Malaysia will send experts next year to assist Australia in fighting terrorism amid the rising threat of the Islamic State (IS), the country’s deputy prime minister said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters following a courtesy call from Australia’s Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also home minister, said Malaysia had offered to send its experts to Australia in February to conduct the training of trainers (ToT) in a bid to extend its own experience with rehabilitation. ToT programs are typically designed to equip practitioners with skills that they can then extend to others.
“Through the ToT, Malaysia will also extend its own experience in rehabilitation efforts undertaken here to be implemented in Australia,” Zahid said according to Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama.
Zahid said that this was a reaction to the rising terrorist threat that Australia faces from both its residents coming from the Middle East as well as immigrants entering the country. Keenan, who was sworn in as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counterterrorism in May, said last month that Australian authorities had foiled six terror attacks since September last year, when the nation’s security alert was raised to high.
The experts Malaysia would send to Australia, Zahid said, would consist of university lecturers as well as individuals from the Royal Malaysian Police, the Prisons Department, the Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department (Jakim).
The move is part of a broader effort by Malaysia to promote greater regional cooperation in the fight against the IS. As I detailed in a feature piece recently for The Diplomat, with Malaysian officials already arresting over 100 citizens suspected of links to IS and foiling several deadly plots, the Southeast Asian state has been stepping up its involvement in the global war against the group. Most notably, the Southeast Asian state joined the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL in September and confirming its willingness to set up a regional counter-messaging center (See: “US, Malaysia and the War Against the Islamic State”).
Malaysia has also been hosting related meetings with regional states. In October, Malaysia held a special regional meeting on radicalization and extremism. And in January 2016, it will host a conference on deradicalization in the ASEAN region which will include the ten ASEAN nations as well as the organization’s eight dialogue partners – Australia as well as the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand and Russia (See: “Malaysia to Host New Conference to Tackle Islamic State Challenge”).
Zahid indicated that Malaysia, as a Muslim-majority nation, had a lot to offer given its experience in facing a communist insurgency as well as religious extremist groups. And indeed, Malaysia has offered its expertise through workshops and conferences on subjects like countering the narrative of violent extremism online to redefining what a more moderate, progressive version of an Islamic State should look like based on centuries of Islamic thought.
But the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has also come under criticism for its approach to tackling terrorism. It has been accused of presiding over – and at times partaking in – the rise of an exclusivist, extreme form of Islam in the country that some contend creates an enabling environment for terrorism to foster. There are also concerns that new security laws, such as the new National Security Council bill passed last week, can be used to violate basic rights and crack down on the opposition.