ASEAN and the international community must recognize the grave threat from the Islamic State (IS) and step up efforts to combat it, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said earlier this week according to local media reports.
Speaking at a conference, Anifah said the movement was far more dangerous than any terrorist organization the world had ever faced. He said it enjoyed much more support than Al-Qaeda – which remains a marginal movement – and that it had all the resources of an organized state and was seen by many potential recruits as a “winning team.”
“News of the involvement of the citizens of more than 80 countries in the so-called Islamic State movement, including countries in our region, means that the risk of it spreading its evil tentacles to our part of the neighborhood is very real indeed,” Anifah reportedly said.
He encouraged fellow ASEAN countries and the international community at large to strengthen cooperation to combat the threat.
“We must step up our efforts to nip this problem in the bud by strengthening our intelligence and security cooperation,” he said.
ASEAN has already recognized the seriousness of the IS problem over the past few months. As longtime regional commentator Kavi Chongkittavorn recently noted, the grouping has issued several statements in less than four months on the rise of IS. At the ASEAN foreign ministers’ retreat last month, ASEAN’s statement said its ministers “condemn and deplore the violence and brutality committed by extremist organizations and radical groups in Iraq and Syria, whose impact increasingly poses a threat to all regions of the world.”
But Malaysia, which is one of the key ASEAN states affected by IS, has repeatedly been stressing the need for the regional grouping to do more, particularly given its role as ASEAN chair this year. IS featured prominently in recent discussions between Malaysia and Myanmar during Malaysian Defense Minister Hisammuddin Hussein’s trip there last month, and both countries agreed that cooperation should be enhanced particularly within forums including the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting. Separately, Hishammuddin also announced that Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed to share intelligence on the IS threat after discussions with his visiting Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu.
Anifah himself also revealed in January that Malaysia will convene an ASEAN Special Ministerial Meeting on radicalism and extremism in October, which will be held back-to-back with the meeting on transnational crime. In his remarks earlier this week, he also once again mentioned the Global Movement of Moderates, a Malaysian initiative to use moderation to counter extremism that it is being promoted by the government both regionally and internationally.