US, Malaysia to Set Up New Center to Counter Islamic State by End of 2015

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US, Malaysia to Set Up New Center to Counter Islamic State by End of 2015

Regional counter-messaging center to be set up “within this year,” top official confirms.

US, Malaysia to Set Up New Center to Counter Islamic State by End of 2015
Credit: Flickr/AK Rockefeller

Malaysia will set up a regional center to counter messaging from the Islamic State (IS) with the help of the United States by the end of this year, the country’s deputy prime minister said.

As I reported previously, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had told the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism at the United Nations on September 29 that Malaysia is eying the formation of a “regional, digital counter-messaging center” because Southeast Asia lacks such a facility (See: “Malaysia Eyes New Regional Facility to Counter Islamic State”). His remarks came after Malaysia officially joined the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, joining Singapore as the only two ASEAN states in the grouping thus far.

Officials have said that the center would be similar to the one the United States has launched together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in July this year, designed to counter IS’s social media strength and sophistication and present a more positive alternative to the vision the group has outlined.

This week, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communication Center (RDC3) would be set up within the year with the assistance of the United States.  He called the center a “vital” part of the fight against the group.

“Recruitment of militants is being done through social media, especially by the Islamic State terror group. This messaging center will be vital in the effort to fight the spread of IS propaganda,” Zahid told a press conference at the launch of the General Police and Special Equipment Exhibition and Conference Asia.

Details of RDC3, Zahid said, were still being finalized with the United States. But he did reveal that the United States would help in three aspects – “training, equipment and operational approach.” He also added that the center, which would be located in Kuala Lumpur, would be “fully operated by the policy and other enforcement agencies, including immigration.”

Zahid, who also serves as Malaysia’s home minister, also clarified that the center would be used not only by ASEAN countries, but other partners like Australia and New Zealand.

Reflecting on the center, Zahid said that Malaysia had been selected as the host of the RDC3 because of the country’s commitment to combating terrorism through various measures ranging from introducing new legislation to rehabilitating and deradicalizing militants. As I have pointed out previously, Malaysia will also host a conference on deradicalization in the ASEAN region next January with ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners (See: “Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge”).

Malaysia’s growing contribution to regional and global efforts against IS comes amid the group’s rising threat in the country in recent months. As Najib told the United Nations in his speech to the General Assembly, Malaysia has arrested over 100 of its own citizens suspected of links to IS, including civil servants and security personnel who were involved in deadly plots foiled by law enforcement.