From Syria, Malaysian Jihadist Gives Reasons for Joining IS

BenarNews Staff

2015-09-11
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150911-MY-wanndy-1000.jpg Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi (right), wife Nor Mahmudah Ahmad and an unidentified child pose in front of an Islamic State flag at an unknown location in Syria.
Courtesy of Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi

Updated at 11:47 a.m. ET on 2015-09-14

In an interview with BenarNews, Malaysian jihadist Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi expressed no regrets about abandoning his life back home to take up arms for the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

"I must say that I do harbor the hope of returning to Malaysia, but it is not my priority as my focus now is to stay here and fight, to achieve my dream of defending the IS," the 25-year-old told BenarNews from the war zone. The interview was conducted via Facebook.

Wanndy is alleged to be one of two Malaysians in an IS video crew that filmed the beheading of a Syrian man. The video was posted on Facebook on Feb. 22, according to The Star, the Malaysian newspaper that broke the story in early March.

A still image taken from the video clip published with the story allegedly showed Wanndy crouching over the dead man’s body and smiling.

Compatriot Mohd Faris Anuar allegedly operated the camera and a third man, believed to be an Indonesian, held up the Syrian’s head and cried “Allahuakbar,” The Star quoted Malaysian counter-terrorism officials as saying.

“The video version of this punishment is for those who betrayed Islam. It’s a lesson for everyone,” Wanndy reportedly said in the video, according to Harian Metro.

‘Preparing for al-Mahdi’s rule’

Wanndy, who hails from Durian Tunggal, a small town in coastal Malacca state, did not immediately reply to questions about his alleged role in the killing.

He said that he and his wife, Nor Mahmudah Ahmad, left Malaysia on Jan. 26, motivated by a chapter of the Quran that predicts redemption and victory for Muslims before the end of times, under a messianic figure called al-Mahdi.

The couple traveled by train from Butterworth, in Penang state, to Bangkok, then flew to Moscow and to Istanbul – a popular disembarkation point for jihadists travelling overland to Syria, Wanndy said.

He was communicating with BenarNews from an IS stronghold in Syria that was being bombarded from the air an average of four times daily by a U.S.-led international coalition, according to Wanndy.

"At this moment I am in Raqqah, Syria, and I will not turn away from my duty to fight for the establishment of the Islamic State's Caliph leadership in preparing for the al-Mahdi’s rule,” he told BenarNews.

“Mahdi,” according to various sources, is an Arabic word that connotes a “divinely guided one” who will emerge to restore the purity of the Islamic faith and lead Muslims to victory against enemy forces before Judgment Day.

"The Islamic State (IS) is the movement which is making preparations for al-Mahdi rule towards the end of the world,” Wanndy said.

‘Thousands of excuses’

According to The Star, Wanndy and Faris were part of an IS unit made up of Malay-speaking jihadists from Malaysia and Indonesia. The 100-strong unit, named Majmu’ah al Arkhabiliy, was previously known as Katibah Nusantara, the Star reported, quoting Malaysian counter-terrorism special branch chief Ayob Khan Mydin.

Wanndy, who just celebrated the birth of a baby girl, criticized other Malaysians for being afraid to die for IS’s cause.

"These Malaysians come up with thousands of excuses to avoid dying as a martyr. When they return to Malaysia, they are screaming their lungs out for jihad, but, ironically, they fled from the battle,” he said.

In Syria, he has been fighting for IS alongside 80 fellow Malaysians, 11 of whom have died in combat, Wanndy added.

IS threat at home

Authorities in Malaysia and other countries vulnerable to IS recruitment have long feared that jihadists returning from combat tours in Iraq or Syria might plot attacks on home soil.

On Friday, the Royal Malaysia Police force issued a statement alerting the public to a threat made by IS through its online magazine, Dabiq. In it, the group called on its supporters to carry out terrorist attacks in several countries, including Malaysia.

“Police have been and will continue to take action to improve safety in all key asset areas of the country, including embassies and also places of public interest,” the statement read.

Since 2014, some 121 people suspected of links to IS have been taken into custody in Malaysia.

On Wednesday, the Kuala Lumpur High Court sentenced two Malaysians to two years’ imprisonment for supporting the Islamic State.

The court ordered that the sentences for architect Mohd. Syafrien Rasid and technician Mohamad Yusoffe Ishak, both 27, be retroactive to the date of their arrests at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Sept. 25, 2014, as they tried to depart for Syria, according to the state-run news agency Bernama.

Attorneys for the defendants said their clients made a mistake that they now regretted.

"My client requests that the court give him a second chance to improve himself and return to the right path," said Nor Rabiatul Bahari, the lawyer who represented Syafrien.

According to attorney Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi, who represented Yusoffe, his client had had no religious education and only knew about the meaning of jihad through social media and the internet.

"This has led him to misunderstand the real meaning of ‘jihad,’” he said.

‘Driven to despise the U.S.’

A shallow understanding of Islam has left other Malaysians vulnerable to IS recruitment, Islamic Development Department (Jakim) Director-General Othman Mustapha told BenarNews.

“Their lack of understanding on the religion has caused them to derail from the true teaching … Muslims must seek the true Islamic teaching to quash the IS propaganda, particularly pertaining to the martyr issue,” he said.

Malaysians swayed by such propaganda “are willing to join the movement as they are sympathetic with Muslims who are oppressed in Palestine, Iraq and Syria …,” Transparency International Malaysia President Akhbar Satar said.

“They were driven to despise the United States for invading Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, which claimed the life of civilians,” added Akhbar, who is also director of the Crime and Criminology Institute at HELP, a local university.

Malaysians need to hold true to the Quran, the Sunnah and the fundamentals taught by Syafie, Hanafi, Maliki and Hambali, Sunni Islam’s four prominent imams, Ayob, the head of the police’s counter-terrorism division, told BenarNews.

Those imams “never labelled other groups as infidel, although they have differences in the interpretation of Islamic matters,” Ayob said.

"The other teachings besides Sunni tend to accuse other Muslims who do not adhere to their interpretation of Islamic teachings as infidel, making it permissible to kill them,” he added.

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