Malaysian police recently arrested three men they believe were planning to join Islamist militants in Syria. Police say the three were arrested at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Officials say militant groups have used social media to interest more than 30 Malaysian Muslims in fighting what they call “jihad” in Syria and Iraq. Anti-terrorism experts say they are worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
You are listening to a video found on the YouTube website. In the video, Malaysians are seen fighting side by side with Islamist militants in Syria.
One of the Malaysians was 45-year-old Lotfi Ariffin. He had thousands of Malaysian followers on Facebook. It was on Facebook that people first learned he had been killed in battle.
In Iraq, another Malaysian carried out a suicide bomb attack, killing 25 policemen.
Since early last year, Malaysian officials have been actively working to stop people from joining groups like the Islamic State. Anti-terrorism expert Ayob Khan says he is worried about more than the harm they can cause in Syria and Iraq.
“They also planning to carry out attacks in Malaysia, against the Malaysian government, because for them Malaysia is not (an) Islamic government. It is OK to topple Malaysia through armed struggle. So that is the main objective, the same objective that what has been preached by the Islamic State.”
Earlier this year, Malaysian police arrested several people who planned to join up with the Islamic State. Police said the suspects had talked about attacking targets in Malaysia. Last week, they arrested three other people as they prepared to go to Syria.
Jufitri Joha is with the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. He says his group is attempting to persuade young Muslims not to join the “jihad”.
“We stress that this is not your priority. Your priority, if you want to help them, you should join the humanitarian mission sending food, aid, release the pain suffered by the refugees, by the internally displaced people, that is your priority.”
Jifitri Joha says young Muslims in Malaysia have shown interest in both the name and idea of the “Islamic State.” But police say the would-be jihadists are also interested in fighting Shia Muslims, seeing them as opponents of accepted religious teachings.
Political scientist Chandra Muzaffar says officials in Malaysia, a Sunni Muslim country, share the blame for fueling religious violence.
“It is obvious that there is a strong anti-Shia element in religious propaganda in Malaysia and this is emanating from the religious establishment, from certain elements in political parties, from NGOs, from various other groups.”
Malaysian police say they are closely watching social media, which they say is the main way the militants appeal to would-be followers.
Police say that if Malaysians with ties to groups like the Islamic State return home, they will be arrested immediately.
I’m Bob Doughty.
*This report is based on a story from reporter Mahi Ramakrishnan in Kuala Lumpur. George Grow wrote it for Learning English. Jeri Watson was the editor.
Words used in this Story
police – n. a government agency responsible for guarding the public, keeping order, and making sure people obey the law; members of that agency
militant – adj., trying to cause political change, often by the use of force or violence; n. someone active in trying to cause political change
happen – v. to become a fact or event; to take place
video – n. a method of recording images and sound without a traditional film camera to be shown on a television, computer or other device
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