It’s had some military success, but the Islamic State is no existential threat

By Rosa Brooks
Washington Post
April 16 2015

ISIS -The State of Terror

By Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger

It is dangerous to underestimate your enemies — or overestimate them. The United States has an uncanny knack for doing both, often at the same time.

Take the self-proclaimed Islamic State. On the one hand, President Obama tells us that the group, also known by the acronym ISIS,“has no vision other than . . . slaughter” and “can never possibly win [anyone] over by its ideas or its ideology — because it offers nothing.” There is no need to send U.S. ground troops into combat against the militants: “It’s not necessary to defeat [them].”

On the other hand, former defense secretary Chuck Hagel insists that the Islamic State is an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) says the group is “a clear and present danger,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urges the president to deploy U.S. ground troops to fight the extremists in Iraq and Syria “before we all get killed here at home.”

Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger’s new book, “ISIS,” should be required reading for every politician and policymaker. Though it bears some of the inevitable scars characteristic of books written in a great hurry — it is uneven and a bit rough around the edges — their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations. Read the rest of this entry »

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U.S. Says Ramadi at Risk of Falling to Islamic State

By Julian E. Barnes
Wall Street Journal
April 16, 2015

Anbar residents flee provincial capital as Islamist forces advance

WASHINGTON—U.S. defense officials said a provincial capital in Iraq could soon fall to Islamic State, while America’s top military officer sought to minimize the strategic importance of the city.

At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that maintaining control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, isn’t central to the U.S. and Iraqi aims of defeating Islamic State forces.

“The city itself is not symbolic in any way,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand, or central to the future of Iraq.”

Earlier this week, Pentagon officials minimized the possibility that Ramadi was going to fall. But U.S. officials have monitored large numbers of civilians fleeing from the city, a sign that residents fear an imminent takeover.

Islamic State fighters have taken over a number of villages surrounding Ramadi, destroyed bridges and other infrastructure and reversed recent gains by Iraqi Security forces, defense officials said Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Want to stop people from joining groups like the Islamic State? Try tackling core problems first.

By Stephan Bauman
Washington Post
April 14, 2015

Why would teenagers from Denver or schoolgirls from London skip class to join the Islamic State? Because they want to “belong to something special…,” said John Horgan who studies the psychology of terrorism at the University of Massachusetts. “They want to find something meaningful for their life.” Such crises of identity coupled with an appeal to religious loyalty entice even the most unlikely of candidates. We shake our heads in astonishment.

But there is more to the story. Read the rest of this entry »

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As Najib shores up leadership amid criticism, tiny Gedong may play a big role

April 15, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — The oil palm-growing district of Gedong in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak is too tiny to get its own zip code. Even so, its 6,712 voters will soon have their own government representative.

Electoral officials are adding 11 seats to the Sarawak legislative assembly by carving out new constituencies ahead of a state election due by next year—wards that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will want to go to his ruling coalition. The Sarawak vote is a test for Najib as he seeks to shore up his leadership amid criticism of his economic and social policies and public demands by a former leader that he step down.

Najib’s efforts to retain support in the resource-rich state has seen his government build more municipal facilities from hospitals to water treatment plants. His Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is banking on the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo island — its traditional strongholds — to keep it in power as Chinese voters on Peninsular Malaysia defect.

“BN not doing so well in Sarawak will weaken Najib within the coalition and add to criticisms against him,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs. “A strong win will give him a reprieve from all the unhappiness on imposing a goods and services tax this year and concerns about growing debt of government entities.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction lowers the bar on the Malaysian legal system

Amanda Whiting, University of Melbourne
East Asia Forum
13 April 2015

These are dangerous times for the rule of law in Malaysia. The Federal Court’s decision on 10 February 2015 to affirm Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s criminal conviction for ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ is shocking, but entirely predictable.

For a while, it seemed that domestic and international condemnation of the harassment of Anwar and the political misuse of draconian laws against opposition politicians and social activists had worked to improve Malaysia’s legal system. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) government appeared to have taken on board the response to the 1998–2004 ‘Sodomy I’ legal proceedings against Anwar, and broader criticisms of its authoritarian rule. But the ‘Sodomy II’ proceedings and their aftermath suggest otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kerjasama PAS-Umno umpama pelanduk melupakan jerat, tetapi jerat tidak melupakan pelanduk

– Zairil Khir Johari
The Malaysian Insider
14 April 2015

Menurut laporan Mingguan Malaysia, Presiden PAS, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang berkata PAS wajib berunding dengan Umno apabila diajak parti tersebut demi memastikan pelaksanaan hukum hudud di Kelantan.

Katanya lagi, pemimpin dan ahli PAS tidak sewajarnya mempersoalkan keikhlasan Umno menyokong pelaksanaan hukum itu, khususnya apabila rang undang-undang persendirian berkaitan hudud dibentangkan di Dewan Rakyat kelak. Read the rest of this entry »

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PAS’s problems not as trivial as Hadi thinks, says former veep

14 April 2015

Former PAS vice-president Ahmad Awang, who received three nominations to take on Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang for the top party post, has dismissed the president’s claim that the disagreements within the Islamist party were a “small” issue.

He said if the problems were not resolved, the party could be heading for destruction, adding that contrary to Hadi’s belief, the party was currently facing a bigger crisis than before.

“The president said it is a small thing. But from what I am seeing, the situation is really bad, and if left unchecked, it could destroy the party,” said Ahmad, who was also the former Perak PAS commissioner. Read the rest of this entry »

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Repression in Malaysia – Disconnect

Apr 11th 2015

A thuggish government is playing racial politics. Najib Razak should be dressed down

MALAYSIA’S prime minister, Najib Razak, paints his country as a model of moderate Islam —a multicultural democracy and a beacon of tolerance. He has spoken of scrapping oppressive British-era laws and nurturing a creative economy. Meanwhile, his spin-doctors explain that their liberal master is the man to vanquish the reactionary forces in his political party, UMNO, which has never been out of power and which is prone to cronyism and political thuggery. Barack Obama, for one, buys this story. He is the first American president since 1966 to have visited Malaysia. And late last year in Hawaii he enjoyed a round on the golf links with Mr Najib. The two men are said to click. The White House gushes about a “growing and warming relationship” between America and Malaysia. Read the rest of this entry »

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Undi bukan Islam tidak penting?

A Shukur Harun
The Malaysian Insider
14 April 2015

Ramai yang berkongsi kerunsingan dan menyertai kebimbangan bekas pemimpin PAS, Ustaz Haji Ahmad Awang apabila beliau berkata, “ramai yang sedih melihat gelagat beberapa pimpinan PAS yang menunjukkan sikap tidak menghargai dan bersyukur atas kewujudan Pakatan Rakyat. Sama ada mereka mempunyai wawasan masa depan politik yang begitu terbantut atau agenda tersendiri yang masih belum didedahkan hanya Allah yang mengentahui.”

Menurut Ahmad Awang, kata-kata seperti “PAS mampu bersendirian”, “Putrajaya bukan matlamat kami”, “Sokongan bukan Islam tidak penting” dan sebagainya adalah sangat bercanggah dengan wawasan pimpinan terdahulu.

Ungkapan seperti ini bermunculan ketika tercetusnya krisis berat dalam PAS sendiri sekarang ini, lebih-lebih lagi menjelang Muktamar Tahunan PAS bulan Jun depan.

Menurut pendapat saya, pandangan PAS mampu bersendirian sementara sokongan bukan Melayu tidak penting adalah kata-kata yang menggambarkan betapa naifnya bacaan politik mereka ini, yang sama sekali tidak berasaskan realiti politik yang ada. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hadi is propounding a political creed where the end justifies the means which seems to be at odds with the essence of Islam on the universal values of justice and trust (adil dan amanah)

I am shocked at the justification by the PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang for violating the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Leadership Council decision on Feb. 8, 2015 that any amendment to the 1995 Kelantan Syariah Criminal Enactment and any private member’s bill in Parliament on hudud implementation should first be presented at the PR Leadership Council.

Both these consensus decisions of the PR Leadership Council meeting of Feb. 8, which was attended by Hadi personally, were violated as the 2015 Kelantan Syariah Criminal Enactment and Hadi’s private member’s bill motion in Parliament were never presented first to the PR Leadership Council.

From Hadi’s justification, he is in fact propounding a political creed where the end justifies the means which seems to be at odds with the essence of Islam on the universal values of justice and trust (adil dan amanah).
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Malaysia facing not only crisis of identity but crisis of survival for first time since formation of federation in 1963

Malaysia is facing not only a crisis of identity but a crisis of survival for the first time since the formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963.

The month of April has not been a good month for Malaysia, starting with the GST implementation on April 1, which has caused hardships all-round to Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region; followed by a week of infamy when Parliament “stopped the clock” twice in four days to rush through the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Sedition Amendment Act, both of which attracted universal international condemnation for Malaysia becoming the human rights “black hole” as well as opening the Pandora’s Box of undemocratic, arbitrary and repressive powers and laws.

But looming in the background, there was an even bigger crisis – the crisis of survival for Malaysia as it is intimately concerned with the question as to whether the Malaysian federation, as conceived by the Malaysia Agreement 1963, could survive and flourish or whether it would perish and fail. Read the rest of this entry »

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Najib forewarned that the UMNO “UG” conspirators should not be allowed to continue to play with fire as it could lead not only to the disintegration of Pakatan Rakyat, but also Barisan Nasional and even the Malaysian Federation

The month-long Parliamentary meeting starting on March 9 and adjourning in the early hours of April 10 has gravely undermined and damaged both the political coalitions in the country, the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction.

While the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak may rejoice that the “hudud” plot of the UMNO’s “UG” conspirators has succeeded in causing grave damage to Pakatan Rakyat, he should rue its threat not only to Barisan Nasional but the Malaysian federation as well.

Najib had not realised that the “hudud” weapon of UMNO “UG” plotters’ is a double-edged sword, which could not only damage the unity and solidarity of Pakatan Rakyat with its success to entice PAS support with purported UMNO endorsement for PAS Kelantan State Government hudud implementation, it also threatens the unity and even survival of Barisan Nasional and the Malaysian Federation as well.

In fact, the “hudud” plot of the UMNO “UG” conspirators has the potential not only to destroy both coalitions, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, but also the nation or bring about a realignment of political forces in the country.

The warning signals are clear for all who have eyes to see.
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Umno playing politics with hudud push, Saifuddin tells students in Australia

by Shaun Tan
Malay Mail Online
April 10, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Support for hudud exists only on the fringes despite the high-profile coverage on the controversy over the Islamic penal law in Malaysia, said Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

Speaking during a summit organised by the Malaysian Students Council of Australia (MASCA) in Brisbane, Australia yesterday, the Umno leader also said his party’s apparent support for hudud was “just politics”.

“Hudud isn’t mainstream. The mainstream is moderation and democracy,” he said.

During discussions on the topic, he said while the Quran uses the word “hudud” 14 times, none of the mentions involves a fixed punishment, but instead appears in relation to marriage, divorce and kindness to orphans. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is the 1MDB a tragedy or a farce?

The Edge
Rakyat Times
10th April 2015

The Malaysian Government’s ambitious investment experiment, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), has turned into a political and financial minefield for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his ministers.

In recent months, the debt-laden sovereign wealth fund has made domestic and international headlines with explosive allegations of corruption, widespread mismanagement of public funds, serious political misbehaviour and opaque corporate dealings.

The relentless attacks on 1MDB – which have included public disclosures of confidential e-mail trails highlighting opaque transactions for highly dubious investments – have not only come from the country’s feisty opposition, but also former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who in recent days has publicly called for Najib’s resignation.

“Najib is facing too many scandals, and there are no answers,” Dr. Mahathir told reporters last week, adding that if the country’s dominant party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which – as the main partner in the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition – has helmed Malaysia since independence in 1957, wants to remain in power, then “I think they must change the prime minister”.

Writing Najib’s political obituary, however, may be a little premature, say several senior UMNO officials aligned to the UMNO president and prime minister. Read the rest of this entry »

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Royal Commission of Inquiry into Altantuya’s murder and conduct of various authorities in the case is the only way to salvage the credibility and repute of Najib and his premiership from the Mongolian albatross

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib has again denied any involvement in the 2006 murder of the Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu in a pre-reorded interview with TV3 yesterday.

This follows former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad joining the increasing chorus asking who have given the two former police commandos, Azila Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar the order to kill Altantuya.

On the murder of the Mongolian, Najib said he had sworn three times, including in a mosque in Permatang Pauh in 2008 that he did not know Altantuya and that he was not involved whether directly or indirectly.

Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah has also surfaced to Najib’s defence, stressing that police has cleared Najib of any involvement in Altantuya’s murder.

Abdullah said he was briefed about the case during his tenure and appeared convinced about the investigation’s outcome.

As Najib has reiterated that he did not know Altantuya and was not involved directly or indirectly in the Mongolian’s murder, why is Najib so resistant to the proposal for full inquiry as to the motive of Altantuya’s murder, and in particular, who had given the orders to the two ex-police commandos to kill the Mongolian and blow up her body with military explosives? Read the rest of this entry »

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U.N. Rights Chief Criticizes Malaysian Antiterror Measure

by Nick Cumming-Bruce
New York Times
APRIL 9, 2015

GENEVA — The United Nations human rights chief on Thursday joined in criticism of the Malaysian government’s planned legislation on sedition and the prevention of terrorism, warning that both bills threatened to severely curtail freedom of opinion and expression and breach the country’s international obligations.

The government’s move to restore powers of indefinite detention without trial and without safeguards against abuse was among “serious shortcomings” in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said in a statement.

The Malaysian authorities abolished indefinite detention powers in 2012 after years of criticism from human rights bodies, but the new measure allows the police to detain suspects for up to two years, renewable indefinitely, without trial or any form of judicial review. Read the rest of this entry »

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After G25, prominent Sabahans tell Putrajaya to fight extremism

The Malaysian Insider
9 April 2015

Following in the footsteps of the 25 prominent Malays dubbed G25, a group of 47 Sabahans have sent an open letter to Putrajaya urging an end to extremism in the country, The Star reported today.

The group from Sabah raised concerns about Islamisation, attempts to convert natives of the state, polarisation, growing intolerance and federal government bodies asserting authority beyond their powers.

They said in their letter that “extreme and misguided actions in the name of Islamisation and religious intolerance is nothing but a threat to our national peace and stability”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tempers in Parliament as Putrajaya pushes through 4 bills late night

by Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
9 April 2015

Tempers flared at the Parliament tonight as opposition lawmakers attempted to end the meeting at 11.30pm as the government tried to push through four more bills.

Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo led the opposition charge and demanded sitting be suspended as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Wahid Omar attempted to wrap up the debate on the Malaysian Aviation Commission Bill 2015.

“It is not fair to debate four more bills tonight. And we finish at 4am. Tomorrow we have a very important Bill to discuss,” the DAP lawmaker said, referring to the amendments to the Sedition Act which is due for debate at tomorrow’s sitting.

“What is the urgency here? We cannot do it. We cannot debate it. We are not giving justice to the people.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Why do we still need the Sedition Act?

by Boo Su-Lyn
Malay Mail Online
April 9, 2015

APRIL 9 — We are just five years away from our goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020.

Yet,in this day and age, we still have a law dating back from the colonial times guarding our speech and worse, the government is attempting to enhance punishments under the Sedition Act 1948.

People convicted of seditious speech can be imprisoned for up to 20 years under the proposed Sedition Act amendments, with a minimum jail term set at three years. No bail is allowed either.

Speech deemed to be seditious under the Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 involve issues of race and religion, secession, the rulers, and Bumiputera privileges, among others.

These are matters crucial to our democracy that Malaysians are prohibited from discussing freely.

The revised Sedition Act outlaws exciting “ill will, hostility or hatred” on grounds of race and religion, but such terms are extremely vague. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kelantan’s hudud breaks basis of secular Malaysia, Sarawak churches say

The Malay Mail Online
April 8, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Kelantan’s hudud enactment violates the secular foundation upon which Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak had formed Malaysia, Sarawak churches said today.

The Kuching Ministers’ Fellowship (KMF), a network of church pastors and leaders in Sarawak, joined the Sabah Council of Churches in criticising the passing of the Kelantan Shariah Criminal Code II Enactment 1993 (amendment 2015) last month in the east coast state run by Islamist party PAS.

“The recently-passed Kelantan hudud enactment is in direct contradiction to the aspirations of founding fathers of our nation to keep Malaysia a secular state as evidenced in several historical documents that explicitly state this,” KMF chairman Pastor Daron Tan said in a statement.

“The introduction of hudud law is a fundamental breach and deviation from the expressed commitment to complete religious freedom, a key term underpinning the Malaysia Agreement signed in July 1963 between Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »

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