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.”
The report said the US State Department’s recent annual report on religious rights in Indonesia and Malaysia recorded declining tolerance in both nations.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak aligned himself with a “conservative, salafi influenced Islam” in Malaysia, despite being admired as an advocate of moderate Islam on the international stage, it said.
The report added that Malaysia’s primary response towards Isis had been to intensify police action, make pre-emptive arrests and strengthen “already draconian laws”.
“Malaysia’s Islamic bureaucracy has not been effective in opposing the Isis message, in particular its doctrine of jihad.
“A recent sermon failed to explain the relationship between jihad as war and other types of jihad, and rejected Isis jihad only because Isis inflicted atrocities on Muslims and non-Muslims without distinction.”
But the report added that the US had limited opportunity to engage with Malaysia on counter-terrorism issues compared with 10 to 15 years ago.
“Malaysia’s Special Branch allows only limited cooperation with foreign agencies and zealously guards its sources of information.”
The report was prepared by associate professor Greg Fealy, from the Department of Political and Social Change at the Australian National University, while Dr John Funston, visiting fellow at the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University contributed the Malaysia sections.
The authors said their report did not necessarily reflect the views of the US Agency for International Development or the US government. – January 15, 2016.