Malaysian PM Defends Tough Stand on Terrorism

Fahirul N. Ramli
2016.01.25
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160125-MY-keynote-620 Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers the keynote address at the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur, Jan. 25, 2016.
BenarNews

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that he would not apologize for the tough measures he has taken to combat terrorism, warning the threat from the Islamic State group (IS) was “very real” and that he had to put the country’s security above everything else.

His statement came three days after Malaysian police arrested seven suspected IS militants allegedly linked to the mastermind of the group’s deadly attacks in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Jan. 14 which left four civilians and four attackers dead.

“I make no apology, I repeat, I make no apology for taking every step to preserve that safety, and for making the security for all Malaysians and our global visitors as my first priority,” Najib said in his opening remarks at the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism 2016 in Kuala Lumpur.

“This threat is very real and my government takes it very seriously,” he said.

Video threat

As the conference opened, Malaysian police said the IS group had posted a video that warned of attacks in Malaysia over the arrest of its members and supporters.

The video, in the native Bahasa Malaysia and released by the Malay unit of IS known as Katibah Nusantara (Malay Archipelago Combat Unit), warned the Malaysian government to halt actions against the group and release those who have been detained or “face revenge.”

Katibah Nusantara is suspected to be headed by Bahrun Naim, identified as the mastermind behind the Jakarta bombings and being based in Raqqa, the IS’s de facto capital in Syria.

The video featured two Malaysians based in Syria, identified by Malaysia’s police chief as Abdul Halid Dari and Mohd Nizam Arifin, speaking under the IS logo.

“The police are continuing proactive measures on matters regarding the video, which will not be taken lightly,” police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said when met by reporters during the conference.

BenarNews could not independently verify the video.

Detention without trial

Muslim-majority Malaysia has arrested more than 100 people it says are involved in IS. Fifty-five Malaysians have been involved in IS in Iraq and Syria, of whom 17 had been killed, the local media quoted intelligence reports as saying.

Najib took a swipe at rights groups criticizing his tough security laws and calling them a threat to civil liberties.

“But let me tell you this: There are no civil liberties under Daesh [IS], and they are no shield against those who are set on committing acts of terrorism. The best way to uphold civil liberties is to ensure the safety of the nation,” he told the conference.

In 2012, Najib oversaw the repeal of the draconian Internal Security Act, which the government had used to detain people indefinitely without trial, but last year reintroduced tough legislation he said was aimed at fighting terrorism.

Human rights groups criticized the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) as it revived detention without trial.

The groups also criticized Kuala Lumpur for another law approved last month that gave sweeping powers to a national security council led by Najib.

Najib branded IS’s idea of creating an Islamic state as “nothing at all Islamic,” adding that the peaceful majority in his country firmly rejected IS’s violence to “bomb, maim and behead.”

The Malaysian leader also elaborated on the country’s plans to set up a Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communications Centre to fight IS’s extremist propaganda online.

“[I]t is vital that all authorities – our muftis [Islamic leaders], our media commissions, our tech-savvy young people for whom social media is an integral part of their daily lives – ensure that the messaging the centre puts out is solid, persuasive and real, “ he said.

The messages, he said, must cut through “the rhetoric and sadly seductive approaches of the militants.”

“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.”

The two-day conference is aimed at stepping up cooperation among security agencies throughout the world in deradicalization programs, a government statement said.

Ministers and officials in charge of fighting extremist militant threats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the 10-member grouping’s strategic partners – the United States, France, Australia, Britain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Japan, China and Italy – are attending the meeting.

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