Malaysia, extremism and terrorism (Part 1 & 2) – Kevin Fernandez and Greg Lopez

The challenge of religiously driven terrorism is real.
A new study by the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies concludes that nearly four times as many Sunni Islamic militants are operating around the world today as there were on September 11, 2001 (9/11), despite nearly two decades of American-led campaigns to combat al-Qaeda and the Islamic State/Daesh.
Highlights of the report
There are as many as 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters in nearly 70 countries.
The countries with the most substantial numbers are Syria (43,650 – 70,550), Afghanistan (27,000 – 64,060), Pakistan (17,900 – 39,540), Iraq (10,000 – 15,000), Nigeria (3,450 – 6,900), and Somalia (3,095 – 7,240) in 2018.
The regions with the most significant number of fighters are the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia in 2018. Other regions, such as South-east Asia have fewer fighters.
There were 67 Salafi-jihadist groups across the globe in 2018.
There were approximately 44 groups other than the Islamic State/Daesh, al-Qaeda, and their direct affiliates. This total, which included organisations like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba, accounted for roughly 67 per cent of all groups in 2018.
These findings suggest that there is a large pool of Salafi jihadist and allied fighters willing and able to use violence to achieve their goals.
This report is naturally, a cause for concern for Malaysians, as not only have Malaysians been actively involved in supporting al-Qaeda and the Islamic State/Daesh, but the region, has several active groups that are supportive of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State/Daesh.
However, before proceeding, it is essential though to ask the basic question — what is terrorism, and more specifically what is religious-driven terrorism?
What is terrorism?
A cursory search for the definition of terrorism would give this definition: the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
The keywords are, “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”
The Encyclopaedia of Political Science (Kurien et al., 2011) defines political terrorism as follows:
Terrorism involves calculated outrage.
It represents the power to hurt in its purest form, to use the classic description of Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling.
The concept generally refers to the use of violence or the threat of the use of violence to achieve political ends.
However, terrorism is meant not merely to destroy. It also communicates a message to a watching audience through the shock value of its transmission.
The individual victims and physical targets of terrorism are representatives or symbols of larger collectives – states, nations, communities, social classes, or other categories.
The victims are usually defenseless and caught by surprise.
They may be ordinary people in public places – shopping at a market, eating in a restaurant, riding a bus, or attending religious services – or they may be national or local leaders singled out for assassination by virtue of their positions.
Harming the victims warns all who can see themselves in the victims’ place.
The type of violence employed is deliberately shocking.
Terrorism is usually associated with non-state actors – small groups who oppose the authority of the state. 
Religious terrorism is terrorism that is motivated by an absolute belief that an other-worldly power has sanctioned – and commanded – the application of terrorist violence for the greater glory of the faith. Religious terrorism is usually conducted in defense of what believers consider to be the one true faith (Martin, 2016 cited in Dawson et al., 2017).
The two definition above provides a baseline understanding of terrorism and religious driven terrorism.
But why do people resort to terrorism?
Dawson, M., Kisku, D.R., Gupta, P. Sing, J.K. and Li, W. (eds), 2017. Developing next-generation countermeasures for homeland security threat prevention. IGI Global: Hershey
Kurian T.K., Alt, J.E., Chambers, S., Garret, G., Levi, M., and McClain, P.D. (eds)., 2011., The encyclopedia of political science, CQ Press: Washington DC
Jones, S.G., Vallee, C., Newlee, D., Harrington, N., Sharb, C., and Byrne, H., 2018. The evolution of the Salafi-Jihadist threat – Current and future challenges from the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other groups, CSIS: Washington DC

DECEMBER 18 — Part 1 noted, with much simplification, that the number of religiously influenced terrorists has increased since 9/11. 
It also noted that key to the definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” 
Part 1 ended with the question, “But why do people resort to terrorism?” 
This is a complex question and one that continues to be discussed and debated, as conceptually, understanding and defining terrorism remains a fraught endeavour. 
Various factors influence the journey of an individual towards becoming terrorist. 
Three important areas of research are the: (i) individual behaviour/psychological aspects; (ii) social aspects (family, community, society), and (iii) national/regional/international context. 
How these areas (and the factors within) interact to create terrorists in Malaysia are the subject of research that we are interested in investigating, to complement the existing literature. 
Returning to the definition of terrorism, G. Martin’s (2014) review of terrorism definitions identified these common features: The use of illegal force; political motives; sub-national/non-state actors; attacks against soft civilian and passive military targets; unconventional methods; and acts aimed at purposefully affecting an audience. 
These characteristics enable us to have a comprehensive approach to classifying terrorism (acts, preparators and organisations).   
However, a more fundamental question — what is terrorism? — was addressed by M. Crenshaw (2011). In her review of terrorism concepts, Crenshaw found the following essential properties in defining terrorism conceptually: 
Terrorism is part of a revolutionary strategy — a method used by insurgents to seize political power from an existing government; 
Terrorism is manifested in acts of socially and politically unacceptable violence; 
  • There is a consistent pattern of symbolic or representative selection of the victims or objects of acts of terrorism; and 
  • The movement deliberately intends these actions to create a psychological effect on specific groups and thereby to change their political behaviour and attitudes. 
Putting Martin’s (2014) and Crenshaw’s (2011) work together, we come to the view that terrorists and terrorist organisations are organisations that purposefully and routinely use violence to achieve political ends. 
These organisations, in turn, are driven by leadership and organisational culture that justifies the use of violence to achieve its political objectives. 
The justification comes from the extreme view(s) that leaders of these terrorist organisations hold. With some exception, this is a commonly held view in the literature, i.e. that extremism (a deeply held belief system) is the precursor to terrorism. 
However, some extremists reject the use of violence to achieve their political objectives; and some extremists use violence to achieve its political ends. 
Just as there are many types of terrorism, there is a myriad of extremist views that drive terrorism. 
Martin (2017) has eight typologies that capture the types of terrorist acts while recognising that this is neither conclusive or exhaustive. It, however, provides a structure to discuss why individuals go down the path of extremism and terrorism. 
New terrorism is characterised by the threat of mass casualty attacks from a terrorist organisation, with new and creative organisational configurations, transnational religious solidarity, and redefined moral justifications for political violence.  
State terrorism is terrorism committed by governments against perceived enemies. It can be directed externally against adversaries in the international domain, or internally against domestic enemies. 
Dissident terrorism is terrorism committed by non-state/sub-national movements and groups against governments, ethno-national groups, religious groups, and other perceived enemies.  
Religious terrorism is terrorism motivated by an absolute belief that an otherworldly power has sanctioned — and commanded — the application of terrorist violence for the greater glory of the faith. Religious terrorism is usually conducted in defence of what believers consider to be the one true faith. 
Ideological terrorism is terrorism motivated by political systems of belief (ideologies) which champion the self-perceived inherent rights of a particular group or interest in opposition to another group or interest. The system of belief incorporates theoretical and philosophical justifications for violently asserting. 
International terrorism is terrorist activities undertaken because of their value symbols of international interests, either within the home country or across state boundaries. 
Criminal dissident terrorism is terrorism that is profit driven but also has a political objective. 
Gender-selective terrorism is directed against an enemy population’s men or women because of their gender. 
In Part 3, we explore a sample of terrorist organisations within each of this typology to get a better understanding of their motivations and justifications. This then provides us with the context to understand why and how individuals are said to become terrorists. 
Crenshaw, M. (2011), Explaining Terrorism – Causes, processes, and consequences, Routledge: London and New York. 
Martin, G. (2014), Essentials of terrorism – concepts and controversies, SAGE: Singapore. 
Martin, G. (2017), “Types of terrorism” in Developing Next-Generation Countermeasures for Homeland Security Threat Prevention, Dawson, M., Kisku, D., Gupta, P., and Li, W. (Eds). ISI Global: Hershey, Pa. 
* Kevin Fernandez (Universiti Malaysia Kelantan) and Greg Lopez (Murdoch University, Perth) are involved in a research project to understand extremism and violent extremism in Malaysia, with the objective of developing measures to prevent and counter them. 
**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.



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