29 March 2016
ONLINE extremism in Malaysia is a matter of national and regional security. In May last year, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reported that 75 per cent of Islamic State, or Daesh, supporters were recruited online. As of January, police have arrested 153 people for suspected links to IS, successfully thwarting possible attacks. However, Malaysian IS fighters and supporters continue to thrive on social media platforms, such as Facebook.
While Malaysia has legal recourses to combat real-world terrorism, such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) (Amendment) Bill (Sosma), on top of nascent counter-radicalisation and counter-ideological efforts, Kuala Lumpur cannot ignore the thousands among its citizens who believe that they are contributing to IS’s cause through their online ribat (defence of Islam). There is an urgent need for these online radicals to be engaged in counter-narratives, for theirs is but a small step away from real-world militancy.
Malaysian online extremists, including mere Facebook “friends” of jihadis as well as hackers and “tech experts”, believe that they are “Cyber-IS” or that they are conducting ribat online. Social media is their frontier, online content are their cavalry and swords, friendship binds them together; their enemies are those who spread falsehood about the dawlah (IS), as well as online Shias, infidels and supporters of the tawaghut (idolaters).
… The writer is a research analyst in the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
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Last updated on 30/03/2016