Archive for category Islamic state

The rise of Aman Abdurrahman, IS master ideologue

Rendi A. Witular
The Jakarta Post
January 25 2016

Unlike his contemporaries, cleric and terrorist convict Aman Abdurrahman has never seen war. He never fights along his fellow jihadists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria or in any domestic sectarian conflict.

But Aman’€™s preaching is so contagious that Abu Bakar Ba’€™asyir, the elder statesman of the regional terrorism network, has succumbed to his doctrine and authority.

Aman’€™s notoriety was recently extended with the alleged involvement of his followers in an attack targeting police and foreigners in a Central Jakarta district packed with shopping centers, embassies, the UN headquarters and government offices on Jan. 14. The attack killed four civilians and four perpetrators. Read the rest of this entry »

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Saudis and Extremism: ‘Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters’

by Scott Shaneaug,
New York Times
Aug. 25, 2016

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,” the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence. On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Analysis: Month of Terror During Ramadan Shows ISIS’s New Phase

by RICHARD ENGEL
NBC News
JUL 6 2016

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ISTANBUL, Turkey — Muslims around the world on Wednesday were celebrating Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. But this year, the end of the month of fasting brings special relief because ISIS turned Ramadan — a time of prayer, charity and self-restraint — into a month of terror.

The terror group used Ramadan as a rallying cry for violence.

But was the wave of attacks — from Turkey to Bangladesh, Baghdad to Medina — a sign of ISIS strength or weakness? The answer may be a bit of both. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Myth of The Islamic State

by Bakri Musa
2nd June 2016

Emory University’s Professor Abdullahi An-Naim was recently in Malaysia and commented on the current hudud controversy triggered by PAS leader Abdul Hadi’s private member’s bill in Parliament. I re-post my earlier book review of An-Naim’s “The Myth of the Islamic State” that appeared in October 19, 2008:

The Myth of The Islamic State

Book Review: Islam And The Secular State: Negotiating The Future of Shari’a, by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA
324 pp, Indexed, US $35.00, 2008.

Every so often I would read a book that would profoundly affect me. I have yet however, to get two such books written by the same author, that is, until now.

In 1990 I came across a paperback, Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law, by Abdullahi A. An-Naim. I do not remember what prompted me to browse through let alone buy the book. Its cover design was nondescript, and neither its author nor publisher (University of Syracuse Press) was exactly well known. But bought the book I did, after scanning only a few pages.

Despite being only 255 pages, it took me awhile to finish it. I have read it over many times since. It is not that An-Naim’s prose is dense (far from it!) rather that the ideas he expounds are breathtakingly refreshing. They also appeal to my intellectual understanding of my faith.

That book resurrected my faith in Islam. Brought up under the traditional teachings of my village Imam, I had difficulty reconciling that with the worldview inculcated in me through my Western liberal education. The certitudes that had comforted me as a youngster were becoming increasingly less so as an adult. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Syria to Malaysia: Tentacles of Terror Are Spreading

Phill Hynes
Frontera News
11.4.2016

Despite having Asia’s second-largest Muslim population, Malaysia’s contribution to Islamic State has gone largely unnoticed. That may be about to change – with potentially dire implications for the country’s tourism-driven economy.

Recently Britain issued a very specific caution to its citizens: Avoid all but essential travel to the island resorts off Malaysia’s eastern Sabah province.

Then, three days later, Australia warned of potential terrorist attacks in and around Kuala Lumpur.

Faced with a direct financial hit on its all-important tourism industry, the local reaction was to downplay. “Malaysia is safe from any threats including terrorism,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz. “There are no indications of an imminent attack on the capital”, assured Kuala Lumpur’s Police Chief Datuk Tajuddin Md Isa.

So what prompted two foreign governments to suddenly issue terrorism warnings in one of Southeast Asia’s most popular tourism destinations? Read the rest of this entry »

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Counter-radicalisation (3) – A disarming approach

Economist
April 2nd 2016

Can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?

ACCORDING to Peter Neumann, a terrorism-watcher at King’s College London, experience points to three common features in successful efforts to wean someone off extremism. He must already have inner doubts; trusted people, whether imams, friends or relatives, must be involved; and he must be offered an alternative peer group. He may also be more concerned with personal problems or geopolitical grievances than matters of theology.

Still, given that IS’s appeal lies in a perverse but seductive form of religion, some of the counter-argument has to be religious. How to persuade a jihadist, or somebody tempted by jihadism, that there might be better, and truer, ways to understand Islam than the murderous fanaticism of IS and similar groups? Read the rest of this entry »

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Counter-radicalisation (2) – Talking cure

Economist
Apr 2nd 2016 | NICE

France puts its faith in secular authorities to help fight radical Islamist ideas

IN THE 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, many attempts have been made to draw people away from the jihadist world-view, involving health, social and security services; national and local authorities; and secular purveyors of advice as well as religious ones.

Saudi Arabia lavishes cash on suspected terrorists who co-operate with its deradicalisation programme, setting them up with jobs, cars and even wives.

Efforts by Indonesia’s government have been intensive but snarled up in the wider problems of a corrupt prison system; as in many countries, local initiatives have done better than central ones.

In Western democracies schemes have targeted both those suspected or convicted of terrorist offences and those thought to be at risk of going down the same path. Read the rest of this entry »

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Battle of ideas: Counter-radicalisation (1)

Economist
Apr 2nd 2016 | VILVOORDE

In the first of three articles about Western countries’ attempts to counter Islamist violence, we look at a Belgian programme for disaffected Muslim youngsters

“IT WAS a time-bomb; merely a matter of when,” sighs Rafiq, a young man who runs a newspaper shop in Vilvoorde, just north of Brussels. Surrounded by papers with pictures of the bombers who killed at least 32 people in the Belgian capital on March 22nd, Rafiq says he is sure more will follow in their footsteps. “In Molenbeek it’s all out in the open. It’s well-known that terrorists live there. Here, it’s more hidden.”

Vilvoorde is less notorious than Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels that has become synonymous with jihadists and their sympathisers. Yet it has at least as troubling a history. Between 2012 and 2014 it is thought to have produced more recruits for foreign jihadist groups, as a share of Muslim residents, than anywhere else in western Europe. With a big Muslim population, and conveniently located on the AntwerpBrussels railway line, it proved an easy hunting ground for recruiters for Islamic State (IS). Security officials believe that 28 young locals had left for Syria by May 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

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ISIS, Malaysia, and the Risks of Lost Moral Authority

By Amy Chew
Diplomat
March 22, 2016

The Malaysian government may have lost its moral authority, but that doesn’t mean ISIS threats aren’t real.

Kuala Lumpur — A plot to kidnap a head of state by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a serious and worrying event, one that should jolt citizens into extra vigilance – but not so in Malaysia.

When Malaysia’s Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamid told Parliament police had foiled a plot by ISIS to kidnap the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, it was greeted with disbelief and ridicule by large segments of the urban population.

“ISIS wants to kidnap Najib? OMG! By all means do,” tweeted Syedsigaraja.

“ISIS wants to kidnap Najib? Netizens don’t believe you, Zahid. We demand proof,” tweeted AmenoWorld. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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