KOTA KINABALU: The southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant group poses a bigger threat to Sabah than the Islamic State, says Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) academic Prof Dr Kamarulzaman Askandar.
He said that IS ideology did not have a foothold in Sabah as the local populace had a high level of religious tolerance.
"In Sabah, you do not get religious extremism as compared to some states in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia,'' said Prof Kamarulzaman, a lecturer with the humanities, arts and heritage faculty.
Prof Kamarulzaman, who specialises in conflict and peace making, acknowledged the large number Indonesian migrants in Sabah, but said they mainly provided manpower needs and unlikely to be involved in propagating IS ideology.
Prof Kamarulzaman said that even if the Abu Sayyaf declared allegiance with the IS, it remained focused on kidnap for ransom activities, and that continued to be Sabah's main concern.
"Abu Sayyaf is not known to carry out suicide bombings,'' he said.
He said the arrest of a 31-year-old man from Sabah working at a hotel in Nusajaya, Johor, could be just a coincidence.
The arrest of the suspect also raised the question whether the man was a Sabahan or an illegal immigrant who obtained a Malaysia identity card from syndicates.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who chaired the state security council meeting on Monday, also doubted the suspect's Sabah roots and urged authorities to investigate his background.
On the IS threat, Musa said that the general security situation in the state was "good and under control'' but hoped that the people played a more proactive role and informed authorities of suspicious movements or activities in their respective areas.
He said all agencies had been directed to immediately take steps to monitor signs of possible threats and take preventive actions to ensure security remained at a high level.
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