Is Malaysia still a moderate nation?

Recent events reveal how Malaysia, previously regarded as a “moderate” nation, may be unravelling into a show of force and extremism. Has our deradicalisation programme failed?

Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

Incidents such as the bomb threat against human rights lawyer Siti Kasim; the petrol bombs lobbed into the garage and front porch of a DAP MP; the Molotov cocktails hurled at three KK Mart outlets; and the attack on the police station in Johor all have their roots in religion.

Are we no longer a moderate Muslim nation?

Umno Youth leader Akmal Saleh publicly campaigned for a nationwide boycott of KK Mart after the “Allah” socks issue despite the chain having issued an apology. For two months his rants continued unopposed, and only a handful of former and current MPs challenged him. Matters cooled after Perak mufti Wan Zahidi Wan Teh said the public’s response had gone beyond the boundaries of Islamic justice.

In his latest demand, Akmal wants an apology from Malaysiakini columnist Andrew Sia for branding UiTM an “apartheid academy” over the question of opening its cardiothoracic surgery postgraduate programme to non-Bumiputeras. Yet the proposal has been welcomed by many, as a measure to increase the number of cardiothoracic specialists.

Our former prime ministers, and probably our current PM, Anwar Ibrahim, would like to paint an image of a moderate Malaysia to western governments, but the meeting between Anwar and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar earlier this month raises questions. The west considers Hamas a terrorist organisation.

Anwar later explained that he and Ismail had been friends “for decades”, so there was no reason why they should not meet.

On the attack on the police station at Ulu Tiram on May 17, Inspector-General of Police Razarudin Husain initially said the 22-year-old masked man who killed two policemen and injured another had links to the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group.

One day later, home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail contradicted his IGP and claimed that the suspect killed in the attack was acting on his own – a “lone wolf” – and was not linked to any terror group, but was driven by his own motivation.

Razarudin later said his statement was based on the father’s past association with JI and the preliminary investigations had focused on that aspect.

It is this sort of befuddled reporting that does not reassure Malaysians that the situation is under control.

Attacking a police station with relative ease is worrying. For an attack to take place shows that the station is not well protected and insecure. Has the PDRM gone sloppy? Are they suffering from a shortage of personnel?

How did the Special Branch or the police miss out on the tell-tale signs that such an incident could happen? The compound where the man and his family and others reside had “no entry” signs at its entrance, the families lived like hermits and distanced themselves from the rest of the community, and the children did not attend school.

Saifuddin may claim that there are no terrorist links with this suspect, but the damage has been done.

Radicalism does not just happen overnight. Malaysians need to know the truth because it impacts our national security, our safety, our tourist trade, local businesses, international trade and foreign investment.