Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge

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Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge

ASEAN states and dialogue partners to participate in two-day meeting.

Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge
Credit: Flickr/AK Rockefeller

Malaysia will host an international conference next January focused on forging a regional response to combating terrorism amid a rising Islamic State threat, the country’s deputy prime minister confirmed last week.

At a press conference following a special regional meeting on radicalization and extremism held in Kuala Lumpur, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, said that Malaysia would host a conference on deradicalization in the ASEAN region on January 25 and 26 next year.

“Malaysia will be hosting a conference on deradicalization in the ASEAN region on January 25 and 26 next year,” Zahid said last Friday.

The conference participants, Zahid said, would include the 10 ASEAN countries as well as the organization’s eight dialogue partners – the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

The conference, which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had initially mentioned in a statement during Zahid’s visit to Indonesia last month, is part of an effort to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for programs to combat terrorism – not just in ASEAN but the broader region as well (See: “Malaysia, Indonesia Boost Counterterrorism Cooperation”). The participants, Zahid said, would discuss three main themes and present eight papers on various aspects of terrorist rehabilitation. The ideas would range from psychological approaches to engagement programs involving loved ones to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists into society.

Zahid was speaking at a press conference which took place after Malaysia, this year’s ASEAN chair, had convened a much-anticipated Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism (SAMMRRAVE) which was held following the 10th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (See: “ASEAN to Step Up Fight Against Transnational Crime”). SAMMRRAVE, which had been in the works for a while now, aimed to provide a platform for ASEAN states to exchange experiences, views and ideas on best practices (See: “Malaysia Wants More ASEAN Cooperation Against Islamic State”).

“This is to showcase regional solidarity and resolve to tackle both issues that could lead to the commission of acts of terrorism,” Malaysia’s Home Ministry said in a press statement seen by The Diplomat.

The meeting itself, which was held on October 1, adopted several resolutions on the subject, including placing strong emphasis on deradicalization in rehabilitation programs. According to the Home Ministry, ASEAN delegates also agreed to produce analyses and studies on root causes for the spread of radicalization in Southeast Asia as well as to develop programs to strengthen community-police relations.

Zahid said at the press conference that while discussions with Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines revealed that each country had its own concerns, the deliberations resulted in the countries choosing Malaysia to take the lead in planning and taking action to resolve terrorism treats in the region.

As I wrote in an earlier piece, Malaysia has been stepping up its contribution to the regional and global efforts against the Islamic State. Last week, Malaysia became one of the newest members of the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL and Prime Minister Najib Razak told world leaders that Malaysia was eying the formation of a “regional, digital counter-messaging center” for Southeast Asia (See: “Malaysia Eyes New Regional Facility to Counter Islamic State”).