SINGAPORE: The self-styled terrorist group Islamic State, or Isis, is growing its presence in Southeast Asia to make up for losing ground in Iraq and Syria, said Ahmad El-Muhammady, an adviser to the Royal Malaysia Police on terrorist detainees, reported Channel News Asia.
The report said that in May, officials from the US Department of Defence said Isis had lost about 45 per cent of the territory it claimed in Iraq and about 10 per cent of the land it held in Syria.
“The area controlled by Isis is shrinking and this has a psychological impact on them. Even among cyber troopers, they ask questions about what’s going on now,” Channel News Asia quoted Ahmad, who is also a lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia, as saying.
“How does Isis maintain the support? They have to go to the second ring of conflict, that is their neighbouring countries, or the third ring of conflict, that is Southeast Asia.”
As an adviser to Malaysia’s programme, the report said that Ahmad has interviewed more than 50 terrorist detainees, some as young as 14 years old.
“They would say, ‘I don’t think what I did is wrong’. Lack of religious knowledge or ignorance about Islam causes them to be unable to differentiate between right and wrong,” Ahmad said.
“It is very essential to focus on educating the Muslim generation with the correct understanding of Islam,” said Ahmad, but he remains hopeful that Isis can be defeated.
“If the government, individuals and society cooperate with security agencies, and the Muslim intellectuals participate in this, I believe we can reduce the sphere of influence and retake centre-stage,” he said.
The report was part of the full interview with Ahmad in the “Conversation With” programme which will be aired 8.30pm today.
“Conversation With” is Channel News Asia’s flagship one-on-one interview programme that has run for more than 15 years.
The prime-time interview show focuses on one distinguished personality in each episode.
Ahmad made the comments against the backdrop of a spate of recent attacks by Isis, also known as Daesh, in the region.