Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has urged Malaysians to reject the jihadist ideology promoted by Islamist State (IS) and instead practise moderation, after police on Monday confirmed that the terror group had struck the country for the first time.
Mr Najib said tackling terrorism is not merely beefing up security, but also rejecting extremist thinking.
“We can defeat these extremist and militant groups by rejecting their ideology and practising the principles of wasatiyyah or moderation, and using them as a foundation for the country,” he said in his Hari Raya Aidilfitri message yesterday.
“It is clear that they are against the teachings of Islam and universal values. Everyone has to unite, regardless of their religious belief, to counter them.”
Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar on Monday confirmed that last week’s grenade attack on a nightclub in Selangor was the first successful IS attack in the country, marking a breakthrough by the militant group after numerous previous plots were thwarted by the Malaysian authorities.
Videos of IS declaring war on Malaysia and Indonesia had been circulating online for weeks before the attack. The Malaysian authorities have been on high alert after several militants launched an attack in Jakarta on Jan 14, and the police have foiled plans by individuals aiming to blow up strategic targets across the country. The police have also been bracing themselves for potential lone-wolf attacks by IS supporters, as Malaysia has been identified by the militants as a high-priority target.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said former militants who underwent successful rehabilitation will be enlisted to help the country stop the spread of terrorism by advising local university students against joining IS.
“We will have those who have been deradicalised appear not only in the media, we will also have them at several institutes of higher learning, because we know that the strongest influence is feared to be at institutes of higher learning,” he told the Malaysian media yesterday.
“We want them to help us to spread awareness on the dangers of extremist thinking. We want to convince the people not to be swayed by IS.”
Mr Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, said the authorities are keeping a close watch on local universities, which have been identified as some of the breeding grounds for extremist ideology. “We are keeping a close eye on universities. We are also monitoring social media on the spread of this ideology,” he added.