The police must be congratulated for apprehending the eight Malaysians and 11 foreigners, two of whom were IS commanders who fought in Iraq. Pix courtesy of Police

THE recent arrest of 19 men linked to Islamic State (IS) by Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division in several locations in the country is an indication that Malaysia cannot afford to let her guard down when it comes to dealing with counter-terrorism. The police must be congratulated for apprehending the eight Malaysians and 11 foreigners, two of whom were IS commanders who fought in Iraq. We can only imagine the harm that they would have caused if they were out of the ken of our counter-terrorism officers as they were planning to unleash their fire power during the closing ceremony of the 27th Kuala Lumpur Sea Games and our 60th National Day Celebrations. We can take comfort in the fact that the newly appointed Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who comes fresh from the Counter-Terrorism Division, has the fight against terrorism upper most in his mind.

A pertinent question: How did these 11 foreigners gain entry into Malaysia? One of them, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi, was reportedly employed as a temporary teacher in a tahfiz in Gombak, Selangor, having entered Malaysia September last year on the pretext of furthering his studies at a public university. This comes hot on the heels of a private university in the capital city being used as a centre for human trafficking.

Terrorism is fast emerging as a prime threat to the security and stability of Malaysia as she enters 60 years of nationhood. While we rely on our Malaysian police’s counter-terrorism expertise, Malaysia must continue to adopt a long-term multi-prong approach in tackling the growing global menace. No gap must be left for the terrorists to slip through under the pretext of seeking further education or employment. Enhanced coordination among the various government agencies with the police’s Counter-Terrorism Division will surely go a long way in keeping these undesirable elements away from the shores of the country.

Extremism is a result of a warped mind that views the world in an uncompromising way. It must not be understood to be limited to one particular faith. Neither is it limited to a particular people. Malaysia’s approach to fight terrorism through soft power, counter-narrative and winning hearts and minds at local, regional and global level is the way to go. Using military might to fight terrorism has turned in abysmal results as witnessed in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.

It is in this context that initiatives such as the country’s policy on counter-terrorism, law enforcement, de-radicalisation strategy and rehabilitation programmes must be seen. Malaysia has done well in weeding out terrorism to be noticed by the international community. Many have come to our shores to take home our experience. The establishment of the King Salman Centre for International Peace in Kuala Lumpur is an effort by Saudi Arabia to learn from the experience of Malaysia which has witnessed terrorism and insurgency. Malaysia’s de-radicalisation strategy is part of Malaysia’s soft power approach adopted from the country’s experience during the insurgency.

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