Malaysian universities monitoring jihadist recruitment efforts

Officials say they are trying to protect students and keep campuses free of militant influences.

By Ahmad Pramudya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Kuala Lumpur

October 30, 2014
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Extremists' online recruitment efforts using social media bore fruit this month when a former Malaysian student was lured to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ( ISIS ).

  • Students prepare for an exam at Asia e University (AeU) in Kuala Lumpur in August 2012. Malaysian university officials have begun monitoring students in response to an October 4th incident in a former student was recruited to join extremists via Facebook. [Saleed Khan/AFP]

On October 4th, Syamimi Faiqah Sulaman , 20, a former student from Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor (KUIS), left Malaysia to enlist with ISIS in the Middle East, to serve as female comfort for one-time Ukays rocker and Malaysian Mujaheed Akel Zainal , local news outlets reported.

Akel and Syamimi's Facebook correspondence is one example in which militants use social media to recruit youth, Malaysian officials confirmed. Now, universities in the country are monitoring students to discourage such recruitment efforts by extremists.

Rais Yatim, president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), said its management and security offices conduct background checks on students to prevent any would-be jihadists from joining militant organisations like ISIS.

"This action must be followed by other public institutions. This is part of our support for our government and our community," Rais he added. "We will do whatever we can to help secure our school so everyone can study peacefully."

He warned of serious consequences for students involved in any militant activities.

"The student will automatically be expelled from school," he told Khabar Southeast Asia. "We will not compromise on this."

Officials at other universities echoed his call.

"Group or individual, we will work together with our students, administration staff, and professors," University Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Vice-Chancellor Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar, said. "I believe there is no reason for students to join militant groups, especially ISIS. They will continue to do wrong, and the students will regret it in the future."

"Militant groups like ISIS need to learn more about humanity, so they can practice it in their daily life – not with guns, but with respect and democracy," Sahol told Khabar.

Ahmad Marthada Mohamed, dean of the Faculty of Law, Government, and International Studies at University Utara Malaysia (UUM), said he would continue to encourage all students to avoid ISIS.

"Their ideology is not Islamic. I told every university member to be aware of ISIS's influence. Their place is not in our university," he told Khabar.

"So if you're willing to die for ISIS, you are not a martyr. Because ISIS does not reflect Islamic teachings or faith, they have killed our fellow Muslims and any innocent people."

For their part, law enforcement officials will work with universities to monitor suspicious activity on campuses, Malaysian Police Inspector General Abu Bakar said.

"We already know that militants are targeting young people for their own benefit," he told Khabar. "So I hope all students and Malaysians in this category will be aware of this approach and avoid it."

According to Ayub Khan Mydin, deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Police's counter-terrorism division, most militants target men and women aged 15 to 30, and frequently via social media.

"Often they entice individuals to support jihad by providing pictures, photos, or videos from Syria, where Malaysians are waging war under the name of jihad. Militants are also targeting schools and universities," Ayub told Khabar.

Police Inspector General Abu said the government would continue to fight radicalism. The case of the female former student who travelled to the Middle East to join ISIS , he said, served as a reminder that securing Malaysia would "not be successful without the support of [Malaysian] citizens".

IIUM student Farid Hasan said he would do his part to help keep the campuses safe from extremists or their attempts to recruit his peers.

"I am sure all students are also committed to help. We will look and report any suspicious activity," he told Khabar. "They are targeting youth because youth have a greater influence in the community; we are resourceful but we have only little experience in life or religion."

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