Anuar Salleh paused and his eyes welled with tears when he heard that his 20-year-old son, a Malaysian member of the Islamic State (IS), had died in Iraq.
A BenarNews correspondent relayed the news to the 57-year-old retired civil servant at the start of an interview Tuesday outside his home in Kedah state.
“I accept what has happened to my son. As a father, I always prayed for the best for him, regardless of how he was perceived by others,” Anuar told BenarNews, his voice shaking.
Mohd Faris Anuar (pictured), the third of Anuar’s six children, was killed during fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province on Nov. 23, bringing to 14 the number of Malaysians who have lost their lives fighting for IS, a senior Malaysian counterterrorism official confirmed to BenarNews on Dec. 5.
“I have nothing further to say. At least, my family has closure for his disappearance, instead of worrying about his fate every single day,” the father added.
Anuar said he last saw and spoke to Faris in September 2014 when the young man told his parents that he was leaving his home village of Gurun – located in a hilly region near Kedah’s border with southern Thailand – to find a job and seek religious knowledge.
‘His own destiny’
Six months passed, Anuar said, before he learned that his son had joined IS. In March, police knocked on the door of the family’s white brick house.
The officers came by to inquire about Faris. He and another Malaysian youth, Muhammad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi, had made national headlines when Malaysian authorities identified the pair as having taken part in the execution of a Syrian in IS custody.
In the 30-minute video, an “Arab man” carried out the beheading and Wanndy was filmed crouching over the body. Faris’ voice could be heard as he operated the camera, according to Malaysian media reports at the time.
Both Faris and Wanndy were among at least 69 Malaysians who had traveled to Syria or Iraq to join IS, as of October. At least 130 people with suspected links to the extremist group have been arrested on Malaysian soil, authorities said.
The government says it has been trying to counter an online threat from IS recruiting young Malaysians for its mission via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
“What happened to my son was his own destiny, and I accept this ending as God’s will,” Anuar said. “There is nothing much that I could have possibly done to change his fate.”
Anuar said he was unsure how he would break the news to his wife, who suffers from high blood pressure and had spent much time crying and worrying about her son since word of his alleged involvement with IS reached the household.
“I am more worried about her health now, should she hear about this news,” he said.
He refused to let BenarNews take his picture or even photograph his home, saying he feared that people might attack his house or family due to their direct association with an IS member. The house sits along the road in Gurun, about 600 km (373 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.
Children played nearby as Anuar spoke.
“Whatever it is, we cannot stop his fate and I will forever remember him as a filial son, regardless of what others thought of him,” he added.