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ATimes: 'Militant Islam' doesn't wash with Malaysian skeptics [KMM]
By Anil Netto

6/9/2001 8:38 pm Thu

[Rencana ini mendedahkan Taufik sebenarnya pergi bersendirian tanpa dipengaruhi mana-mana pihak - sekaligus menidakkan sangkalan KPN Norain Mai. Dimana Mahathir dan Norain Mai mahu menyorokkan muka sekarang? Lain kali jangan menuduh sembarangan....

Nampaknya perjuangan yang masih belum selesai lagi oleh Mahathir dan polis bertopengnya ialah mencemarkan nama PAS dan Islam dengan beberapa adegan dan tuduhan agar PAS diharamkan.... Tetapi fakta dan kenyataan kini tidak pula menyebelahinya. Ia rupanya fitnah semata-mata - patutlah ISA yang sudah berhabuk itu kembali diguna. - Editor]

Asia Times
6th September 2001

'Militant Islam' doesn't wash with Malaysian skeptics

By Anil Netto

PENANG, Malaysia - Not a day passes these days without fresh allegations in Malaysia's media about Islamic extremism and militancy, even as many find themselves trying to figure out what is really behind the focus on this subject.

Indeed, the allegations have now assumed a regional flavor as well, with Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines expressing concern about a region-wide network of "militants".

On Monday, Malaysia's Defense Minister Najib Razak said that visiting Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew shared Malaysia's concern over rising Islamic militancy. "Yes, I think he is concerned because it will not only affect us but also Singapore," said Najib. His comments coincided with the Philippine government's backing of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's claim that militant Islamic groups were linking up with local separatists in the country's south.

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said security matters featured prominently in the talks between Mahathir and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, both of whom visited Malaysia last month.

Last week, Mahathir said Islamic extremists were using religion to ignite hatred against the government and were setting up militant wings to seize power. He added on the weekend that a network of extremists had formed a league in the region that was bent on establishing a union of Islamic governments in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

His remarks were the latest salvos against a so-called "Malaysian Mujahideen Group" (known in Malaysia as KMM), which has been accused of a series of crimes, including the bombing of a Hindu temple and a church. Ten Malaysians were detained without trial under the Internal Security Act in early August for suspected involvement in the KMM. Their arrests came on the back of nine other arrests months earlier, following a botched bank robbery and the subsequent alleged recovery of an arms cache.

Since then, fingers have pointed to regional links, especially to militant activity in Indonesia. But a Malaysian who was injured when a bomb he was carrying went off in a shopping mall in Jakarta has denied knowledge of the KMM, after speculation that he was part of the group. The man, Taufik Abdul Halim, said he had gone to Indonesia on his own initiative to be in "solidarity" with Muslims in the Malukus, where there is fighting with Christians. He had read about the conflict in Malaysian newspapers and on the Internet, he said.

"Only after I was brought to this hospital [following the August 1 explosion] Malaysian police visited me and showed me pictures of people who had been arrested," Taufik said from his hospital bed in an interview with English-language daily The Star last week. "I don't know them. I also don't know of the existence of that Kumpulan [KMM]," he said.

That, however, has not stopped fresh revelations from emerging. Concerned by claims that some 2,500 students were involved in underground movements on Malaysian campuses, Education Minister Musa Mohamad has directed university heads to conduct an immediate probe. "I have asked the vice chancellors to study this matter and ensure that the situation in the universities is under control ... and also take the necessary action as provided for in the law so that it does not spread," said Musa.

The persistent media coverage of alleged religious extremism has provoked differing reactions from the public. On the one hand, there is concern especially among non-Muslims. "It is very worrying, the emergence of this group," says an Indian-Malaysian senior executive with a government agency in Penang. On the other hand there is a fair degree of skepticism and even cynicism in some circles - a sense that there is more than meets the eye and that the allegations could actually have political roots and are actually aimed at discrediting Malaysia's opposition Muslim-based Islamic Party (PAS).

The use of the Internal Security Act, which denies the accused an opportunity to defend themselves in court, has fuelled such skepticism. Most of the 10 detained for alleged involvement in KMM are PAS branch leaders, state committee members and activists. One of them is Nik Adli Nik Aziz, teacher at a religious school and son of the chief minister of PAS-ruled Kelantan state on the east coast.

Nik Adli, 34, is accused of being the KMM leader. His father, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who is also PAS's spiritual adviser, lashed out against the use of the Internal Security Act. "Those who use the ISA have sinned against Allah as they have violated human dignity," he said. He pointed out that PAS and the opposition front were working to defeat the government through democratic means and not through an underground movement.

Ever since making inroads in the last general election in November 1999 at the expense of Mahathir's ruling coalition, PAS, along with other opposition parties, has had to contend with a string of restrictions - the latest being a curb on all political gatherings that has hit PAS badly.

PAS itself is deadlocked with an opposition coalition partner, the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party, on its platform of turning Malaysia into an Islamic state. Muslims make up some 60 percent of the country's 23 million people.

Many non-Muslims typically are wary of talk of an Islamic state - they are alarmed by several conservative PAS rulings such as gender segregation at supermarket checkout counters in Kelantan state. But for everyone edgy about the allegations of extremism, there are others who think the issue has been blown out of proportion.

One of those not unduly worried by the talk is Zaid Kamaruddin, deputy president of the Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM), an Islamic reform group. "I think the vast majority of activists for change here - including Muslims - subscribe to the democratic process," the urbane Zaid said. "I don't expect university students to be involved in militant activities. I have not come across any of these people."

Zaid concedes that during the Afghanistan war some 20 years ago, many Malaysians flocked there to aid Afghans fighting against the Soviet Union's invasion. But he says the struggle there "was seen as a battle of Islam against communism".

Drawing a parallel with the solidarity and aid by foreign groups in the struggle against fascism in Spain in the 1930s, he points out that many Muslims from other countries also joined in the struggle in Afghanistan. Says Zaid: "If they are involved in militant activities now, then the government should come up with the proof and try them in open court."

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