Al-Shabaab will never find support in Malaysia: expert

Many were surprised by Malaysia's recent arrest of a member of the East African terror group.

By Alisha Nurhayati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Kuala Lumpur

May 28, 2014
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Militants from distant lands will find it hard to gain a foothold in Malaysia, officials and security experts said, following the arrest of a 34-year-old Somali national believed to be a senior operative of the al-Shabaab terrorist group.

  • Malaysians pray at the Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur on May 9th. [Mohammad Rasfan/AFP]

    Malaysians pray at the Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur on May 9th. [Mohammad Rasfan/AFP]

"The person is a member of al-Shabaab. They have not set up a base in this country, but they have shared their ideology" in personal interactions, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi told reporters at Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak on May 9th, a day after the arrest.

Five other Somalis were under surveillance, he said, adding that Malaysia would not tolerate any militant activities on its soil.

"We do not want Malaysia to be a terrorist training nest. We will also prevent Malaysia from being considered a launch pad for terrorist activity in Southeast Asia and the world. We are firm in taking this action," he said.

The al-Shabaab operative made the wrong choice in coming to Malaysia, the minister said. "They have been unsuccessful finding their footing in Malaysia, and they will never be successful because our government will continue our mission to crack down on terrorism."

"A cause that will never find support"

News of the arrest surprised many.

"Al-Shabaab has never been a security issue for Malaysia. In fact, as far as I can remember, this is the first time that Malaysia has been presented with such a link to al-Shabaab," said Abdul Razak Ahmad, an associate professor at Malaysia's National Defence University.

Global jihad ideology is borderless but has few followers in Malaysia, let alone ones interested in Africa, Abdul told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"First, the number of Somalis in Malaysia is very small and most of them are refugees and legitimate students. These are the people who fled the conflict. They want a new life and a new future," Abdul said. "Second, Malaysians are generally very moderate and progressive Muslims. They do not subscribe to radical Islam, and al-Shabaab is a cause that will never find support from Malaysian Muslims. It is just too alien to them.

Also, Malaysia's security apparatus co-operates closely with its international counterparts, and the country has extensive experience and credibility in surveillance. "This makes it very difficult for any terrorist groups to operate and organise themselves," he said

Conversely, all those factors could lead some militants to think of hiding in Malaysia, precisely because it is among the last places people would look.

"But any allegation that they are trying to set up military training camps is purely an exaggeration. Even the Malaysian radical militants found it impossible to establish a training ground in Malaysia," he said.

Strict and cautious

Kuala Lumpur resident Muhammad Fakhri Najib said Malaysian youths were not interested in joining militant groups like al-Shabaab.

"Malaysia and Somalia have different backgrounds and dynamics. Somalia is a failed state, and therefore, militancy can exist because of the limited government authority. While in Malaysia, our government has been very strict and cautious to crack down on any possibly militancy or any movement, which could possibly jeopardise our security here," he told Khabar.

In his view, young Malaysians should focus on their education and ignore calls to radicalism.

"Many people have interpreted jihad in a wrong way. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make it right. Jihad is hard work in your capacity. As for me, since I am also a student, jihad is about studying hard and being a good Muslim," Fakhri said.

Reader Comments
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    • yahya sukri
      June 15, 2014 @ 09:06:14PM
    • The supporters of Islam should be good of spirit and body for people to see. No one knows what is in their hearts. People who sincerely do good for the sake of Islam and the people of the world will be protected by Allah should disaster befall them. Be accepting and keep praying for the good of people in the world.
    • [email protected]
      June 13, 2014 @ 01:06:27AM
    • my fellows brother and sisiter we are all equal no rank nor status. of once belife and religious and race. knows what is really happening around us and why its happpened and the cause of it all. we are living at the edge of distruction for our own ignorance. we dream for living in hormony and peace.but in actual reality we have create a ctastatrophy, we acussed one and other and meke ourself busy to show that we can built a better future. think a again my brother and sister////????? do you know about the secret agenda and about the silent weapon 4 silent war. dont waste your time on thing that you dont know and about the untold truth. i call upon u lets jiont hand and keep aside our differences. for time is not on our side.
    • [email protected]
      June 13, 2014 @ 01:06:37AM
    • ignorance are the caused of turmoil /silent weapon 4silent war /hidden secret agenda has us all in its board we are unaware that we have been a viictim for we have surrender ourself to people that we hope to lead us to a better future. alas we are been blind to see the truth. our live and our mind has been control they who has planned its has everything in theirs milicious net work to hold power/ wealth / and the desicion maker who should live and get rid of those are oppossed. think wisely and be aware. my god helps us.for our own ignorance dissobedient to heed the advised. we think we no everything actual fact we are ignorance for been blind to know the truth.
    • priyanto
      June 7, 2014 @ 12:06:16AM
    • If there truly were no thieves among us, no violations, no corruption, no gamblers, no prostitutes, no drunkards, no degenerates, perhaps this would be a peculiar land. The police would have nothing to do, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, the KPK, lawmakers and religious experts will have nothing to do. Be grateful for what we have, this life is a blessing, live it by giving our best.
    • alexleo
      June 1, 2014 @ 09:06:04AM
    • If everyone followed the Prophet's Sunnah there would be no friction.
    • ahmad
      May 31, 2014 @ 06:05:36AM
    • The review above is so right. That the Islamic religion has been damaged not by others but by Muslims themselves who have a shallow understanding of Islam and are therefore easily provoked to do things that are in conflict with Islamic teachings as a religion that is a blessing for all of creation.
    • nooruddin
      May 27, 2014 @ 11:05:29PM
    • in fact all terrorrist organisations should be banned and tehier operatives should nto be allowed to travel. They are not Muslim but a blot in the nam eof Islam, like George Bernard shaw wrote best religion in the world is Islam, and worst followers are Muslim need to educate all muslims to university level

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