Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Terrorist Threats: Measuring the Terms and Approaches

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Terrorist Threats: Measuring the Terms and Approaches

Article excerpt


This article discusses terrorist networks that operate locally with diverse interests. A comparative study between Malaysia and Indonesia is discussed in this article, because these organizations share significant features that raise questions on their very existence. Ironically differing perspectives on threat contribute to differing actions by both countries. Although these fundamental Islamic groups are assumed to be standard and organized, their organizations turn out to be loose and cannot be sufficiently accepted as an organization. Factors such as family and kinship, unclear funding, and members' lack recognition may annul the meaning of the organization. Competing terms on terrorism and Jihad are explained in this article. Both comprise difficult conceptual frameworks. Understanding their modus operandi and examining the states' actions and mechanisms to curb any possible terrorist threat in the region are also central to this discussion. Both Malaysia and Indonesia show commitments to secure their borders and heighten state security, including assessing the group mobility and security enforcement.

Keywords: terrorist, organization, network, security, mechanism

1. Introduction

Southeast Asia has long been threatened by fundamentalist-oriented groups particularly in Southern Thailand, the Philippines, and Acheh. Bilveer Singh (2007) posits that these armed Islamic groups who declared war against central governments are aiming to gain political autonomy through secession. This armed struggle motivates the United States to make a secondary front campaign on terrorism in this region. Although Acharya & Acharya (2007) criticize that the USA's global war on terrorism is viewed by many Muslim majority countries as a global war on Islam due to Washington's one-size-fits-all counter-terrorism initiatives, efforts from the governments in Southeast Asia to curb and to prevent terrorism are serious after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the USA. That tragedy urged the governments in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, to launch their own war on terrorism.

Southeast Asia is prone to Islamic movements for several reasons. First, there is a sizeable population of Muslims in this region, more than 230 million, making it one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. Due to its prominent number of Muslims, the proclivity toward fundamentalist concepts and ideology is strong, making the region vulnerable. Second, historically this region has been closely linked with the Muslim world, especially to the Middle East, South Asia and China. Such exposure makes this region open to radical ideas and approaches learned from the Middle East since 1960s. Furthermore, the past history, particularly the glorious decade of Islam in the region during the Malacca, Mataram and Pattani empires, may inspire some groups to look to the past for inspiration and hope of resurrecting past glory and challenging the present.

Third, the prolonged Islamic insurgency in several countries in this region provides opportunities for trans-national influences to penetrate the region. Fourth, the region is experiencing a rise of religious revivalism and fundamentalism that encourages these religious groups to reinterpret a reason for wars (Abuza, 2004). Finally some events including the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran 1979, the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the war on terror are viewed by these fundamentalists as a war on Islam, especially when the US is a strong supporter of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and Palestine (Sidel, 2007).

Despite the large Muslim population, history, ideas of revivalism and pan Islamism, Southeast Asia has porous borders that allow it to be a feasible transit and facilitation point for al-Qaeda to extend its influence and support. Al-Qaeda developed contacts with Islamic groups such as Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines, and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Majlis Mujahiddin Indonesia (MMI) in Indonesia. …

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