Along The Watchtower

Published: Wednesday April 8, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 8, 2015 MYT 9:11:01 AM

Face the root cause of terrorism

Beyond the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015, the Government has to tackle the reasons why Malaysians are attracted to militant groups like IS.

ONE could never imagine this: The Beatles, arguably the most influential band whose music conveyed the messages of love and peace, being linked with Islamic State (IS) terrorists.

The comparison was made by senior British lawyer Nazir Afzal last week.

“The boys want to be like them and the girls want to be with them. That’s what they used to say about the Beatles and more recently One Direction and Justin Bieber,” Nazir, a former public prosecutor, said in an interview with The Guardian.

“The propaganda the terrorists put out is akin to marketing, and too many of our teenagers are falling for the image,” he said, adding that the recruiters manipulated them, distanced them from their families and then lured them away.

According to media reports, more than 600 Britons are now in Syria, including teenage boys and girls who have become IS fighters or their brides.

As for Malaysians who have gone to Syria and Iraq, the actual number is unclear but it has been estimated that there are between 70 and about 150 of them.

Ten have already been killed in the fighting and at least two have died in suicide bombing missions.

Back home, police have so far arrested 88 people for being involved with IS, including 17 nabbed on Sunday.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the suspects, aged between 14 and 44, were planning to make bombs and had targeted police stations and army camps to get firearms.

Among them were two soldiers, a security guard and two students.

Dr Ahmad Zahid, who disclosed this while winding up the debate on the Prevention of Terrorism Act Bill in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, said a former member of Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia, an ex-ISA detainee and men who had undergone military training in Indonesia and Afghanistan were also in the group.

The Bill for the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015 was finally approved in the early hours yesterday, after a marathon debate of more than 10 hours in the Dewan Rakyat.

It was passed with the final bloc voting count of 79 Barisan Nasional MPs saying yes against the Opposition’s 60 dissenting voices.

Over the past months, the debate outside Parliament has been equally acerbic with the Bar Council among POTA’s harshest critics.

Its new president Steven Thiru denounced it as a “shameless revival” of the Internal Security Act (ISA) repealed three years ago.

He said while Pota was purportedly directed at persons “engaged in the commission or support of terrorist acts involving listed terrorist organisations” in a foreign country or any part of a foreign country, words like “engaged”, “commission”, “support” and “involving” had not been defined, resulting in the reach of the law being extremely wide and lending itself to abuse.

According to Steven, one of the most offensive aspects of Pota is its absolute ouster of judicial scrutiny.

“No judicial review of the detention order or the restriction order is possible.

“This violates our constitutional scheme, which invests judicial power in the judiciary, and is further contrary to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees equality and equal protection before the law,” he said in his statement.

The need for Pota has also been questioned by Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMM) head Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said it would not deal with the root cause of Malaysians getting involved in terrorist groups.

But what is the root cause?

Syed Akbar Ali offers a blunt answer in his “Outsyed the Box” blog.

He traces it to the introduction of religion into the education system by one politician, currently behind bars but very much in power then.

Stressing that the situation has become worse, he wrote on Monday:

“The government school system has already become radicalised with too much religious indoctrination.

“From tadika (kindergarten) until the fifth year of medical school in universities, our young people are being indoctrinated with an overdose of religion (I refuse to use the word Islam – please let’s not try to insult Allah, the Rasul (Prophet) and Islam. Also I am a Muslim, so please don’t insult me either).

“At government schools all our children get religious exposure (often radical) for 13 years.”

Syed Akbar was commenting on Bukit Aman’s Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay’s startling admission that there were sympathisers of IS in government agencies and non-governmental organisations in the country.

According to the top Special Branch officer, police had identified the agencies and are currently monitoring them but he declined to reveal details.

Last month, SAC Ayob Khan disclosed that the number of families from Malaysia joining IS was increasing, with at least eight already in Syria.

He said the ideological influence and the training provided were so strong that some Malaysians even issued death threats to their own family members if they went against IS.

“One of them now in Syria issued a warning via Facebook that he would kill his mother, father and siblings if they supported the Government in opposing IS,” he said.

SAC Ayob Khan did not rule out the possibility that some Malaysian students in countries located near Syria and Iraq underwent IS military training during the semester breaks.

The threat of terrorism is real and the possibility of Malaysian IS fighters returning home to launch attacks on local targets is scary.

One of the most vital roles that any government has to play is to protect its citizens from harm and the enactment of Pota must be seen in this light.

The bottom line is, its enforcement must never be abused, as was in the case of the dreaded ISA.

> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by Kurt Vonnegut: True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Columnists, M Veera Pandiyan, columnist

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