Malaysia’s new regional counter-messaging center will play an important role in winning the ongoing battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) and convincing the world that Muslims have nothing to do with the group’s hateful ideology, the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak, told a gathering of ASEAN police chiefs yesterday.
As I have written previously, last September Najib announced the formation of a Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communication Center (RDC3) because Southeast Asia lacks such a facility. 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 2015, designed to counter ISIS’s social media strength and sophistication and present a more positive alternative to the vision the group has outlined (See: “Malaysia Eyes New Regional Facility to Counter Islamic State”).
On Tuesday, Najib emphasized the importance of the RDC3 at a gathering of Southeast Asian police officers in Singapore.
“It is vital that this center utilizes the studies that illustrate why there is nothing at all ‘Islamic’ about the IS that shamefully declares (itself) as such,” he said in his speech at the opening of the ASEAN Police (ASEANAPOL) conference.
“It is also vital that all authorities — our muftis, our media commissions, our tech-savvy young people for whom social media is an integral part of their daily lives — ensure that the message the center puts out is solid, persuasive, and real,” he added in remarks that echoed those he gave at the International Conference on Deradicalization and Countering Violent Extremism in Kuala Lumpur in January.
Najib also added that he would not apologize for the new legislation that the government had passed to protect the country, including the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the National Security Council Act.
“We were criticized for passing some of these laws. But my Government will never apologize for placing the security and safety of the Malaysian people first,” he said.
Malaysia has been on high alert since ISIS staged its first ever attack in the country at a nightclub in Selangor earlier this month. The attack followed a series of online videos showing ISIS members declaring war on Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia. ISIS has also launched a Malay-language newspaper as part of its efforts to boost its presence in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said that the RDC3 will be in Putrajaya and fully operational in several weeks. The Malaysian government had initially said that it would be opened by the end of 2015. The center is being set up with assistance from the United States, and Washington is expected to help in various aspects including training, equipment, and operational approach.