Unity’s the only bulwark against extremism


The police announcement that last week’s grenade strike at a bar in Puchong was the first successful IS attack in Malaysia has sent shock waves through the country. While it was first reported two years ago that there was indeed an active Daesh presence in Malaysia, the absence of a major attack on our shores perhaps gave us the impression that the country was safe, that it was more of a transit point for terrorists than a theatre of operation.

Our reality has changed, and now, like so many other countries, we too are a target, with the Nusantara branch of the IS trumpeting the success of the attack with a terrifying propaganda video. Featuring clips of child soldiers training for battle, their immature limbs buckling from the recoil of rifles, the video sends chills up the spine.

Already, some netizens are expressing anger at Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar, who not too long ago dared the Daesh to return to our shores and attempt an attack. In hindsight, it certainly reeks of hubris.

Like all the other countries that have suffered IS attacks, we are finding it difficult to put brakes on a movement that is increasingly using lone wolves or small cells to carry out attacks in the name of the Daesh, sometimes guided by shadowy figures overseas.

In truth, all the Daesh has to do is sit back and take credit, as these self-radicalised elements inevitably declare their cause and mission, and of course their loyalty to IS. Such is the power of an idea, and certainly, the spate of bombings in various cities around the world during Ramadan proves that the idea grows ever stronger among the fringe elements of society. And Malaysia in particular is guilty of pandering to the fringe all too often.

The crows have come home to roost, and now we as a society must recognise that we have a problem on our hands that desperately needs to be addressed. We must drag ourselves out of the dark depths of credos that are based upon fear of change and fear of the other and embrace that which unites us.

The only way to combat extremism is to be united. For too long we have stood divided, either by political affiliation, religion, colour of skin or difference of opinion. As Malaysians, we can share only one opinion about the Daesh – that it is unacceptable. It now falls to the religious leaders of our community to denounce the violence and ideology of the IS, to become champions of a more united and wholesome society because, whether we want to admit it or not, this is still a matter of faith to those loyal to the Daesh, misguided or not.

It falls to us to open our houses to our neighbours this Hari Raya, to stand together in defiance of that which seeks to tear us apart and keep us in fear. There are those who seek to divorce the ideas of the Daesh from Islam, but a simple denial is not enough anymore because we must acknowledge that these extremists come from the people around us, people we may have called “friend” or “brother” once upon a time. Now is the time to tear down the barriers we have built to separate ourselves from one another and to accept the simple truth that we are all one, and what hurts one of us hurts all of us.