysian national via Telegram and Facebook Inc.’s social-networking platform.

Telegram, which in November said it blocked 78 of its public channels across 12 languages related to Islamic State, was one of the first apps to explicitly cater to privacy enthusiasts after reports in 2013 alleging widespread surveillance by U.S. intelligence.

Islamic State has used Telegram, a free platform that can be accessed via mobile devices and desktop computers, to disseminate public statements, such as its claim of responsibility for the November attacks in Paris. Read the rest of this entry »

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Our politics created Malaysian Isis

– Saefullah Norhaidi
The Malaysian Insider
19 January 2016

I was recently in Kuala Lumpur when Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) carried out its attack in Jakarta, marking the entrance of a new terrorist movement, in the Southeast Asian region.

It is clear now, Isis wants its voice to be heard, its presence felt. I have no idea whether this has any connection to it, but that very evening, I saw police forces walking in the miscellaneous places we were walking around in Kuala Lumpur.

Now is definitely the time when governments in this region will start to become intensely vigilant and more vehement in deterring the harmful growth of Islamic radical movements in their respective countries. Read the rest of this entry »

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Indonesia Attack Brings Islamic State to Southeast Asia’s Door

Chris Brummitt and Rieka Rahadiana
Bloomberg
January 15, 2016

A deadly gun-and-suicide bomb attack claimed by Islamic State in central Jakarta shows the growing reach of the jihadi network from outside its base in the Middle East.

The assault on a Starbucks cafe and a police post in the Indonesian capital, while unsophisticated, was the first in Southeast Asia to be directed or inspired by IS, and follows months of warnings by security officials that its members posed a threat to the region.

“Paris in November, Istanbul this week and Jakarta today,” Hugo Brennan, Asia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said on Thursday. “This latest attack can be seen as further evidence of Islamic State’s increasing ability to inspire deadly attacks in cities around the globe.”

For Indonesia, which has more Muslims than any other nation, it was a grim reminder of the resilience of a radical fringe that has existed since independence. In the 2000s, militants linked up with al-Qaeda to carry out a string of attacks, the last in Jakarta in 2009 on luxury hotels, but have been under pressure from a concerted crackdown by security forces. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are UMNO Ministers and leaders prepared, 66 years after Datuk Onn suggested it, consider opening UMNO doors to non-Malays to become an inclusive Malaysian political party?

The pathetic statement by the Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak that fielding more Malay candidates in the next general elections does not make DAP a multiracial party is the latest proof of the narrow-minded and petty mentality of the present UMNO leadership, which is completely bogged down by the politics of race and the failure of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia Policy.

Malaysia is a plural society and the racial, religious, linguistic and cultural diversity of the country is a national asset and not a liability.

Malaysians will continue to be Malays, Chinese, Indians, Dayaks, Kadazan-Dusun-Muruts, Orang Asli or Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Taoists, Sikhs but the success of Malaysian nation-building will be measured by our ability to create an overarching common national identity where we are Malaysians first and race, religion, region and socio-economic status second – in othe words, where despite our racial, religious, linguisticm, cultural and socio-economic differences, we accept each other as Malaysians first above all else.

In this context, UMNO Ministers and leaders like Salleh Said Keruak should welcome DAP reaching out to get more Malay, Dayak, Kadazan-Dusun-Murut and Orang Asli support and emulate the DAP example to graduate from Malay to become Malaysian leaders instead of decrying such a development.

Is UMNO prepared to emulate the DAP’s example and reach out to all non-Malays and non-Muslims by welcoming them into UMNO ranks? Read the rest of this entry »

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To fight Isis, US should encourage moderate Islamic agenda in Malaysia, says report

The Malaysian Insider
15 January 2016

The US should encourage Malaysia to pursue a “genuinely” moderate Islamic agenda if it wants to thwart militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), according to a report titled “Indonesian and Malaysian Support for The Islamic State”.

The report, produced by the United States Agency for International Development, said Malaysia’s counter-terrorism efforts had achieved some success but was curtailed by government support for conservative Islamic interests.

It said Putrajaya’s right-wing bent, borne out of the need to arrest Umno’s declining support, alienated an important Muslim population that could have helped in combating the militants’ influence.

“At the broadest level, the US government should encourage and support genuinely moderate domestic Islamic agendas in both Indonesia and Malaysia,” read the report, published on January 6 and available online.

“In the Malaysian case, the moderate Islamic image it projects internationally is not reflected in domestic policy that is increasingly sectarian and hostile, not only to minority religious rights but also to progressive Muslim views.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Islamic State (IS) shocks for Malaysia in 24 hours

Malaysia suffered two Islamic State (IS) or ISIS “shocks” in 24 hours.

The first shock was when the Prime Minister said on his FaceBook yesterday that he is “shocked and appalled to hear that two Malaysians were reported to have been involved in suicide bombings by the Islamic State (Isis) militant group in Iraq and Syria, resulting in the loss of more than 30 innocent lives”.

Najib added: “Their actions and ideology have no place in Malaysia or Islam, and the Government is absolutely committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms and guises, both at home and overseas.

“We will spare no effort to find out how and why these young men were able to commit these atrocious acts, and will take all measures necessary to prevent others from doing so in the future.”

New Straits times (NST), in an “exclusive” report yesterday entitled “Malaysian suicide bombers kill 33” and sub-titled “’Martyred’: One blew himself up on Dec. 29, and the other on Jan 3” also revealed that a brother of one of the two suicide bombers died in a suicide mission on Sept. 18 last year in Bayji, in northern Iraq, during a skirmish with Iraq forces.

NST reported that the latest two suicide bombers brings the total number of Malaysians with IS (Islamic State) links killed to 17 – six who had served as suicide bombers while the rest died during battles.

What is shocking is that the Prime Minister seemed to be informed of these two suicide bombings by Malaysians for the first time from the NST report, although they occurred respectively on Dec. 29 and Jan. 3 – from one to two weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi Arabia has bigger problems than Iran

— Tobin Harshaw
Malay Mail Online
January 8, 2016

JANUARY 8 —Saudi Arabia’s feud with Iran over the beheading of a prominent Shiah cleric led to a lot of overwrought speculation about Sunni-Shiah tensions rising to tear up the Middle East. Those more steeped in regional affairs point to the other 46 men beheaded, almost all of whom were Sunnis charged with terrorism.

The theory here is that the execution of the preacher, Nimr al-Nimr, was less about provoking Shiahs than pre-empting domestic outrage over the deaths of so many Sunnis, who make up 85 per cent of the country’s population. The kingdom has rarely been concerned with domestic opinion in its 90 years of statehood. Does Saudi Arabia now fear unrest among the masses? Should it?

Outside of North Korea and the New England Patriots, few institutions are more opaque than the Saudi royal court. But over the last year, the first in the reign of 80-year-old King Salman, the famously hidebound monarchy has undergone a shocking and risky makeover.

Salman, who took over last January 23 on the death of his half-brother King Abdullah, was widely expected to be just a caretaker. Instead, he took care of business. Within months, he replaced the anointed crown prince with his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, the longtime interior minister. Yet he also watered down this new heir’s influence by dismantling the crown prince’s previously independent court.

The real winner was the king’s young son, Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who became deputy crown prince and gatekeeper to those seeking the king’s attention. The prince was named head of the new Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which took over many powers of the finance ministry, and was given control over Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil monopoly. (Yesterday, he suggested that the kingdom may consider selling a stake in the oil giant.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Iran, Emerging From Sanctions, Faces More Isolation After Embassy Attack

by Thomas Erdbrink
New York Times
Jan 4, 2016

TEHRAN — When a Saudi state executioner beheaded the prominent Shiite dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, the Shiite theocracy in Iran took it as a deliberate provocation by its regional rival and dusted off its favored playbook, unleashing hard-liner anger on the streets.

Within hours of the execution, nationalist Iranian websites were calling for demonstrations in front of the Saudi mission in Tehran and its consulate in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad.

The police, outmanned, looked the other way as angry protesters set the embassy ablaze with firebombs, climbed the fences and vandalized parts of the building.

Now, Iranian leaders are suddenly forced to reckon with whether they played into the Saudis’ hands, finding themselves mired in a new crisis at a time they had been hoping to emerge from international sanctions as an accepted global player. Iran might have capitalized on global outrage at the executions by Saudi Arabia, but instead finds itself once again characterized by adversaries as a provocateur in the region and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State find common ground in beheadings

By Adam Taylor
Washington Post
January 4, 2016

Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has faced recurrent criticism that its ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic law is not so far off from what is practiced by the Islamic State, an extremist organization that proclaimed its “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014. The criticism clearly irks some Saudi officials, who have threatened legal action against social media users who make the comparison with the Islamic State.

This weekend’s announcement that Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr was among 47 people executed in Saudi Arabia in a day has added considerable fuel to the fire, however. Saudi authorities have acknowledged that some of those executed were beheaded — a technique widely used and publicized by the Islamic State.

In just one sign of broader official outrage at the execution of Nimr, the website of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, released an image that contrasts the Saudi kingdom’s use of beheadings with the Islamic State’s decapitation videos. “Any differences?” it asks, showing a Saudi executioner with a sword standing over a kneeling man.

The idea that Nimr could have been beheaded will only inflame sectarian tensions in the Muslim world, with Shiites remembering the way that Husayn ibn Ali, the third Shiite imam, was beheaded by the Sunni Umayyad caliphate in the seventh century. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudi action “resets geopolitical chessboard” in Middle East, says expert

By Anakhanum Khidayatova
Trend
4 JANUARY 2016

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a Cold War via proxy, in its most recent manifestation, since the Arab Spring, in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and in other countries around the world through humanitarian aid and dawa (outreach), Theodore Karasik, the Middle East analyst and senior advisor to Risk Insurance Management in Dubai, told Trend Jan. 4.

“This Cold War entered a dangerous, highly confrontational phase in the past few days. The Kingdom, in mid December, prepared the steps for today, with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announcing a Sunni Muslim Alliance. With the Saudi execution of the “terrorist extremist” Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was the spiritual leader of Saudi Shiites in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, the sectarian divide grew immediate into a deep chasm”- he said.

The expert also said that Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim Alliance is now fully activated with the al-Nimr execution. Read the rest of this entry »

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European Sympathies Lean Toward Iran in Conflict with Saudi Arabia

by Sewell Chan
New York Times
JAN. 4, 2016

LONDON — In the days since Saudi Arabia inflamed tensions with Iran by executing 47 people, including a Shiite cleric, European observers have been quick to condemn the action, reflecting broader concern across the Continent about Saudi policy and its role in the tumult rolling through the Middle East.

Opposition in Europe to the death penalty — and harsh corporal punishment, including the flogging of a Saudi blogger who has become something of a cause célèbre in Europe — is just one element of the criticism of the Saudi monarchy. Even as European governments continue to view Saudi Arabia as a vital if problematic stabilizing force in the region, as well as a rich market for European arms and other products, European opinion has grown increasingly critical of Saudi support and financing for Wahhabist and Salafist preachers who have contributed to the Sunni extremist ideology that has fueled Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In addition, the European Union and six major world powers reached a deal in Vienna over the summer to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran is seen as essential to ending the five-year-old civil war in Syria, which has fueled a surge of migrants to the Continent, the highest number since World War II.

So for many Europeans, Iran — long a pariah because of its anti-Western rhetoric and its nuclear program — has suddenly become, at least in comparison with Saudi Arabia, an object of sympathy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iranian Protesters Ransack Saudi Embassy After Execution of Shiite Cleric

by Ben Hubbard
New York Times
JAN. 2, 2016

Iranian protesters ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday after Saudi Arabia executed an outspoken Shiite cleric who had criticized the kingdom’s treatment of its Shiite minority.

The cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was among 47 men executed in Saudi Arabia on terrorism-related charges, drawing condemnation from Iran and its allies in the region, and sparking fears that sectarian tensions could rise across the Middle East.

The executions coincided with increased attacks in Saudi Arabia by the jihadists of the Islamic State and an escalating rivalry between the Sunni monarchy and Shiite Iran that is playing out in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere. Sheikh Nimr was an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy and was adopted as a symbolic leader by Shiite protesters in several Persian Gulf countries during the Arab Spring uprisings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ramadi: Series of IS counterattacks target Iraqi forces

BBC
2 January 2016

Fighters from so-called Islamic State (IS) have continued to pursue counterattacks on the edges of Ramadi a week after the city was recaptured by Iraqi troops.

Most of the attacks were outside central Ramadi to the north and east, spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col Steve Warren, told the AFP news agency.

He said Iraqi government forces had so far successfully repelled every attack.

On Friday the group attacked a military base near the city.

The Iraqi government said a week ago that it had “liberated” Ramadi from IS. The jihadist group had held the city since May.

Col Warren said they had not yet seen IS “mass enough combat power to move Iraq off their positions”.

The BBC’s Thomas Fessy, who has just returned from Ramadi, says a tough fight continues in the city and government forces have been taking casualties. Read the rest of this entry »

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West Grapples for a Response to Islamic State

by Yaroslav Trofimov
Wall Street Journal
Dec. 31, 2015

Finding a strategy to defeat Islamic State will be the focus of political debate in the West

Feeling the pressure on its home turf in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State has taken the war to its enemies’ homes by launching terrorist attacks overseas—and promised more such carnage in 2016.

How to respond to the threat is becoming the focus of political debate on both sides of the Atlantic — with consequences that shape the future of the Middle East and the West.

In the main goal of terrorism — to terrorize — Islamic State has already succeeded. Security has become the main issue for the presidential campaign in the U.S., where a recent poll found that more people fear an imminent terrorist attack now than either right after Sept. 11, 2001 or any time since. France has lived in a state of emergency since Islamic State killed 130 people in November in Paris. In Egypt, the struggling tourism industry collapsed after the October downing of a Russian airliner.

This anxiety feeds, to a large extent, on a sense of impotence. A year and a half since the U.S. began military action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, leading a coalition of 65 nations, the extremist group has managed to retain the bulk of its territory while spawning new affiliates around the world.

The entrance of Russia and France into the campaign against Islamic State in Syria in recent months has, so far, produced only limited results. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ramadi residents describe their nightmare escape from Islamic State

By Mustafa Salim
Washington Post
December 31 2015

HABBANIYAH, Iraq — Residents of the Iraqi city of Ramadi who escaped the recent battle there are describing the horrors of life under the Islamic State and their relief at being rescued by the Iraqi army when it recaptured most of the city earlier this week.

Many of the families had made a brave dash for safety across the front lines to escape attempts by retreating Islamic State fighters to take them as human shields.

But the men who got away have now been detained by Iraqi security forces for investigation, in a reminder of the deep suspicion with which those who have been living under Islamic State rule are regarded by the Iraqi government. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Twitter really means for Islamic State supporters

Amanath Amarasingam
War on the Rocks
December 30, 2015

Abu Ahmad, one of Islamic State’s most active supporters online says he has had over 90 Twitter accounts suspended, but is not planning to slow down. He is a trusted member of what has come to be called the Baqiya family, a loose network of Islamic State supporters from around the world who share news, develop close friendships, and help each other when members get arrested or come under law enforcement surveillance. Abu Ahmad, as with all Baqiya members, agreed to talk to me on the condition that his real name and location not be published.

While Islamic State social media accounts used to flourish, Twitter has now been suspending the accounts of fighters and supporters alike. Scholars and analysts continue to debate whether this is effective and worthwhile.

For over two years now, I have co-directed a study of Western foreign fighters based at the University of Waterloo and have been interviewing — on Skype and various text messaging platforms — several dozen fighters and members of this Baqiya family. A few things are clear: First, while Twitter suspensions certainly disrupt their ability to seamlessly spread information, they have developed innovative and effective ways of coming back online. Second, these youth receive an enormous amount of emotional and social benefits from participating in their online “family.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum

Joseph Chinyong Liow
Brookings
April 2015

The recent emergence of an ISIS recruitment video featuring young Malay (possibly also Indonesian) speaking boys attending religious classes and engaging in weapons training in ISIS-held territory has caused a furor in Malaysia. Estimates of the number of Malaysian fighters in ISIS vary from between 60 to almost 150, depending on who you ask. The high end of these figures approximates the number of Indonesian fighters that are also believed to be in Syria and Iraq. Yet the population of Malaysia is barely one-tenth that of Indonesia. In other words, Malaysians seem to be joining ISIS at a higher rate than Indonesians.

This state of affairs is all the more perplexing given how often Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, waxes lyrical on the international stage about moderation and how Malaysia is the epitome of multi-ethnic and inter-religious harmony, as he continues to press a nebulous “Global Movement of Moderates” agenda.

What accounts for the appeal of ISIS in “moderate” Malaysia? Read the rest of this entry »

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