Islamist extremists pose a threat to Asian statehood

January 15, 2016

Islamist extremists pose a threat to Asian statehood

by Victor Mallet 1/13/201

 Do not forget the menace of violence and religious bigotry in the east, says Victor Mallet



 The first self-styled Islamic state of the postwar era was established not in the Arab world but in South Asia, in Pakistan. It was followed by Mauritania in West Africa, Iran and then Pakistan’s neighbour, Afghanistan.

 While the world frets over the spread of violent Islamist extremism through the Middle East, most recently under the banner of Isis, there is a tendency to forget the menace of violence and creeping religious bigotry among the vast Muslim populations of Asia. It is in Asia, after all, that most Muslims live.



In Asia, as in Europe and the Middle East, Isis is a popular brand among young Islamist militants. But the puritanical and bloodthirsty Sunni ideology it represents has been extending its influence there for decades under the guidance of other groups and governments, including al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and a plethora of local organisations.

Many westerners — because their own troops have been fighting and dying there in the recent past — are aware of the savagery of the civil war in Afghanistan between the ultraconservative Taliban and the government in Kabul.



But how many recall that Sunni extremists in Bangladesh have in the past few months hacked to death liberal writers and attacked foreigners, police officers, Shia Muslims, Hindus and Christians? That scores of recruits from the Maldives have gone to fight for Isis in Syria? Or that Pakistani terror groups routinely slaughter the perceived enemies of Sunni puritanism at home as well as launching occasional murderous raids into neighbouring India?


Red Shirt Malays

With Ameno wanita supporter, Isa Samad cannot afford to lose in Bagan Pinang


Worrying trends in Najib’s Malaysia

East Asia is not immune either. Just as south Asians once revelled in their religious diversity and syncretic Hindu-Muslim culture, so it was long argued that the brand of Islam practiced in Indonesia and its neighbours was “milder” than the harsh versions of the Gulf. Yet in recent decades we have seen terrorist bombings in Bali, Islamist separatism in the Philippines and Sumatra, the burning of churches in Java and increasing Wahhabi religiosity that runs counter to the tolerant and heterodox traditions of Islam in the east.

Analysing the role of postwar nation states and their constitutions is crucial for understanding the crisis of Islamist violence in Asia: the very name of the country is one reason why the problem is so severe in the pioneering Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

 When Muhammad Ali Jinnah separated Pakistan from the rest of India in 1947, it was to protect the Muslim minority of the Raj. He envisaged a secular, tolerant state where Christians, Hindus and others could worship freely.

When Muhammad Ali Jinnah separated Pakistan from the rest of India in 1947, it was to protect the Muslim minority of the Raj. He envisaged a secular, tolerant state where Christians, Hindus and others could worship freely.

That was not the way it turned out. Pakistan has become a place where the supposed will of the religious majority is imposed by violence. By becoming an “Islamic” republic, it by definition discriminated against non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are vilified not only in madrassas but also in government school textbooks.


Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of the Pakistani national assembly, describes in her book, Purifying the Land of the Pure, how the non-Muslim share of the population dropped from 23 per cent at independence to 3 per cent today.

But the “drip, drip genocide” — 60,000 Pakistanis, she says, have been killed by jihadis — did not stop there. Members of the Ahmadi movement were persecuted and declared non- Muslims. Extremists then started massacring Shia. Now the targets are Sufis and other “soft” Sunnis considered insufficiently orthodox by clerics.

There is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that Pakistan might, one day, become a moderately open Muslim society. The army seems to have realised that violent Islamists who slaughter Pakistanis pose an existential threat to the state itself.


The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of Malaysian Politics

Unfortunately, the generals make a specious distinction between “good” and “bad” jihadis, supporting the “good” who stage terror attacks on Pakistan’s neighbours. The four men who crossed the border and attacked the Indian air base of Pathankot this month were believed to be from a group supported by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

 Yet, as Ispahani points out, the same people who kill Indians or Afghans in the summer will return home when the fighting season is over and murder Pakistani Shia or persecute the few remaining Hindus and Christians.

If Pakistan and other Asian nations want to survive as modern, constitutional states rather than descend into the communal violence now common in the Middle East, they will have to enforce a minimum level of religious and cultural tolerance and suppress all their extremists.


12 thoughts on “Islamist extremists pose a threat to Asian statehood

  1. Worrying developments in Asia and also in Malaysia. Malay extremists are above the law since they are sponsored and financed by the besieged Prime Minister Najib, Obama’s golfing buddy and TPPA partner and protected by IGP Khalid Ashburn. But don’t forget Mahathir Mohamad, Perkasa, Isma and the Mamak Gang.

    Over to Conrad, Malott, Dr. Phua, LaMoy, CLF, Orang Malaya, Abnizar, aliefalfa, Isa Manteqi, Tok Cik for your comments. I would hypothesise that Najib would use extremist elements to create emergency rule when all his other means to stay in power fail.–Din Merican

  2. Asians have to learn racial and religious tolerance. Otherwise there will no peace nor prosperity.

  3. The real issue is why Muslim countries that opposes ISIS, these extremist, HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO CONVINCE PEOPLE, THEIR OWN AND OTHERS, THAT THE EXTREMIST DO NOT HAVE A WINNABLE PROPOSITION i.e., that ISIS will lose ultimately because their ideas is not winnable..Muslim countries that oppose ISIS is because they threaten those in power, not because they oppose the IDEAS of ISIS.. THIS is the real dysfunctionaility of the likes of Middle East and creeping into Asian Muslim countries..

    Muslim countries have to decide that if they want to defeat extremist, then they themselves have to walk away from the ideas they share with them. If they are apoloigist simply oppose because they threaten their power, then its a dysfunctional temporary fight. Its not solutioning..

  4. When economic times are bad, many people turn in desperation to alternative political parties or even to extremist movements (far leftist or fascist) e.g. from history, in Weimar Germany, to the Communists (KPD) and the Nazis.

    In Greece today, rise of Syriza (which did not act “far left” when in power) and the neo-Nazi, xenophobic Golden Dawn. In Hungary, there is the far right Jobbik.

    In Malaysia, will the Malays turn to relatively progressive movements and political parties such as PKR and Amanah or to the emerging kleptocrat-clerico-fascist alliance of UMNO Baru and the extremist wing of PAS? The progressive Malay intellectuals will need to play their part in ensuring the former and preventing the latter.

  5. Din: You left out Pekida. What can I say. I agree with you 110%. Najib will pull any dirty tricks to stay in power. He is fighting for his life. Not only he is being accused for corruptions, he is alleged of being linked to the murders of Hussain Ahmad, Altantuyaa Shaariibuu and Kevin Morais. Even if he is innocent he will be in a lot of trouble once he lost power.
    Pekida is UMNO’s private army.–Din Merican

  6. With the economy downturn, and the flourishing agama schools, do not be surprise that the country will breed more extremist.

  7. Can we all have a moment here ?

    I mean Islamists don’t pose a threat to Asian statehood. Islam poses a threat to any statehood. And this goes for any kind of “state religion”.

    Look, our Constitutional safeguards against religious and racial discrimination doesn’t mean anything. Our judiciary and security apparatus are apparently “Muslim” first.

    The success of our so called democracy is predicated on the Non Muslims knowing their place and being grateful for citizenship even though we built this country on the behest of a Western colonial power.

    The political elite of this country seem more interested in pandering to Malay/Muslim sensitivities to garner votes – yeah I’m looking at you Rafizi, my little cherub – not to mention the kind of racial/religious politics the DAP wallows in, so blaming UMNO for everything while convenient doesn’t really help us move this country forward.

    Nobody in our Opposition wants to offer an alternative. It’s always the sanctity of Islam will be protected.

    Ok, go on protecting Islam, meanwhile the rest of the civilized – civilized mind you – world moves on.

  8. Bravo, Conrad, straight to the point calling a spade a spade. I have always said the Malaysian Constitution is a joke, doomed to fail from the start. Moreover, it has been amended 57 times, almost once every year of the existence of the nation bringing it to the abyss. Racial politics complicated by religious poison accelerate death of a nation.

  9. I would earnestly urge the authorities, in particular the Islamic authority , that they become more aware and conscious about children psychology. Young children in tender age, they are just beginning to grow up in life, and the propensity to play or run around , even a little fight , or do some mischiefs is part of the period of growing up. The worrying thing developing now is the sight of these young toddlers being HEAVILY GARBED in white with white skull cap … unfair of their parents, they are not given a chance to grow up … ? –
    What is the current Sympton we see now that’s becoming the trend. For these young girls of tender age, the Hijab ‘ indoctrination ‘ is getting even worse , and barely 14 or 15 years of age, all of them are actually COMPETING to out-do another or the others….expensive no doubt, but its all about Competition , and not about piety or religion, but more often now , its about being lascivious……. ” How I look better and gorgeous than another or the others…..” is the trend. . –

    I would urge to be more considerate in the aspect of psychology , and the true interpretation of the Veil in the holy book, to guard Modesty , rather than turning this dress-industry to profit making enterprise, for up-coming young girls are PRONE to lasciviousness….

  10. By the time they grow up to adulthood,
    they (might) become too indoctrinated that the even have to be fully hijabbed to go Swimming….. – not knowing or questioning why ?

  11. Islamisation is a global phenomenon. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, enjoyed a drink now and then, not dissimilar to Malaysia’s first PM. Even once staunchly secular Turkey is gradually changing, but the Turks have a strong national identity (as a former great power) so they might not totally surrender to pan-Islamism. Not so sure about the Malay people however. Given how much has changed in Malaysian society in the past generation, I would not be surprised if Pakistan provides an idea of what Malaysian society will look like in another generation.

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