Recently, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, Assistant Director of Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division (E8) has confirmed the presence of Malaysians in Myanmar… but they’re not there on a humanitarian mission.Supported by Daesh/ISIS terrorist group, those Malaysians are actually there on a “jihad” to fight the Myanmar gomen.
Currently, there is an armed conflict between Rohingya militants and Myanmar autorities. Although Daesh wants to support them, Mr. Ayob clarifies that the Myanmar militants are not part of ISIS.
“They are not ISIS. We do not have intelligence that shows ISIS and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) have joined forces,” – Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, quoted from The New Paper
Though we don’t know exactly how many of them went or how many more are going, they know that most of them were recruited by “fighters” both in Malaysia and Myanmar. Among others, The Malaysian authorities have actually been anticipating something like this. But what do Malaysian Islam extremists have against the Myanmar gomen?
The M’sian Daesh wants to save Muslims from the Myanmar gomen
Just in case you’re wondering, ethnic cleansing is “the mass expulsion or killing of members of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society“. So it’s not a term that the UN would lightly throw around. And if you haven’t been following, the international community recently had their eyes on Nobel Peace Prize winner and Myanmar State Counselor: Aung San Suu Kyi.
On August 25th 2017, members of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) attacked 30 police and army posts of Rakhine State state in Myanmar, killing 12 people in the process. This led to a retaliation by the Myanmar armed forces, assisted by local ethnic Buddhist mobs. The waves of violence that broke out forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Buddhists alike to flee from their homes, seeking safety elsewhere.
But here’s where things get controversial. Foreign media were disallowed to cover the situation in Myanmar, so they could only rely on the accounts of Rohingya refugees that are seeking shelter at the Bangladesh border. From what they gathered from the Rohingyas, the Myanmar military was suspected of deliberately killing Rohingyas for no reason.
“They threw the children into the river. My three-year-old granddaughter, Makarra, and Abul Fayez, my one-year-old grandson. I was hiding on the south side of the river. They gathered everyone together and told them to walk away. Then they shot them.” – Kabir Ahmed, 65, told The Guardian
The Myanmar gomen on the other hand says the casualties were mainly militants. But it didn’t help when the gomen accused international charity groups of aiding the rebels, and Aung San Suu Kyi did not make any official public address on the issue (until recently), save a gomen statement that said that the crisis is being distorted by “huge iceberg of misinformation“. What?! So even Aung San Suu Kyi is blaming fake news now??
The fake news is no joke, as Malaysian authorities confirmed (kinda)
Malaysian authorities have anticipated that the Rohingya issue will attract Daesh’s attention since early January this year. Ayob Khan also confirmed that the group is using the widespread sharing of images of oppressed Rohingya people to gain sympathy and motivate new members to join them.
But as Aung San Suu Kyi said, many of the images of the crisis bring shared have been discovered to be fake. Even Mehmet Simsek, the Turkish deputy prime minister made the mistake of sharing misleading images disguisedas the Myanmar conflict. He later removed the image and apologised for the Twitter post.
But some still point the blame at Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that closing the door on media access is what’s giving rise to fake images.
“If they allowed the UN or human rights bodies to go to the place to find out what is happening then this misinformation is not going to take place.” – Tin Htar Swe, BBC Burmese Service
So, is the Myanmar crisis empowering terrorists in Malaysia?
So far, Malaysian authorities have already confirmed the arrest of 2 Daesh followers connected to the Myanmar crisis. One was an Indonesian man travelling to Myanmar to carry out attacks there, while another was a local cendol seller, who was also planning to travel to Rakhine, as well as for actively promoting the Daesh militancy. Even as far back as 2016, there were reports of Rohingyas being trafficked to Saudi Arabia by rackets using fake Indian passports.
Of course, people are concerned that refugees might be easy targets for radicalisation. The same sentiment is felt across countries all over the world, to the point that U.S. President Donald Trump enacted a ban on Muslims from 6 countries into the United States. Some Germans also protested against allowing refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq into their country.
But in reality, do refugees usually turn against their host countries? And commit terror attacks? A study doneby CATO institute found that from 1975 to 2015, there were 20 terrorists out of the 3,252,493 refugees that came to the U.S. They also studied the number of fatal attacks carried out specifically by refugees in United States, and found that since 1980, the number of was 0. Yes, zero.
In European countries and UK, where it’s closer to the middle east, the situation is only slightly worse. Last year in Germany, only 2 attacks by refugees were reported. One was caught by other refugees before his plan was carried out, while the other was a knife attack that killed 1 and injured 2. A separate research by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) conclude that while refugees have conducted terror attacks in other countries, there was no evidence of “coordinated Isis involvement”.
For Europe, the bigger concern is actually terrorist crossing the borders as refugees. And across the board, it’s the locals that are more prone in carrying out attacks in their own country, as we’ve written before here.
So far, the most extreme thing Rohingyas have done in Malaysia was … a protest
On August 30th 2015, over 1,000 Rohingyas and several NGOs in Malaysia gathered in KL city and marched to the Myanmar embassy in Jalan Ampang Hilir to hand over a memorandum protesting against killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The protest caused some massive traffic jams and that naturally annoyed some Malaysians.
When they refused to dispersed after that and “started acting aggresively”, the authorities had to intervene, and some 44 to 155 protesters were arrested after the incident. The Malaysian Consultative Council of Islam Organisations (Mapim) has even called on the gomen to expel Myanmar nationals from Malaysia if the violence against Rohingyas do not stop.
“It’s not only affecting the Rohin-gya but the whole of Myanmar. We want a peaceful region and country. We want to have a good relationship.” – Mapim president Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, quoted from The Star
A Rohingya community leader in Kuala Lumpur, Mohd Rafi, said many of those who had attended the protest had lost family members in the latest violence.
“Please understand, my people were not picking fights with the police or Malaysians, they’re just grieving right now and can’t control themselves,” Mohd Rafi told Malay Online
Currently, it is said that there are around 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia that are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Unofficially, some groups put the figure at around 200,000, with many working in restaurants and constructions sites. But early in September 2017, Malaysia has expressed our willingness in welcoming more refugees with temporary shelter, should they flee to Malaysia.
We’re quite fine with the Rohingyas now, but there’s much more to be done
For now, Arsa (the Myanmar militant group) has themselves denied that they have any links to Daesh, or al-Qaeda, or any other terrorist group. The group said it does not welcome those entities into the conflict in the region “to prevent terrorists from entering Arakan and making a bad situation worse“.
But still, the Daesh presence in Malaysia lingers on, even after SEA Daesh leader Muhamad Wanndy Mohamad Jedi’s death in April. Ayob Khan says there are still 4 Malaysians in Syria actively recruiting locals and plotting attacks. During the Marawi attack in Philippines, up to 28 Malaysians were said to have joined Daesh against the Philippine forces.
A problem that Europe is facing now will probably be very similar to what Malaysia might be facing, as a researcher at Brookings Institute writes:
“If they cannot be integrated into local communities, then they risk perpetuating, or even exacerbating, the tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Europe. Despite their current gratitude for sanctuary in Europe, over time the refugees may be disenfranchised and become alienated.
We’ve seen this movie before, where anger and disaffection fester, creating “suspect communities” that do not cooperate with law enforcement and security agencies and allow terrorists to recruit and operate with little interference.” – Daniel L. Byman wrote in a Brookings report
Already, people are calling President Trump’s Muslim ban a validation of Daesh’s message all along, that the U.S. is at war with Muslims. Daesh preys on the weak and vulnerable, on those that are oppressed and have no means to fend for themselves. As Malaysians, with our unique blend of cultural tolerance, maybe we could be the band-aid the refugees need right now.