A trend is emerging of young women and girls leaving Malaysia to marry or provide “sexual comfort” to jihadists with the Islamic State (IS), officials warn.
The arrest on Feb. 17 of a 14-year-old girl from Johor state may be the most troubling example to date of this trend. She is suspected of planning to travel to Egypt to marry a 22-year-old Malaysian IS recruit, who was studying at al-Azhar University in Cairo. From there the couple planned to travel on to Syria via Turkey, Malaysian news outlets reported.
The phenomenon compounds a national security problem for Malaysia: aggressive efforts by IS and home-grown sympathizers to recruit young fighters for its violent cause via social media.
IS now is going farther by trying to persuade girls as young as 14 and 15 to join its ranks and engage in activities including “sexual jihad,” The Star quoted Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP)’s counter-terrorism division, as saying Feb. 22.
“We will not allow them to be exploited by IS or any other terror groups,” Ayob told the newspaper. “We are pooling our resources to ensure that these children do not fall into the trap.”
“These young girls can easily be influenced by the militants via social media, especially Facebook,” he added.
Meanwhile, the girl in question is being held under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act of 2012 as authorities investigate the case, the Malaysian Insider reported.
According to Bernama, she attended a religious school in Shah Alam.
“However, our investigation is ongoing to determine whether the religious school where she was studying was in any way involved in spreading the militant group's ideology,” Bernama quoted Ayob as saying.
“However, we believe the girl has been exposed to the group’s ideology from the internet, long before studying in that religious school.”
Last year, seven Malaysian women ventured to Syria to join the militants, and seven more were prevented from going, Ayob told The Star. Most were in their 20s.
The 14-year-old, who was arrested Feb. 17 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, had been in touch with militants from Malaysia based in Syria, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement cited by The Star.
“We will investigate further to uncover the mastermind behind the recruitment of Malaysian girls for the IS,” he said.
“We will not allow Malaysia to be used as a training ground or hideout for terrorists and militants. Anyone in support or in league with any terrorist will be detained,” Khalid added.