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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Threat from Daish - Religion or Ideological War?

The rise of a previously obscure militant group that sought to overthrow Syrian President Bashir al Assad were first noted somewhere around September or October 2013.  The then militant group that called itself as ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-‘Irāq wash-Shām (loosely translated to ISIL or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) was headed by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man believed to be a former inmate of the infamous Abu Ghraib Prison (he was imprisoned in Camp Bucca, where former interns of Abu Ghraib were placed after the Abu Ghraib scandal was broken to the world.

Back then, the civil war in Syria had worsened and US government had begun to supply weapons to militant groups in Syria that were opposed to Bashar's government.  Apparently, some of the weapons that were supplied by the US were later found to have made their way back to Iraq and were used in several attacks within Iraq itself.  It was only then that the US government realized that the ISIL that they had been supplying weapons to fight the Syrian government were actually the same Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI or Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn).  This was despite the fact that Iraqi military intelligence had warned the Americans of the links between the two groups.

DS Hishammuddin in answering the Q&A session during 3rd National Aspiration and Leadership Symposium


Today, ISIL is now known as IS (Islamic State).  This was after a brief period that it used the name ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Sham).  However, the name that it sought to use is not recognized by the United Nations and neighbouring Muslim nations, after decrying that they (the militant group) had brought disrepute to their religion.  Instead, they began to call the movement as DAESH or Da'ish, the abbreviation of its name in Arab.  Ironically, the DAESH name sounds similar to Arab words that meant to be dashed to pieces under one's feet.

Unknown number of lives had since been lost to Da'ish, either in the heat of the battle, or via execution.  In recent months, the group had since received loyalty pledges from many other militant groups worldwide.  Amongst them, Yemeni-based Salafist militant group, Boko Haram in Nigeria and her neighbours, and here in Southeast Asia, both BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) and ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) had declared allegiance to Da'esh.

Da'ish - Is It a Religious Extremist Group?  Or Is it An Ideological Group?

The use of the word Islam in Da'esh official name had resulted in many people to believe the group is fighting for Islam, or in the case of moderate Muslims, the group had misappropriated Islam's name.  Due to the group consists solely of Muslim recruits of various races and level of understanding of Islam, it is unfortunate the group is being labelled as Islamic terrorists group.

If one study the group carefully, the actions and belief sets of Da'ish followers are more of an ideological belief rather than a religious belief.

Similar to the communist party followers that once plagued Malaysia, they choose and pick only parts of the Holy Quran and Hadith that are beneficial to their cause.  If the whole verse is detrimental to their actions, they choose to drop part that are detrimental to their actions.

The recent burning of Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot proved this as they had possibly quoted a fake Hadith to convince their followers to burn the Jordanian F16 pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines in January this year (2015).

IMPORTANT NOTE: While some may point to the late Ustaz Mohd Lotfi being part of Da'ish, the fact is he was part of another militant group, believed to be Jabhat al-Nusra, which do no subscribe to Da'ish ideological fanaticism.  (We were informed by better informed readers that the late Ustaz was neither part of Da'ish nor Jabhat al-Nusra, but rather part of Ajnad al-Shams.  Credit for this correction goes to Fariz Ariffin).

Another important component of Da'ish is their recruitment methodology.  In most of the noted Da'ish successful recruitment, these followers were found to be either lack of religious knowledge, or were believed to be previously wayward from their religious calling.  In some cases, the cadres were individuals who were previously ignorant of their religious calling, and were angered by what they perceived as global injustice against Islam.  This was confirmed by Malaysia's Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein during a Question and Answer session this morning in Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).  He pointed out the two brothers who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo attack were previously non-religious Muslims.

Another sets of potential recruits for Da'ish are newly converted Muslims.  Though this trend is not new, this was first noted when al Qaida were active.  The first in this line is most probably Richard Reid, the shoe bomber who did not managed to detonate his shoe bomb.

They may have converted due to multitude of reasons.  Due to their lack of understanding of the religion, these converts become easy target for recruitment by Da'ish.  This risk is in a way mitigated in Malaysia where religious authorities do organize classes for new converts to attend for them to learn about the religion.
DS Hishammuddin at the end of the 3rd National Aspiration and Leadership Symposium

What does it means to Malaysia?

Exactly what does it means to Malaysia when facing this global threat?

It is a fight that we, Malaysians, regardless of race and religion must stand together and face together.  In the same Q&A Session this morning, DS Hishammuddin had pointed out, that the threat from Da'ish is different from the threat from al Qaeda.  Back then, al Qaeda had been moving around in cells.  But the nature of Da'ish where they prefer for their cadres to operate alone instead of making their way to Syria, makes them a very dynamic threat.  The participants in this morning's symposium were brought to the attention that anyone of us could be the threat that we are so worried about.  Paraphrasing DS Hishammuddin, "one must realize that the threat could come from the person sitting next to you, around you, or even yourself".

Even as we speak, the IGP today revealed that Bukit Aman had arrested an individual who is believed to be a commander of Da'ish in a hotel in Bukit Bintang.  This comes about from leaked KLM Security Division memo that indicated potential Da'ish attack in central KL, specifically in Berjaya Time Square, where there are large crowd of civilian targets.  Poignant, considering the arrest happened less than a kilometre (less than a mile) away from the purported target.

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