Malaysia Calls for Collective Online Effort Against Extremist Narrative

Nani Yusof
160511-MY-Reezal-620 Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican speaks at the United Nations in New York, May 10, 2016.
Courtesy of Reezal Merican Naina Merican

Malaysia at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday stressed the need for a collective social media effort to counter the narrative put forward by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

“We believe there is a need to encourage more IT [information technology] and media savvy Muslim public figures and scholars to reach out to the youth via the social media to provide a counter narrative, including to clarify the concept of jihad [holy war] that has been twisted to serve the terrorist agenda,” Reezal Merican Naina Merican, the deputy Malaysian foreign minister, told a Security Council forum in New York.

“At times, the promise of heavenly reward and spiritual salvation has led some to become misguided and fall for the terrorist narrative,” he said during the open debate on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts: Countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorism.”

Describing past international efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, he said that while they had seen varying degrees of success, “the international community could and must do more.”

Rejecting any association of terrorism with any one religion, nationality or ethnic group, he said however that Muslims “should not be in denial.” He emphasized a critical need to address what he called the exploitation of Islam by terrorist groups which had led, he said, to a perceived link between the religion, Muslims and terrorism.

“Peace was the very definition of Islam,” Reezal said, denouncing claims by terrorists that the religion sanctioned acts of barbarity.

“True Muslims did not accept ideologies that espouse hatred, wanton violence and destruction,” he said.

For those who were marginalized, disenchanted or disenfranchised, an ideology could be a powerful thing, Reezal continued, stressing that countering terrorist narratives meant removing the root causes of marginalization, disenchantment and disenfranchisement, while exposing the “fallacy” of terrorist narratives.

He said part of Malaysia’s effort to counter the extremist narrative was to engage with religious and community leaders in spreading “accurate” messages about Islam.

International framework

The one-day forum was aimed at providing a platform to discuss and exchange views on an international strategy for countering the narratives and ideologies of terrorist groups, particularly IS, and explore a possible mechanism to coordinate, follow-up and mobilize international action and resources in countering terrorism.

The Security Council on Wednesday requested its main counter-terrorism subsidiary body to present a proposal by next April for a comprehensive international framework on countering terrorist propaganda.

The 15-nation council asked its Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) to recommend guidelines and good practices to effectively counter the ways that IS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups use their narratives to encourage and recruit others to commit terrorist acts.

The CTC would work closely with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and other relevant bodies, as well as interested U.N. member states.

The council noted with concern that IS and other terror groups “craft distorted narratives that are based on the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion to justify violence.”

In his opening remarks at the open debate, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson emphasized that terrorist groups were exploiting religious beliefs in order to incite hatred and violence and to divide and polarize societies.

“Terrorists and violent extremists blatantly challenge the values enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as our shared pursuit of peace, justice and human dignity,” he said.

“Faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and the primacy of global solidarity represent the greatest force in our hands to counter terrorist narratives and ideologies,” Eliasson said.


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