23 July 2015
Extremism is not foreign to South-east Asia. It has been a part of the regional political and security landscape since the inception of independent nation-states, many of which had to struggle against communist movements bent on subversion and overthrow of nascent regimes – including popularly elected governments.
In the 1980s and 1990s, religiously inspired extremism, fanned by the Afghan “jihad”, emerged as a matter of concern in South-east Asia not so much for the danger it posed to the stability of ruling governments in the region, but because it threatened to coalesce into a region-wide movement by dint of the fact that it was in Afghanistan that South-east Asians from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar met and trained together, and built an incipient network.
This fear became a reality at the turn of the century, when it emerged that the Indonesia-based terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, comprising many Afghan “alumni”, nursed aspirations to establish a regional caliphate with the use of force covering Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, precisely through the mobilisation of these networks.
… The writer is Lee Kuan Yew Chair in South-east Asia Studies, Brookings Institution, Dean and Professor of Comparative and International Politics, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 23/07/2015