The seeds of terrorism have already been planted

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Terrorism is alive and well in our country. That’s why the Prime Minister spoke again of the need to triumph ultimately in the ideological war with terrorists.

As with other Muslim leaders, he frequently asks Muslims to emulate the “real” Islam. This usually happens after a few bombs have exploded or other senseless killings have taken place in the streets of western Europe.

Malaysia has its fair share of terrorists. By this, I mean that we have produced expert bomb-makers and jihadists who have joined the Islamic State’s movement in Mindanao, southern Thailand, Indonesia, Syria, and Afghanistan. Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top were responsible for a string of bomb attacks in Indonesia before they were killed by the country’s security forces. Zulkifli Abdhir was another home-grown killer who was eventually killed in the Philippines. There are many others who have worked — and who continue to do so — under the flag of ISIS in the Middle East.

None of them has exploded bombs in our streets yet, but terrorism is not just evidenced by violence and death. In our case, the body may look healthy but a virus is clearly in our midst and has already infected our neighbours. Overt violence is only the visible part of terrorism, the end of the food chain. It begins when we adopt political, cultural and social norms and values that are violent in nature. The language we use, the political culture we adopt, the manner with which we treat dissent and the disproportionate actions we take against those who oppose us are all examples of the birth of terrorist actions.

These actions are violent and primitive in nature yet they capture the imagination of those who want to further their cause. Terrorism does take time to fester: radical Muslim leaders in Britain had to engage in radical preaching for many years (thanks to liberals who could not appreciate the difference between hate speech and free speech) before they successfully produced the walking bombs in the streets of London and Manchester today.

It will be the same here. If we continue to allow hate speech to proliferate, if we cannot show enough tolerance to other believers and if our political culture continues to intimidate, then it’s just a matter of time before the bombs explode and senseless killings take place in this TN50 country.

I would like to remind the Prime Minister that the policies and behaviour of our Muslim leaders contribute to the healthy growth of terrorist conduct and behaviour. For those who do not have a dictionary, “terrorism” is the use of violence and threats to intimidate and coerce, especially for political purposes. It’s not confined to suicide bombing. The US Code of Federal Regulations state that terrorism is the unlawful use of force and violence against persons to intimidate and coerce, for the purpose of furthering political and social objectives.

Our Muslim leaders like to tell Muslims in this country that Islam is under threat, and that pluralism and liberals must be wiped out in order to protect the religion. They tell Muslims to follow the “real” Islam, which means Muslims can only follow whatever these leaders define as true Islam. They use the law to compel observance of the true Islam, as opposed to showing kindness and understanding to Muslims who have gone astray.
These leaders should know that laws and edicts have never succeeded in forcing people to follow a belief system. Belief is the territory of the soul, and the soul resents preachers who belittle them.

These leaders also spread fear deliberately when they continue spinning the narrative that Malaysia needs to be protected from the non-MCA Chinese, from Christians and from liberals. Muslim NGOs who lodge police reports, threaten and protest against those they consider their enemies unfailingly display violence in their language and conduct. How is this climate of fear and distrust going to help us in our fight against terrorism? The simple answer is that it won’t.

If the PM is sincere in wanting to combat terrorism, may I suggest that he begin with two simple steps: have a new group of progressive Muslims helm JAKIM to present a new vision of what is true Islam, and then give regular lectures to state religious departments to let them know that Islam is not, in fact, under threat. The PM needs to inculcate a more hopeful and positive behavioural change in Muslim leaders so that we have a less toxic environment in the country. Why not talk about hope and how we can live together better?

The ummah has been talking about what true Islam is for the past 2,000 years and until now, no one is the wiser. True Islam is not a doctrine. We can only experience it when we discard this culture of intimidation and live in peace and acceptance of others instead. We will find it when we put humanity first.

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