The violent death of Middle East jihadist Mohammad Lotfi Ariffin stands out because he was an ex-official with one of Malaysia's faith-based political parties.
Unlike other Malaysian jihadists who died fighting in Syria or Iraq, Lotfi was noteworthy in that he was a former youth information chief for the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) in Kedah state. PAS dismissed him earlier this year for his militant affiliations.
On his Facebook page, Lotfi denied ever belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS ). But he was incarcerated from August 2001 to September 2003 under Malaysia's Internal Security Act for involvement in Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM), The Star newspaper reported.
The 46-year-old father of eight died in a Turkish hospital September 13th, four days after being wounded in a missile strike in Hama, Syria, according to The Star.
Controversy followed news of his death, as some PAS members praised Lofti as a martyr. But PAS president Hadi Awang urged party officials to avoid making pro-militant statements.
Segambut sub-district MP Lim Lip Eng, of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), struck a similar note.
"Lotfi's death can cause confusion among members over the party's political views on militancy and violence," Lim told Khabar Southeast Asia. "Our country has said clearly that we are against violence conducted by ISIS."
He said PAS and all other Malaysian parties must be careful not to show support for militant organisations or people. "Violence is not the spirit of our country. We want Malaysia to continue to be a peaceful country and pursue its growing democracy," said Lim.
Lotfi was the latest Malaysian mortally injured in the Syrian war zone , according to The Star. Jihadist Mohammad Fadhlan Shahidi, 21, was killed in the same September 9th missile strike.
Zainan Harith was killed in Hama on August 19th. In Iraq, Malaysian citizen Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki reportedly died in a May 26th suicide bombing mission in Al-Anbar Province.
Defending the homeland
The exact number of Malaysians travelling to the Middle East to fight for ISIS or other militant groups remains unclear. Ayob Khan Mydin , deputy counter-terrorism chief for the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP), said his department is working to nail down that figure.
Kuala Lumpur resident Firmansyah "Firman" Rosyid wants to see Malaysia do more to fight ISIS.
"I think Malaysia should support joint co-operation to combat ISIS," Firman, 29, told Khabar.
"If countries in the Middle East and elsewhere are united against them, then ISIS can be defeated. These are really crucial issues. I think the Malaysian government has been doing an extraordinary job in preventing more Malaysians from waging jihad, but more action is required."
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