ISIS, which now refers to itself as the Islamic State and has claimed the title of Caliphate, has already made it clear that it wants to claim rule over the Muslim world. Now, security officials in both Malaysia and Indonesia claim that ISIS is attracting followers in said countries. How serious is the threat? And could ISIS actually launch global strikes?
Hundreds of years ago caliphates did rule over most of the Islamic world, though they were often more well-known for their moderation, rather than extremism. ISIS is trying to revive the wide sweeping power of the Caliphate, though they are bastardizing it with extremism and increasing attacks against non-Muslims.
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Security Threat Real Even If Challenge To Power Isn’t
Whatever ISIS might dream of, the organization simply isn’t in the position to build a global empire. The organization is still small, and its scope is largely limited to Syria and Iraq. Its followers are radicalized and ready to die for their cause. This does allow ISIS to exert a lot of power locally, but expanding that power internationally will be difficult.
That doesn’t mean, however, that ISIS won’t find supporters abroad. Radical groups tend to attract alienated individuals, and every society has its alienated individuals. Authorities in Malaysia and Indonesia now fear that ISIS will be able to use these individuals to launch attacks within South East Asia.
Terrorist attacks, by their very nature, focus on creating fear, rather than high casualties. While ISIS might not be able to ever sieze control of territory in Malaysia or Indonesia, that doesn’t mean the organization can strike fear into the hearts of citizens. Indeed, it only takes a single radical to launch an attack.
Malaysia Is A Prime Targeting
Malaysia is recognized across the world for being a moderate Muslim country. The rights of other religions and minorities are generally respected, even if tensions do exist. The brand of Islam practiced in the country tends to be more moderate, and individual choices are usually left to individuals.
Terrorist activities, however, appear to be on the rise. Over the last several months Malaysia has managed to arrest 19 different suspects for being involved in terrorist activities. There are fears, however, that this may just be scratching at the surface.
Malaysian security officials claim that the government is among the prime targets of the terrorists. As a moderate Islamic government that offers a clear alternative to the extremism espoused by ISIS, the Malaysian government would indeed be a prime target.
At least 20 Malaysians have gone to fight for ISIS.
Indonesia Also Worried About ISIS
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority country, home to nearly 250 million people. Over 87 percent of Indonesians are Muslim, so the country is a prime target for radical groups like ISIS. Indonesian authorities have already had to deal with radical threats in the past, though usually they’ve been domestic groups.
Perhaps the most famous domestic terrorist, Abu Bakar Bashir, the now jailed leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Queda-linked terrorist group, has expressed support for ISIS. Jemaah Islamiya carried out the 2002 Bali bombings that claimed the lives of more than 200 people.
Indonesia is undergoing a rapid period of modernization, which is likely creating a clash of cultures. With rampant poverty and a growing gap between the rich and the poor, the country is also a fertile recruiting ground for radicals looking for new recruits. It should come as no surprise then that at least 56 Indonesians have joined the ranks of ISIS.
Indeed, ISIS is reportedly able to pay each of its fighters up to $250 dollars a month. While this wage might not seem like much, for people from poorer countries, like Indonesia, this can be quite substantial.