The Malaysian government has tabled a White Paper on the threat of militancy in the country, outlining the real threat terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) pose to Malaysia amid the rising concerns of homegrown militancy.
The White Paper, which will be debated in Parliament today, is expected to list Malaysia’s policies in tackling the ISIS threat.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told The Star newspaper that the White Paper will explain how ISIS has tried to infiltrate local political parties and use social media to shore up funds.
The official document also covers proposed measures to combat and prevent terrorism, including amending existing laws or drafting new anti-terror legislation, he said.
“We will either strengthen the seven existing laws by amending the clauses or propose a new Anti-Terrorism Act as a preventive measure,” said Mr Ahmad Zahid.
“If introduced, the new Act will complement SOSMA and PCA,” he added, referring to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Prevention of Crime (Amendment and Extension) Act 2013.
This will be the third time in the country’s history that a White Paper will be tabled. White Papers were previously tabled by the government on the Al-Mau’nah military weapons heist and hostage crisis in 2000, and on the 1985 Memali Incident, when 14 civilians and four police officers were killed in a deadly crackdown on an alleged extremist religious group. Malaysia intends to work with the United Nations to tackle the threat of ISIS, which is determined to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East.
Mr Ahmad Zahid also stressed that the country is facing a “whole new level of threat” from Malaysian militants who are connected with their foreign counterparts, enabling groups such as ISIS to spread their ideology, which manipulates Islamic teachings to justify their goals of using force to establish their version of an Islamic state.
About 100 Malaysians have already been identified by the police as being involved in extremist activities, a figure that could increase if preventive measures are not taken, he said.
Last week, Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said Malaysian ISIS fighters were returning to spread the militant ideology. At least five ISIS militants had returned to Malaysia and three of them have been arrested. The arrests included a “tier-one personality”, Mohamad Fauzi, known among his comrades as Abu Dayyan.
Mr Wan Junaidi said police checks showed that those who returned were not driven by disillusionment or the desire to surrender to the Malaysian authorities, but to influence and recruit others. “The police are monitoring, and they know those who opted to return are doing so because they want to influence other Malaysians to join their cause, regardless of whether they are Muslims or not,” he said.
Between January and June this year, the police arrested 23 people in various parts of Malaysia over alleged links to the terror group.
The Malaysians fighting alongside ISIS forces in the Middle East were influenced to take up the struggle through social media, intelligence sources previously said.
Some, such as former Kedah PAS Youth information chief Lotfi Ariffin, who was killed in Syria, had not only posted about his activities with the militants on Facebook, but had also issued call-to-action messages. To date, five Malaysians have been killed in action.