GOMBAK, 9 September 2017 – MIZAN was represented in a roundtable discussion organized by ASEAN Young Leaders’ Forum (AYLF), in collaboration with Bait Al Amanah at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). The forum gathered youths and representatives from various organizations in a platform with renowned political analysts and practitioners in the field of intelligence, Middle Eastern studies and international relations.
Political analyst Dr Maszlee Malik presented the challenges in defining terrorism and who we consider terrorists, which tend to depend on the stance of different regimes and the media-consuming global public community. There are five major root causes of terrorism, namely; global injustice towards Muslims, domestic conflicts in Muslim countries and non-Muslim countries involving Muslim minorities, dictatorship, bad governance, and the discrimination of Muslims in Western countries. Dr Maszlee proposed that the issue of ideology, while real, is a fringe issue compared to the root causes. He also proposed that youths take center stage in eradicating the recruitment of fellow youths into terrorist organizations, via media production and civil society organizations, because only youths understand the dynamics of their peers and because there is a general deficit of trust in establishments and institutions.
Bait al Amanah founder Dr Abdul Razak Ahmad presented three potential reasons ISIL may be interested in the ASEAN region; ongoing ASEAN-related conflicts (such as long-standing conflicts in the Rakhine state and Mindanao), a sentiment of solidarity amongst ASEAN Muslim community following the Syrian conflict, and the possible appeal of the global “Caliphate” ideology. Dr Abdul Razak does not consider ASEAN a “second front” for terrorism, although the region may present a fertile recruitment ground. He justifies that ASEAN are open economies and progressive young democracies which have always been culturally-diversified. ASEAN Muslims have historically embraced diversity and moderation with the coming of Islam to ASEAN shores through the work of daies and sufi masters, not via bloodshed. There are examples Islamic political parties such as PAS in Malaysia who remained steadfast in the framework of political Islam within the democratic system. To confront ISIL in ASEAN, he proposed a higher level of transnational co-operation in cross-border sharing of intelligence and greater utilization of international-level protocols, without neglecting human rights elements within ASEAN’s counter-terrorism strategy. Dr Abdul Razak believes that the true battle is not against terrorism, rather against a crisis of ignorance.
Lecturer Ahmad El Muhammady presented the findings of a study commissioned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia on the profile of youths that become prime targets for terrorist organization, and existing de-radicalization programs currently being carried out. In summary, key success factors found to contribute to the recruitment of youths in terrorist activities include effective recruiters, impactful messages, vulnerability of targets who generally exhibit nine distinct psychological characteristics, and specific contributing factors such as misinterpretation of the religion, influences of the jema’ah movement and charismatic leadership icons. Mr Ahmad also posited that counter-radicalization initiatives must also encompasses “disaffected” members of the general public, and not just detained individuals.
Dr H. Arya Sandhiyudha, PhD and prominent Indonesian political commentator presented the historical origins of the ISIS movement. He proposes that the ISIL emerged as a continuum of the Al Qaeda movement which in large represented various factions and cell groups that emerged as proxies for the large global powers. ISIS in his description was essentially a “mutant” of a failed state. Dr Arya compared case studies of the various counter-terrorism initiatives in Southeast Asia, making a clear distinction between the models within a general “Hardline Approach” undertaken by different countries in South East Asia. More specifically, he presented the Filipino military-focused approach, the intelligence-focused approach adopted by Malaysia and Singapore, as well as the law-enforcement approach by Indonesia. The strength of the military-focused approach is the ability of a state-backed military capacity to meaningfully cripple terroristic movements while its clear weakness is higher military expenditure. The strength of the intelligence-focused approach is in its preventive capabilities while it lacks the transparency and adherence to human rights principle necessary for greater empathy from the domestic and international society. The law-enforcement approach undertaken by Indonesia normatively results in greater support and legitimacy of the government by displaying commitment for rule of law which is a key element in democracy, although it lacks the necessary speed in countering terrorism as it requires the exposition of intelligence sources and valid evidence fitting for the court of law and public knowledge.
MIZAN representative, Farhana Roslan, enquired panelists on the specific involvement of women in terrorism in South East Asia. Whilst it was found that there have been 30 female suspects detained up to April 2016 in Malaysia, MIZAN concludes there is not much specific studies or findings focused on the female gender in the terrorist movements in the region and more efforts must be done.
The roundtable discussion concluded with the ASEAN Young Leaders Forum (AYLF) as a youth organization representing the ASEAN region and participants of the roundtable declaring their full commitment to call upon all youths, to unite and collectively reject all forms of extremism and terrorism, be it religious or ethnic in nature and all efforts by irresponsible parties in recruiting and nurturing terrorists within this region. This stand is derived from five key observations:
1. Youths are the main targets of recruitment by global terrorist movements.
2. Youths can be more vulnerable to recruitment due to the manipulation of religious or ethnic sentiment by terrorist movements.
3. Youths are the future and building blocks of a nation. A nation’s rise and fall are very much dependent on its young generation.
4. Among the reasons why some youths are involved in terrorist activities are their attitude and tendencies to escape, in an unrealistic manner, the growing problems and difficult realities of life such as poverty, inequality, disenfranchisement and disintegration of the family institution.
5. Misinterpretation of the concept of ‘jihad’ among some Muslim youths is another huge factor contributing to their involvement in terrorism.
AYLF also requests ASEAN youths to collectively:
1. Organize anti-terrorism campaigns in their respective countries, addressing all strata of society.
2. Conduct programs with the aim of raising awareness and exposing the manipulative and deceptive strategies used by irresponsible groups in recruiting terrorists.
3. Engage in positive, healthy and self-developing programs such as those pertaining to education, economy, arts, culture, sports and others as a way of channeling their precious time and energy away from destructive activities.
4. Learn Islam or religious knowledge from credible and authorized sources.
5. Build a peaceful and terrorism-free ASEAN.
MIZAN fully supports the stance and efforts of AYLF, especially where it inflicts young women and children, and is committed to understand better the potential factors for the involvement of women in terrorist activities as our effort in curbing the proliferation of terrorism in the ASEAN region. The official resolution statement of AYLF can be found here.
Vice President 2017/2019