By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The recent siege of a café in an upscale district of Dhaka, Bangladesh by six young men which ended in the killing of 20 hostages and the six gunmen is having an impact on Malaysians, in general. Incidentally, two of the perpetrators were schooled in Malaysia having attended a local private university some years ago.
Well educated and coming from a wealthy background, it defies the established norm that jihadists come from poor backgrounds and are being radicalised in madrassas. The six (one could have been an innocent bystander) were graduates of elite schools in Bangladesh while one was the son of a ruling party official.
Notwithstanding the obvious, the Bangladesh government insists that Islamic State (IS) has no foothold in the country. Similarly in Pakistan, the government continues to deny that international jihadist network has no formal presence in the insurgency-ravaged country. It has been identified that many of the Saudi hijackers behind the September 11 attacks on American soil were also from wealthy families. It is now apparent that well-heeled youths are providing Islamist terror groups with foot soldiers long before the emergence of IS.
This rather awkward (foolish would be a better word) sense of bravado is not confined to countries on the Indian sub-continent alone. Malaysia has now joined this exclusive club of potential IS targets. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar had initially dismissed allegations that the bombing of the Movida pub in Puchong on June 28 was the work of Islamist terrorists. He, however, admitted later that the grenade attack was done by two Islamic State operatives who are still at large.
The bombing is the first ever successful IS terror strike on Malaysian soil. Will this be the first and perhaps the last? Eight people were injured following the grenade attack on the Movida Bar and Lounge in IOI Boulevard Puchong. The threat of open warfare in Southeast Asia by the murderous Islamic State, as espoused by Mohd Rafi Udin, the self-styled leader of the IS network in Malaysia and a former taxi driver, has taken on a new dimension.
Granted that Malaysia is among the few countries in the world that had successfully defeated communism following the end of the Malayan Emergency in 1960, the threat by IS-inspired jihadists is somewhat different. The Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960) was essentially a Chinese-initiated uprising to oppose British colonialism. Its support base came from illegal Chinese settlers living at jungle fringes and in remote areas of the country. To keep the insurgents away from the masses, who were coerced into supporting them, the British introduced the Briggs Plan.
It worked wonders as the Plan came into effect. The terrorists’ lifeline was disrupted thus they had to fend for themselves without assistance from the populace. Religion was not a factor then as the insurgency warfare was more racially-inclined.
However, Malaysia being a Sunni-based Muslim country, the scenario will be much different should IS terrorists gain a foothold. Support from the Malay Muslim masses is aplenty and this is not only possible but fearful too. The recent “kafir harbi” tirade by Pahang Mufti Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Osman is just the beginning. The mufti’s labeling of those opposed to Islam as “kafir harbi” and, therefore, should be eliminated, can contribute to the self-radicalisation of Malaysian sympathisers and gravitate them toward the global terror group. Rahman may not have intended his remarks to be interpreted as such but to the uninitiated it could be misconstrued as an endorsement to do the unthinkable.
The mufti’s refusal to retract his statement and offer an apology betrays an arrogance evident in many ulamaks (clerics) who believe their position and “knowledge” give them the carte blanche to say whatever and whenever they please without being held accountable. This mistaken belief is not only naïve but downright silly. We are dealing with people who feel they are beyond reproach and reach of our laws. The time of living dangerously is already here.