Updated at 1:31 p.m. ET on 2016-10-21
Malaysia next month will officially open a messaging center whose mission is to counter online propaganda from Islamic State (IS) and other extremist groups, the nation’s police chief told BenarNews.
The messaging center will be housed at the Malaysian Police Training Center (Pulapol) in Kuala Lumpur, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said last week.
“Structurally, we are already under way. At first we had an issue regarding the venue, but that’s already been resolved. The PM will launch [the center] in November. We’ve already done a soft start,” Khalid told BenarNews.
Authorities in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia have long warned of a threat posed by IS and like-minded groups using social media to indoctrinate and recruit local youths as supporters and combatants.
IS has a Malay-language combat unit, known as Katibah Nusantara, made up of fighters from countries where forms of the language are spoken, and which has produced Malay-language propaganda.
Experts from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) are working with police officers to develop content to be disseminated by the center, according to the police chief.
“We are getting assistance from JAKIM. As you know, we have to be very careful with the content. The content will be in three languages English, Malay and Arabic,” Khalid said.
He added that the Malaysian center had sent officers to Abu Dhabi to learn about the Sawab Center, a messaging center launched by the United States and United Arab Emirates that seeks to “draw out the poisonous propaganda” of IS, according to its website.
At the International Conference on De-radicalization and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur in January, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke about the importance of countering extremist narratives with messaging that was “solid, persuasive and real.”
“It must state clearly why they [IS] are wrong, and why true Muslims will have nothing to do with this ideology of hatred and destruction,” he said.
About 1,000 Southeast Asians had joined IS in Iraq and Syria by the end of 2015, according to the U.S. State Department.
IS claimed an attack in downtown Jakarta in January 2016 that left eight people dead, including four attackers. An alleged IS supporter was killed Thursday in Tangerang, West Java after attacking police officers with a knife.
Malaysian authorities have arrested at least 230 suspected IS members since 2013 and have charged some 75 suspects linked to the group in court.
Police allege that a Malaysian in Syria ordered a grenade attack at a nightclub on the outskirts on Kuala Lumpur in June that injured eight people, the first IS attack on Malaysian soil.