Combating home-grown hate
The young must be given opportunities to have modern education so that they can be nurtured to distinguish for themselves the importance of moderate values over extremist ideas.
DURING an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Isis) on the Iraqi SWAT headquarters in al-Anbar on May 26, a young 26-year-old Malay man, Mohd Tarmimi Maliki, blew himself up like a true suicide bomber in order to kill as many Iraqi personnel as he possibly could.
Mohd Tarmimi succeeded. He killed 25 elite Iraqi soldiers and, according to reports, he was trained by militants right here in Malaysia – in Port Dickson. It is tragic to know that young Malaysians have to give meaning to their lives in this way.
And Mohd Tarmimi was not the first. A few years ago, a bomb maker from Kluang, Noordin Mohammad Top, became notorious for massive suicide attacks during the Jemaah Islamiah’s reign of terror in Java and Bali. His comrade and fellow bomb maker, Dr Azahari Husin, was also Malaysian.
This has not gone unnoticed. Only last week the Government announced the capture of four militants in Sandakan, and statements from the police seem to suggest that militancy is on the rise in our country.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was quick to announce that Malaysia would never allow itself to be used by terrorists groups, adding that the Government was serious about making our nation a moderate Muslim country.
He specifically referred to the Global Movement of Moderates, established by Putrajaya, as an affirmation that the Government was serious about fighting extremism and militancy.
There are other measures that the Government should put in place to stop more young Malaysians joining the “jihad” brigade and senselessly killing themselves.
Stopping foreign militants from infiltrating our country is a sacred duty of our armed forces, but equally sacred is the duty of all of us to ensure that young Malaysians denounce violence, and I hope our leaders regard the existence of suicide bombers from amongst our young as a serious matter that requires urgent measures.
I have some views on how we can do this.
First, we must give our young opportunities to have modern education so that they can be nurtured to distinguish for themselves the importance of moderate values over extremist ideas. Secular education makes them think, unlike religious ones which make them obey. Modern education nurtures the young minds, and allows them to examine life’s many possibilities.
They must be taught not to condone violence and the killing of others, no matter how compelling the reasons for doing so might be.
We must teach young Malaysians to respect and safeguard human life and dignity, and always defend the rights of others as they expect others to do for them.
Unless our young boys and girls have the educational training to find peaceful ways to live in this modern world and are able to tell what is good for themselves and for society versus what is harmful, extremism and fanaticism will flourish.
For such a liberal education to take root in our schools, we must put a stop to indoctrination under the guise of religious teachings, and we must not continue to imbue our young with supremacist-nationalist ideas.
If we fail to do this, we will certainly produce more young men and women who are angry with the ways of the world. They will find it attractive to engage in violence and even to kill themselves for causes they have been misled to believe are worthy of the sacrifice.
Outside the schools, Malaysians must unite to reject extremism. It is no good to retaliate against extremist positions with our own extremism, meekly telling everyone that extremism begets extremism.
Religious preachers sometimes extol violent views in the name of religious commandments, and that’s how the seed of violence is sown. For a start, we must monitor the Friday sermons – no one, not even officers of the various Religious Departments – should be allowed to preach hate.
Our leaders, political or otherwise, must be mindful of their statements and conduct so as not to encourage our young to accept violence and hate speech. It is time that leaders tempered their political posturing, and they must distance themselves from excesses and extremist acts of all kinds.
At the same time, we need to mobilise the positive elements in society to do their part. There are enough people of goodwill who can teach young Malaysians about the benefits of inclusiveness and harmony.
The sense of wanting to belong and to be a part of a larger community will always win the day if only the people work hard to instil these values instead of the vile and vicious ideas that have become commonplace in our political discourse today.
Today, the whole world is grappling with the issue of how to manage violence and extremism, and it’s not hard to see that, in the Islamic world alone, the forces represented by the Sunni and the Syiah are engaging in sectarian and tribal wars of a huge magnitude.
Just look at what has happened in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria – if Malaysia is not careful and allows itself to be dragged into the same dispute, and if we delude ourselves into thinking that Islam is “under attack” and must therefore align ourselves to certain extremist groups, then many more like Mohd Tarmimi will join the brigade.
It will be a national disaster if our young have nothing to look forward to other than a short life to be terminated by their own suicide bombs. We must ring-fence them from this violence and, instead, help them to discover hope and a sense of worth in their lives. This is the duty of every Malaysian today.
– The article is contributed by All kinds of Everything by Datuk Zaid Ibrahim from The Star/Asia News Network.
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is highly passionate about practically everything, hence the name of this column. Having established himself in the legal fraternity, Zaid ventured into politics and has been on both sides of the political divide. The former de facto Law Minister is now a legal consultant but will not hesitate to say his piece on any current issue. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
Does this constitute jihad?
BASED on police investigations, we learn that several Malaysians have volunteered to become jihad fighters and suicide bombers in the civil war in Syria.
The Malaysian volunteers believe they have a religious duty to fight and die for the Sunnis, who are being suppressed by the Assad regime with the help of the Syiahs from within that country and from Iran.
These Malaysian suicide volunteers believe they are fighting to save the Sunni school, which to them is true Islam, against the Syiah teachings.
It’s time for our ulamas to come out publicly to advise these gullible volunteers that there is no reason for them to die in Syria.
This is because the internal war and violence against innocent Sunni civilians there have nothing to do with religion.
On the contrary, the unending conflicts in the region have more to do with Middle East power politics. It’s all about the rivalry for supremacy in the region between the Sunni Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, and their neighbour, Iran.
Iran, the biggest country in the Gulf region, and the country with the longest history of civilisation, has always felt since its imperial days under the Shah that it should be the natural superpower in the region.
The Arab states, who are ruled by Sunnis, on the other hand, are nervous about the growing Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria.
The Sunni’s cry for help against discrimination and victimisation by the Syiahs is receiving wide support from the Arab states.
The Arabs fear that if the Syiahs are successful in Iraq and Syria, Iran will become more powerful and, with its nuclear ambitions, could threaten the security of Saudi Arabia itself.
The Arab concern is not so much about Saudi Arabia losing its status as the religious leader of Sunni Muslims worldwide but more about losing its strategic influence in the region, especially in the oil industry.
The role that oil plays in world finance and politics gives the Saudis a powerful voice in the international community, which the United States is well aware of and which the West has fully exploited by protecting the Saudis from Iranian threats and in return, getting the Arab regimes to cooperate to maintain peace with Israel.
Malaysian Muslims should understand that the wars in Syria and Iraq are, in actual fact, proxy wars between the Arab states and Iran in their rivalry for regional superpower status.
To checkmate each other, the Arabs and Iran are prepared to make allies with the two world powers, ie, the US on one side and Russia on the other, who actually have the power to end the war in Syria today if they really want to.
Our ulamas should understand all these realities of world politics and not let our Muslim men be easily fooled by those who claim that it is jihad to die as suicide bombers for the suffering Syrian Sunnis.
Contributed by TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM, Kuala Lumpur The Star Opinion/View