Malaysians who joined IS duped by ‘mirage’ of ‘Islamic life’, says expert

Many Malaysians who joined the Islamic State are still in Iraq and Syria. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: An academic involved in the deradicalisation of Malaysian militants says many of them opted to return to the country after realising the Islamic State’s (IS) idea of “Islamic life” was not what it seemed.

Speaking to FMT, Universiti Malaysia Perlis’ Mizan Mohammad Aslam said many were fooled by the “mirage” they saw on social media.

“Actually, the ‘Islamic life’ pushed by IS was a lie. The desire to return grew stronger once they regretted their actions after the fall of the last IS stronghold in March 2019.

“They did not have any source of income to support their lives as prior to this, they received a salary from the IS administration. They experienced hardship and suffering, including going without water and electricity.”

Mizan, a strategic studies and antiterrorism expert, said some were so emotionally drained that they wanted to die as they felt useless for getting involved in militancy.

Mizan, who sits on the home ministry’s deradicalisation panel, said the Malaysians there had also failed to ensure that their children received a good education.

He said Malaysians would have to accept the return of these former IS supporters once they face trial and show remorse for their actions.

“We agree to accept them because they are Malaysians,” he said, adding that even non-Islamic countries in Europe had accepted the return of their citizens.

“They must be given a second chance to rebuild their lives in their own country.”

He also called for emotional and socio-economic support on the part of the government.

He said those who returned should also be monitored to ensure that their former comrades do not influence them to rejoin IS or any other militant group.

They would also have to stay away from radical Islamic teachings including extremist Salafi-Wahhabi Takfiri views, he said.

“They can also become agents of deradicalisation, to help the government.”

Previously, the home ministry said that 16 Malaysians linked to IS had returned home, including four children.

As many as 57 Malaysians who joined IS are still in Iraq and Syria, 40 of whom have requested to return home.

Nine of the 12 adults have been sentenced under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act while another three have been sentenced under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The children meanwhile have been returned to their respective family members.