Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has joined leaders of other Southeast-Asia countries to condemn the Islamic State (IS), a terrorist group waging war in Iraq and Syria to establish a caliphate in the region.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Najib said:
“Muslims around the world have watched in horror as a new conflict tears into Syria and Iraq. As reports of mass executions and killing of civilians surface, and graphic evidence of brutality emerges, we have been appalled.”
He said the militants “prey on the differences between people, using faith as a cover for atrocities.”
“But they do not speak for us,” the Malaysian PM said.
In June, Mr Najib’s remarks to his party, UMNO, created controversy when he told them to emulate the bravery of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) militants if the Malay nationalist party wanted to survive.
However, in his latest statement, a strongly-worded and unequivocal condemnation of the terrorists who have conducted public executions, beheadings and rape of women, Mr Najib said, “The actions of the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq are counter to our faith, our culture, and our common humanity. They are against the teachings of the Prophet, a man of peace and moderation; and against Islamic law, which prizes the protection of life above all.”
“Around the world, the majority of Muslims seek to live their lives free from violence. We do not recognise the vision of our faith being forced on innocent civilians – whether Sunni, Shia, or Christian – over the barrel of a gun.
“Malaysia strongly condemns the actions of the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. We are deeply saddened by the crimes committed in the name of Islam, a religion of peace. We deplore those responsible, and call on the international community to act in concert to prevent further violence. We must fight extremism with moderation, and work to rebuild the bonds between communities shattered by war.”
Mr Najib’s statement comes on the same day that Malaysian news reported at least three Malaysian women have gone to the conflict areas to lend support to IS in what is described as “sex jihad”, where the women would provide “sexual comfort” to the militants. (See here: “Women in “sex jihad” – M’sian police investigates”.)
It is also believed that the number of Malaysians who have been recruited by IS could be as high as 30, but an unnamed Malaysian intelligence official said that the number could be higher.
“Checks with our foreign counterparts and intelligence disseminated reveal that there may be up to 50 Malaysians in the Middle East,” the official reportedly told Malaysian news portal, The Malaysian Insider.
Mr Najib’s condemnation of IS follows that of the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who similarly slammed the militants’ actions for not only “embarrassing Muslims” around the world, but also “humiliating” to Islam.
"It is shocking. It is becoming out of control," he said in an interview with The Australian, a day after IS released a video showing a masked militant beheading US reporter James Foley.
"We do not tolerate it, we forbid ISIS in Indonesia," Yudhoyono said, referring to the Islamic State’s former name.
In calls which Mr Najib would echo later, Yudhoyono urged international leaders to work together to combat radicalisation.
"This is a new wake-up call to international leaders all over the world, including Islamic leaders," he said.
"All leaders must review how to combat extremism. Changing paradigms on both sides are needed - how the West perceives Islam and how Islam perceives the West."
A week ago, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, condemned “the brutal act of the ISIS militants", referring to the beheading of Foley by IS.
“This act was an abominable crime that must not be tolerated,” Hun Sen said.
“Such gruesome and inhumane acts carried out by the group on innocent civilians must be condemned,” Singapore’s Minister for Muslim Affairs, Yaacob Ibrahim, said. “The international community must rally together to stop the group’s barbaric acts at once before more innocent lives are lost.”
On the same day, the Singapore government said there was “an urgent need for the international community to work together to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS.”
"The violent campaigns against minority groups in northern Iraq, the systematic and widespread abuses of human rights, and the horrific murder of American journalist James Foley, attest to the serious and immediate nature of the ISIS threat," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
It added that Singapore firmly supports United Nations Security Council Resolution which “condemns in the strongest terms, the terrorist acts and violent extremist ideology of ISIS.”
In a report on Wednesday, the United Nations said the Islamic State has committed crimes against humanity with its attacks on civilians, which include regular public executions and beheadings.
“Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays in al Raqqa and ISIS-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate (province),” the report said.
In the meantime, the United States is reported to be putting together a “broad coalition” of allies for military action against the militants in Syria.
“Rooting out a cancer like ISIS won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Barack Obama said earlier.
He said the coalition would “take the fight to these barbaric terrorists” who he believes would be “no match” for an international effort.