Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum


April 27, 2013

Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum

Joe ChinJoseph Chinyong Liow is the inaugural holder of the Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asia Studies and senior fellow at the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies. He is concurrently Professor of Comparative and International Politics and Dean at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Liow’s research interests lie in the fields of Muslim politics and civil society in Southeast Asia and the international politics of East Asia. He is the author and editor of 11 books and monographs including Muslim Resistance in Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines: Religion, Ideology, and Politics (Washington D.C.: East-West Centre, 2006), Islamic Education in Southern Thailand: Tradition and Transformation (Singapore: ISEAS, 2009) and Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). He is also co-editor of the four volume Routledge Series Islam in Southeast Asia.

Liow has also published in numerous peer-reviewed academic journals, including Pacific Review, Pacific Affairs, Asian Security, Asian Survey, Journal of Islamic Studies and Modern Asian Studies. In addition to his scholarly works, Liow has also published in major policy journals such as Foreign Affairs, The National Interest and NBR Analysis. He has also consulted for several MNCs including Shell, Statoil, BHP Billiton, Monitor 360 and Chevron International, and is a regular commentator in the international media.

Liow serves as co-editor of the Routledge Asian Security Studies book series and associate editor of the peer-reviewed journal Asian Security. He is also on the editorial board of South East Asia Research, Journal of Defense Studies and Resource Management, Journal of International and Global Studies and the ASAN Forum. He has just completed the 512-page fourth edition of the Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Southeast Asia, and is currently working on two book projects; one on religion and nationalism in Southeast Asia and the other on U.S.-Southeast Asia relations since the fall of Saigon.

Liow holds a doctorate in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The recent emergence of an ISIS recruitment video featuring young Malay (possibly also Indonesian) speaking boys attending religious classes and engaging in weapons training in ISIS-held territory has caused a furor in Malaysia. Estimates of the number of Malaysian fighters in ISIS vary from between 60 to almost 150, depending on who you ask. The high end of these figures approximates the number of Indonesian fighters that are also believed to be in Syria and Iraq. Yet the population of Malaysia is barely one-tenth that of Indonesia. In other words, Malaysians seem to be joining ISIS at a higher rate than Indonesians.

This state of affairs is all the more perplexing given how often Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, waxes lyrical on the international stage about moderation and how Malaysia is the epitome of multi-ethnic and inter-religious harmony, as he continues to press a nebulous “Global Movement of Moderates” agenda. What accounts for the appeal of ISIS in “moderate” Malaysia? To answer this question, let us start with the official Malaysian view on the causes of international terrorism, especially religiously-motivated terrorism.

Malaysia’s Muslim leaders have frequently pinpointed American foreign policies that affect the Muslim world – particularly the invasion of Iraq, Washington’s unstinting support for Israel, lack of sympathy for the Palestinian cause, and war in Afghanistan – as one of the main causes of terrorism today. To be sure, much can be said about how these factors have inflamed Muslim sentiment worldwide. But my interest here is to look specifically at the challenge that religiously-inspired terrorism in general, and ISIS in particular, poses for Malaysia. To that end, I argue that while “external factors” are important, the main causes for concern may well originate from within Malaysia’s own borders.

Four observations can be drawn from the Malaysian domestic context, which I believe speak to the conditions that exist for virulent ideologies like that of ISIS to potentially find sympathy and following:

First, in a 2013 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, it was noted that “in Malaysia . . . roughly a quarter of Muslims (27 percent) take the view that attacks on civilians are sometimes or often justified.” However, if we add to this number the 12 percent who take the view that violence is “rarely justified” in defense of Islam (as opposed to never justified), essentially 39 percent of the Malaysian Muslims surveyed believed that violence can be justified against enemies of Islam. Significantly, Indonesians polled only 18 percent on the same question (1 percent “often,” 5 percent “sometimes,” and 12 percent “rarely”). In an earlier poll on The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society, a mere 8 percent of Malaysians expressed concern about Muslim extremism while 31 percent were concerned about Christian extremism.

ISIS MalaysiaNow, I am not a big believer in surveys, which to my mind often raise more questions than answers. But reading this survey, I could not but come away with one thought – 39 percent of the Malaysian Muslims surveyed believed that violence can be justified against enemies of Islam. What is the relevance of the figures in the Malaysian context? I will return to this in a moment.

Second, Islam has unfortunately become heavily politicized in Malaysia. Malaysia’s dominant political party, UMNO, is a Malay-Muslim party that was created with the main objective, at least in theory, of promoting and defending Malay-Muslim supremacy. According to the party’s narrative, this supremacy is coming under siege from various cultural (read: non-Malay vernacular education) and religious (read: non-Muslim) quarters and hence has to be staunchly defended.

Given that Malaysia has a Malay-Muslim majority population, it should come as no surprise that UMNO’s chief political opponents are also Malay-Muslim parties who equally brandish religious credentials as a source of legitimacy. To the extent that there is political ideology at play in Malaysia today, it is Islam, and specifically Islamism, that dominates.

Let me be clear: Islam casts a pale shadow over Malaysia today not because it is Islam, or even Islamism, per se, but because its proponents (and “defenders”) are articulating a particularly exclusive brand of Islam that is divorced from the religion’s historically enlightened traditions, and which has no intention to encourage pluralism or compromise. The net effect of this is that non-Muslims Malaysian are marginalized by as Islamist parties try to “out-Islam” each other. As UMNO struggles to cling to power by focusing on its religious credentials above all else, religion has become heavily politicized and is viewed as a zero sum game.

Third, this politicization of Islam is taking place against a backdrop of an exceedingly strong state which has taken upon itself to police Islam and curtail any expression of faith that departs from the mainstream Shafi’i tradition. Yes, the ummah may be universal and Islamic confessional traditions may be diverse, but in Malaysia there is very little room for compromise beyond the “Islam” sanctioned by the state. The Shi’a tradition is legally proscribed, and several smaller Islamic sects are deemed deviant and hence, banned. All this happens despite the existence of constitutional provisions for freedom of worship. Needless to say, attempts by various fringe quarters in Muslim society to move discourse away from an overly exclusivist register have run up against the considerable weight of the state, which defines and polices “right” and “wrong” Islam.

Fourth, rather than extol the virtues and conciliatory features of Islam’s rich tradition, many Malay-Muslim political leaders have instead chosen to use religion to amplify difference, to reinforce extreme interpretations of Malay-Muslim denizen rights, and to condemn the “other” (non-Muslims) as a threat to these rights. For fear of further erosion of legitimacy and political support, the Malay-Muslim leadership of the country have in their public statements circled the wagons, allowing vocal right-wing ethnonationalist and religious groups to preach incendiary messages against Christians and Hindus with impunity. In extreme cases, they have even flippantly referred to fellow Malaysians who are adherents to other religious faiths as “enemies of Islam.” Even state-sanctioned Friday sermons have occasionally taken to referring to non-Muslim Malaysians as “enemies of Islam.” It is against this backdrop that the findings of the Pew surveys cited earlier take on greater, more disconcerting meaning.

Of course, we must acknowledge that not all in the Malay-Muslim leadership engage in this kind of narrow religio-political discourse. I know for a fact that a few of them privately sympathize with non-Muslim consternation about how their rights to freedom of religion are being blatantly undermined. The problem is, they dare not speak out publicly, thus creating the impression that they support the majoritarian narrative of exclusion of non-Muslims.

So how is all this related to ISIS and Malaysia’s concern for the group’s growing influence on its shores? My point is basically this – is it any surprise, given the four observations enumerated above, that the climate of religio-political discourse in Malaysia today would lend itself to the pull of extremist ideas of a group such as ISIS?

To be sure, Malaysia has a very competent internal security apparatus. But security measures alone are insufficient to deal with the threat the country currently faces. Indeed, without changing the way Malaysian society views and articulates Islam to allow for critical engagement of extremist ideas, the utility of security measures is limited at best. Worse still, they might have a contradictory effect of feeding an extremist mindset. While critical engagement will not eradicate the problem, I believe it will go some distance in reducing it. But in order to set a new tone for public discourse on Islam, pluralism, and critical engagement of extremist ideas, it will require political will and leadership at the very top.

It was reported recently in the Malay Mail that Malaysia’s top counter-terrorism official opined that an ISIS attack on Malaysia “was just a matter of time.” If so, Malaysian authorities would be well advised to consider that the appeal of ISIS may not be attributed only to developments in Syria or Iraq, or American foreign policy in the Muslim world. It could well start at home, where the political and social climate that allows exclusivist right-wing groups and politicians to speak and act with impunity is the same one that will provide recruits and sympathizers for insidious organizations such as ISIS.

33 thoughts on “Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum

  1. Religious extremism is a clear and present danger for Malaysia. It is also worrying to note that ISIS’ influence is gaining ground among young and impressionable Malay muslims. The Prime Minister must come strong against those who use religion to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-believers. He must make good his promise of moderation. For starters, he must be firm against those religious functionaries in his own Prime Minister’s Office who are spreading the message of hate in mosques and other parts of the country.–Din Merican

  2. “Malaysia’s ISIS conundrum”

    Dato’,

    Yes indeed and this is a very well researched article by Joseph Chinyong Liow (LSE Doctorate – International Relations).

    As always from more than 2000 years ago, with religion, ethnicity, race, Kings/royalties.

    All have resulted in disputes, religious crusades, civil wars, regional wars & World wars with “Political” overtures for Power & treasures ($$$)

    It has always been the “Divide & Rule” strategy, the strongest bullying the weaker, and it goes on down the line to the weak bullying the weakest…

    Also along the lines of Political religious divide, political ethnicity divide, political intellectual groups, financial wars, etc even between Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Political Parties, etc where their citizens end up being “Sheeple” & “Goyim”.

    Looking at Malaysia we had the 1st cabinet of Tunku & his Alliance founders (of established, educated, professional Statesmen) who struggled & fought for a “Genuine, Sincere & Transparent” Independence from our Colonial Masters through sincere “Political negotiations” without bloodshed in 1957.

    Until 1969 when Tunku our Bapa Merdeka was betrayed…

    http://www.malaysia-today.net/the-real-story-of-may-13-part-1/

    Then we had this…

    https://helenang.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/jerusubang-churches-the-millionaires-club/

    June 24, 2014 – Be brave like ISIL fighters, Najib tells Umno – http://www.malaysia-today.net/be-brave-like-isil-fighters-najib-tells-umno/

    Followed by this…

    Mohd Najib Tun Razak @NajibRazak • Nov 24 2014
    In an interview w/ Mingguan M’sia, PM DS Najib Razak reiterated his stand on inclusiveness & justice for all. – Admin

    “Justice is a Principle of Islam…
    Everything we do, its thrust is Justice…
    Being Just to Muslims and at the same time to non-Muslims, too.”

    And the saga goes on and on – a never ending saga…

    It is basically because of our screwed up

    Education Blueprint Policies (a decade too late) & Religious Dept Policy with Mainstream & Religious schools,
    Bad implementation and supervision,
    Unmarketable qualifications for job opportunities,
    Doctors ending up as cooks & pasar malam operators – http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/malaysian-doctors-end-waiters-pasar-malam-operators

    FB & Media influence – falling prey to online recruitment for male/female jihadi partners & “USD allowances”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11429118/What-is-luring-Western-women-to-Syria-to-join-Isil.html

    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2014/09/17/isis-using-social-media-to-recruit-western-women-to-help-populate-islamic-state/

    Apr 27th 2015 – The secret diary of a jihadi bride: Doctor, 26, leaves behind ‘middle class life’ in Malaysia, travels to join ISIS – and keeps a journal of her time in Syria – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2843901/The-secret-diary-jihadi-bride-Doctor-leaves-middle-class-life-Malaysia-travels-join-ISIS-keeps-journal-time-Syria.html
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

    LKY’s famous words & the best solution –

    “Churchmen, lay preachers, priests, monks, Muslim theologians, all those who claim divine sanction or holy insights,

    take off your clerical robes before you take on anything economic or political”.

    Anything else is just second class proposition…

    Aug 17, 2014 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PanmOWE7Dg

    The 21st century “Pearl of the Orient Metropolis ”

    You be the judge.

  3. Liow hits the nail on the spot. The UMNO dominated regime has been dealing with a half-hearted approach. The harms caused by IS were only raised when it needs to push through a bill like POTA. and on the eve of the arrival of ASEAN dignitaries, POLIS suddenly said they found evidence of ‘a plot’. This how our Malay leaders and officials deal with Islamised terrorism. They won’t change until we are hit hard domestically.

  4. Unemployed youth, unemployable graduates, mat rempits, bigoted race based NGOs–mostly Malays–are the products of failed religious and secular education leading to the erosion of moral values on account of corruption. Islam which is being taught is to promote exclusivity and hate of the other, all in the name of Ketuanan Melayu. UMNO and PAS must share the blame for this.

    The Ayahtollah Khomeini inspired Anwar Ibrahim who was the man in charge of outwitting PAS on islamisation when he was one of the top honchos in UMNO cannot escape responsibility for this social disaster. It is poetic justice since he is now incarcerated in Sungei Buloh, albeit for a different reason.

    The Malays have become so insular and xenophobic that they are a danger to the political survival of our country as a united and progressive place for all citizens. A few generations of them have been destroyed mentally and we cannot do much to change their mindset. They are damaged goods today. UMNO and also PAS are playing with “Islam” to serve their political ends. The Malays have become their own worse enemy.

    Dr Chin said this clearly : ” Indeed, without changing the way Malaysian society views and articulates Islam to allow for critical engagement of extremist ideas, the utility of security measures is limited at best. Worse still, they might have a contradictory effect of feeding an extremist mindset. While critical engagement will not eradicate the problem, I believe it will go some distance in reducing it. But in order to set a new tone for public discourse on Islam, pluralism, and critical engagement of extremist ideas, it will require political will and leadership at the very top.” Hey, Najib wake up and get serious about governance. Stop your lavish and irresponsible ways.

    Najib and his UMNO cohorts are, therefore, mea culpa. They have not helped the Malays. In stead, they have destroyed the Malay mindset. Now they can no longer control the Islamic deviants in Malay society. ISIS knows they have allies in Malaysia for their cause. I congratulate Dr. Chin for his article.

  5. I agree with Puzzled Malay. You are not puzzled at all. You can see what is happening to Malay society. The Malays trust their leaders too much and now they are paying a heavy price. Harap pagar pagar makan padi, as the Malay saying goes.–Din Merican

  6. It is worrying reading this article. I felt helpless not knowing can I can do to help. What can non-Muslim do? How can we provide support for the voice of moderate Malay? Are we doom because of current political situation? Previously, I was hopeful of PAS being the moderate: however, PAS president and his supporter has cause me to cast some doubt on PAS. Without PAS provide a moderate voice, it seems like in order to fight religious fundamentalist we need to bring Mahathirism back. Is that the only way for us to save Malaysia?

    Salam

  7. Dino beano “The prime minister…..to drive a wedge between Muslims and non believers” HUH?? But I am a believer!! I believe that stone , that tree, that pig, that cow , that rat et al are my gods/goddess. So pray enlighten me how am I a non believer??
    _________________
    Non-Believer in Islam. But you are a Believer in whatever you believe. But I personally don’t like labels.– Din Merican

  8. “….take the view that attacks on civilians are sometimes or often justified.”

    So what, Dick Cheney (and many Americans) feel the same way. It’s called collateral damage.

    But forget all these “external factors” for a moment and consider that both UMNO and the DAP played with the Islamic fire, the former with its policies of Arabization and the latter with PAS.

    When the DAP increased funding to “Islamic schools” (sic) in Penang I was livid but the useless apparatchiks considered that part and parcel of winning the Malay vote. Our Deputy PM wonders why Malay students are sub par when the deleterious presence of Islam is felt in every aspect of our national education system.

    Don’t tell me of moderation. I argued before that moderation when it comes to Islam could only be practised by Muslims living in the West (and maybe those in Indonesia) but for those living under a state sanctioned Islam, the word is meaningless.

    But than again ISMA sponsored attacks against Tony Pua do highlight a selling point in Islam that some petty, juvenile Muslims males would endorse :

    http://www.ismaweb.net/2015/04/the-moment-tony-pua-opens-his-big-fat-mouth/

    “But please have some sympathy for him. Perhaps he has never had the experience of enjoying the peak of marital and conjugal bliss on top of the camel’s back. To enable him to partake the joy legal and holy matrimony (and to spice up the bedroom antics a little bit), why not all of us in unison INVITE Tony Pua to Islam!

    Why?

    Because once he becomes a Muslim, we will even show him how the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) teaches the Muslims to be creative in matters of intimacy between legally married Muslim couple. To complement his understanding of sex in Islam better, the Muslims can also inform him that he can enjoy sex with his wife on top of any Unser, Kancil, Rusa or Kelisa too. As Unta is not available in our country, the above alternatives would do fine. But he needs to be reminded to turn on the aircond. That is something one simply cannot do on top of the Unta’s back!

    Until and unless that happens, Tony Pua’s mouth will never utter any single word or sentence pleasing to Islam or the Muslims.

    The beauty of Islam is something which Tony Pua will never be able to fathom.

    Pity him!”

    Malaysia does not have an ISIS problem. Malaysia is in a proto ISIS state.

  9. Quote:- “…the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) teaches the Muslims to be creative in matters of intimacy between legally married Muslim couple”

    “Teaches?”

    How? I’ve been frantically searching the Holy Quran and the Hadiths but to no avail. Please have “pity” on me and tell me where I can find Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) teachings on this?

    Much appreciated.

  10. I think , for Malaysia,
    in reality, the policy of the leaders in (abusing /mis/) using Muslim==Race =Malay of staying in power has not only back-fired on them, but has burdened the people gravely.

    Such modeled policy lacks elegance in substances and has adverse limitation, but easy application. It is unsustainable.

    On a different note, the ISIS problems, exported (?) could be over-exaggerated for a grand global agenda manipulated, for power -wealth dominance of the world. It could be the works of the hidden hands of world leaders working in contrivance with a few wealthiest rogues, behind the world stage.

  11. I was under the impression that saying about the ‘pagar’ and ‘padi’ had been skillfully changed. The ‘pagar’ had become complacent by eating too much ‘padi.’

  12. “On a different note, the ISIS problems, exported (?) could be over-exaggerated….”

    The ISIS problem is just another example of the way how Muslims wage war amongst themselves. This of course has always been a benefit to certain “Western” interests.

    As we now know, the flames of ISIS erupted from the embers of the failed Iraqi experiment.
    __________________
    You have to blame George W. Bush, his poodle Tony Blair and the Neo-Cons for the Iraqi mess. Obama did not do much on Iraq. Instead, he destabilized the Middle East further–Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and the rest of the Middle East. American foreign policy failure is just colossal. Any one who disagrees with me, please speak up.–Din Merican

  13. /// Obama did not do much on Iraq. Instead, he destabilized the Middle East further–Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and the rest of the Middle East. American foreign policy failure is just colossal. Any one who disagrees with me, please speak up.–Din Merican ///

    Agreed that the US messed up in all those places above. Not sure whether I would label that as foreign policy failure. Maybe those are successes if we go by their hidden agendas.

    Keep the Middle East perpetually in conflict by supporting and supplying Israel so that the US can sell arms to the Saudis and the oil rich states. Go to wars in Iraq while roping in the coalition of the unwilling so that the US can test its latest hi-tech weaponry, use up their expiring and expired stock of ammunition and then charge the coalition for the expenses.

    Now, the US is trying to destabalize Asia by taking sides with Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines against China in the South China Sea. Vietnam, whom the US almost blasted to smithereens during the Vietnam War and killing millions of Vietnamese – now they are buddy buddy with their enemy. Japan, that despicable coward who did the sneak attack on Pearl Harbour, is now courted by the US to contain China. The Philippines who chucked the US out of Clark and Subic Bases, now have to put their tail between their legs and beg the US to come back to help them teach China a lesson.

    What strange bedfellows – seems like there are no permanent enemies and that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

    If the US can pit India against Pakistan, and pit Japan against China, do you call that a foreign policy failure or a foreign policy success?

  14. These Muslim terrorists and extremists do not represent any culture.

    This is not an issue of whom to pray to, where and how you pray or where you are born….this is simply evil: plain and simple.

  15. Agree with you as to USA foreign policy. Maybe Obama now has a new lapdog JIBBY. You concur Sir?
    _________________
    Najib is a bugis warrior, so he claims. Now he is taking on the Keralite Mahathir who can win if he has a smoking gun. Badawi too has joined the ranks of those who want the Prime Minister to quit. –Din Merican

  16. “American foreign policy failure is just colossal. Any one who disagrees with me, please speak up.–Din Merican”

    What if her policy is to deepen the divide of the Muslim world?
    ____________________
    It has been successful in this regard, but the policy has backfired on the Americans while helping Israel. –Din Merican

  17. Din, you write “For starters, he must be firm against those religious functionaries in his own Prime Minister’s Office who are spreading the message of hate in mosques and other parts of the country.”

    That gives the impression that it is the tail that’s wagging the dog.

    No. Based on my conversations with Putrajaya insiders, it is the dog that is doing the wagging.

    If you recall, before the 2013 GE, Malaysians did not have to deal with this officially generated extremist poison but were rather fed the more insipid 1Malaysia soup till we had it coming out of our gills.

    Following the GE13 debacle, the lanun started with his ‘apa lagi cina mahu’ before moving on to ‘youth must emulate the bravery of ISIL’ while pulling the strings on the Bible seizure, the PAS turncoat, ISMA and releasing his rabid ‘Minister of Religion’ in the PMO to work the crowds in the mosques.

    The scumbag will do anything to cling on – just about anything. That includes talking about moderation in foreign lands to fool gullible westerners while conniving with the bigots and ketuanans to divide and prolong his rule .

    As I’ve always maintained, this fellow will see the end of Malaysia as we knew it. His threat of “transformation” is a real and present danger.

  18. “American foreign policy failure is just colossal. Any one who disagrees with me, please speak up.–Din Merican”

    Probably a sensible and tough question to ask is “what would be constituting a good American foreign policy toward Middle East?”

    The question will more likely to force us to confront the problems without being trapped in eluding our reasoning responsibility via blaming the existing policy alone.

    Nobody, not even the US government, want to bear the responsibility of global policemen anymore (unless when there is immediate danger to your own country or allies). Under Obama administration, the US foreign policy had been to move away from ME until last year when instability of ME again pulls in US intervention. The latest intervention is different (but not necessarily better) from Bush’s because of Obama’s overarching goal of not getting US into the quagmire.

    Would continuing Bush’s policy in Iraq after 2008 turn out anything better – by forceful reformatting Iraq a la Japan right after WW2? Probably not.

    Would letting Saddam’s Iraq gobble up Kuwait in 1991 without US intervention turn out anything better for ME stability? Probably not.

    Would letting Saddam to continue rule without US invasion in 2003 turn out better? May be.

    Would letting IS overrun Baghdad last year turn out anything better than what we have now? Probably not.

    ME is in such as a mess that, with or without US foreign policy, is still a mess. The only thing one can hope for is a “lesser mess”.
    ____________________
    Because it is blatantly pro-Israel. If the US is not, then why tolerate Israel’s land grab? Why deny the Palestinians of their right to have a viable state existing side by side with the state of Israel?–Din Merican

  19. The degree of mess ME is in can be seen from this video clip (https://www.facebook.com/EricAllenBell/videos/vb.173682399376423/812261468851843/?type=2&theater). Although the clip has elements of propaganda, but the fact that it can compose such a video from sayings of some well-known figures and religion leaders and elders of community tell the depth of the mess ME is in.

    Another way to see it is if Malaysia has such people saying such things we too will be in a mess no one can solve.

    (Sorry for posting this under wrong topic before)

  20. As to Jibby a Bugis warriior! Please see St Augustine’s reference to a pirate and the Emperor.
    As to US foreign policy, forget not the nigger in the woodpile the House of Saud, and the ever present perfidious Albion.USA will always be grateful that it was Kim Philby ( traitor to the Brits) who advised King abdul aziz that he should seek Yank assistance for oil exploration. Thus the birth of ARAMCO.

    Their adventure in Yemen will resurrect the Ikhwan with the help of Iran. Now standby for attacks in Arabia. Forget not too 1978(?) the raid on Mecca by Iran.

    Wonder what is ahead for Robert Lacey’s The KINGDOM

  21. So whats happened to Jibbys TOWERING MALAYS claim at UMNO GA chest thumping meetings. Is he now a COWERING MALAY?

  22. “Probably a sensible and tough question to ask is “what would be constituting a good American foreign policy toward Middle East?”

    I dunno’ maybe something like stop supporting despotic fascist Islamic Regimes like Saudi Arabia (which outsource terrorism) and working with stable despotic Regimes like Iran (which outsource terrorism to counter the outsourcing of Saudi Arabia and fighting a proxy war with Israel because Israel is fighting a proxy war the Palestinians and the Iranians) and generally living up the ideals they claim they have ?

    Failing which, rethinking a foreign policy predicated on a resource that pollutes the environment and fosters delusions of grandeur amongst potentates who think nothing of their citizens.

    Iraq as a maybe is 100% better than what it is now, with an American foreign policy fuelled by big business, the military industrial complex and religious fanatics , who see the Middle East as ground zero for the Second Coming.

    Just sayin’

  23. “Because it is blatantly pro-Israel. If the US is not, then why tolerate Israel’s land grab? Why deny the Palestinians of their right to have a viable state existing side by side with the state of Israel?–Din Merican”

    The so-called land grab has its long history. The modern version of the history started with 1948 UN resolution 181(II) where two-third of all nations passed to establish the state of Israel with a size smaller than that for Palestinians’ state. Arabs rejected not only this resolution, but also rejected all the subsequent land partition arrangements. With each war (1948, 1967, 1973, …), Palestinians have been allocated a smaller land than previous ones, and each time Arabs rejected those political arrangement even if they lost in every single of those wars. It is a mess, but one thing is clear: were Arabs on upper hand, the Jews would be exterminated (as Hamas’s Charter stated) or swept into the sea (as Iran Presidents repeatedly said); When Israel is on upper hand as in the past 60 years, Palestinians survives with bigger population in occupied territories and Arab-Israelis (in Israel proper) enjoy the best human right in the entire Middle East. Arab-Israelis are repeatedly reported that they don’t want to trade to live in any Arab-majorities nations. Now, tell me, why US, or any nation with clear moral compass, should not be pro-Israel in the mess of ME?

    Two states arrangements have been tried many times, and failed. They failed not simply because there is a country called USA backing Israel. Were the primary reason of failure is US, why would Palestinians negotiators repeatedly agreed to sit in meetings where US government is the primary or sole mediator?

  24. “Now, tell me, why US, or any nation with clear moral compass, should not be pro-Israel in the mess of ME?”

    Because anyone with a moral compass realizes that a big part of the mess in the Middle East is because of US intervention and coddling of despotic regimes. The reason why some Arab/Israelis don’t want to live in Arab dominated nations is because they realize that the US will do nothing for them because of their (US) support of tyrants. Furthermore most Palestinians realize that eventually Israel will lose the numbers game.

    “Were the primary reason of failure is US, why would Palestinians negotiators repeatedly agreed to sit in meetings where US government is the primary or sole mediator?”

    Even though you are conflating various issues, I’ll answer the question. Because the Palestinians have no choice but to deal with the US. The US applies pressure through various channels and when you are denied statehood, threatened with sanctions, engaged in a war of attrition and generally have nobody to back you except religious extremist, you really have no choice but to sit at the table.

  25. “The reason why some Arab/Israelis don’t want to live in Arab dominated nations is because they realize that the US will do nothing for them because of their (US) support of tyrants”, Conrad.

    So, had you given a choice, what would be good US foreign policy toward the tyrants of ME Muslim-majority countries (Every one of them is led by dictator, some more benevolent than the others)?

    Obama style? Let’s tyrants fall and unleash Islamism as in Libya, Egypt (Before Sisi), Syria, and Tunisia?

    Bush style? Overthrow tyrants that threatens US’s interest, and change them half-halfheartedly?

    Pragmatic formerly practiced style? Keep tyrants as long as stability is kept as what ME had been most of the time in the history.

    Better way?

  26. “So, had you given a choice, what would be good US foreign policy toward the tyrants of ME Muslim-majority countries (Every one of them is led by dictator, some more benevolent than the others)?”

    You answered your own question. Supporting those tyrants who are more benevolent than others seems morally justifiable than supporting a Regime like Saudi Arabia. Which is why supporting a country like Malaysia seems morally justifiable as opposed to North Korea. I assumed this was axiomatic.

    “Obama style? Let’s tyrants fall and unleash Islamism as in Libya, Egypt (Before Sisi), Syria, and Tunisia?

    Bush style? Overthrow tyrants that threatens US’s interest, and change them half-halfheartedly?”

    I think you are confusing me as a partisan who sees a formal difference between Republican and Democrat type foreign policy. There isn’t. Both are predicated on securing US interests . While I would argue that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t in the US interests but in the Neo Con interests, the end results are the same as far as policy making is concerned.

    “Pragmatic formerly practiced style? Keep tyrants as long as stability is kept as what ME had been most of the time in the history.

    Better way?”

    Pragmatism was abandoned a long time ago in the pursuit of Imperialistic dreams. Maintaining stability is ultimately in the best interests for all stakeholders concerned.

    However the stability of the general populace is of no concern of the US. Stability of the despotic ruling elite who serve the interest of the US is what US foreign policy defines a stability. This is why arms dealer sell weapons to Regimes like Saudi Arabia, to keep their populations in check.

    Stability as defined by US policy is not pragmatic, its morally indefensible.

  27. /// Conrad April 30, 2015 at 11:59 am
    “Probably a sensible and tough question to ask is “what would be constituting a good American foreign policy toward Middle East?” ///

    Spot on! The US has been too soft on the Saudis (because of oil?) and turned a blind eye when the Saudis spread their Wahhabism poison to Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of the Ummah. Wahhabism is the curse of the Muslim world. And that in turn will bite the US and the western world on their behind.

  28. “However the stability of the general populace is of no concern of the US. Stability of the despotic ruling elite who serve the interest of the US is what US foreign policy defines a stability. This is why arms dealer sell weapons to Regimes like Saudi Arabia, to keep their populations in check.

    Stability as defined by US policy is not pragmatic, its morally indefensible, ” Conrad.

    Relying on tyrant to keep stability is to suppress opponents and keep the populations in check; clear and simple – otherwise we won’t call a leader tyrant. It could be morally defended if there is no better alternative. I beg the question of, if you were US policy makers, what is your approach to keeping the stability? Show us some details – and I bet you will be grounded to the reality.

  29. “Relying on tyrant to keep stability is to suppress opponents and keep the populations in check; clear and simple – otherwise we won’t call a leader tyrant. It could be morally defended if there is no better alternative. I beg the question of, if you were US policy makers, what is your approach to keeping the stability?

    I believe I answered this questions already. In case you missed it.

    “Supporting those tyrants who are more benevolent than others seems morally justifiable than supporting a Regime like Saudi Arabia. Which is why supporting a country like Malaysia seems morally justifiable as opposed to North Korea. I assumed this was axiomatic.”

    In other words “pragmatism” in the sense of supporting tyrants who are benevolent to their populations and who maintain a level of stability as defined by the well being of said populations and not by the stability of the ruling elite, is a morally defensible position.

    “Show us some details – and I bet you will be grounded to the reality.”

    How absurd. What “details” are you looking for exactly ? I already said that the problem with US foreign policy was that it is based on Imperialism instead of pragmatism. How much more grounded in reality do you want ?

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