LAST_UPDATEFri, 22 Jun 2018 7pm

Extremist Groups Targeting Youths Thirsting For Religious Knowledge - Expert

Pic: The Federalist PapersPic: The Federalist Papers

AMMAN, JORDAN:Extremists and militants are making use of certain verses in the Al Quran and hadith, particularly those related to jihad, to put a stranglehold on young Muslims who have a weak grounding in Islam.

It is for this reason alone, vulnerable Muslims have to be on the alert because, in their enthusiasm to learn more about their religion, they are at risk of falling into the trap laid out by the deviationist groups.

Speaking at a seminar on Countering Violent Extremism here, recently, dean of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's Faculty of Islamic Studies Prof Dr Wan Kamal Mujani said extremist groups like Daesh were always on the move, recruiting members by convincing them that their struggle was sanctioned by Islam.

"They usually target people who lack a strong foundation in Islam but desire to know more about the religion, and also those in search of spiritual fulfilment," he said in his working paper titled, "Role of Youths in Countering Extremism".

The seminar, held at the University of Jordan, here on Nov 25 and 26, was organised by the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF).

Held in conjunction with the 11th annual conference convened by Malaysian graduates of Jordan universities, more than 400 Malaysian students, here attended the seminar, which was aimed at promoting the concept of Wasatiyyah or moderation to check the threat posed by the propagation of extemist ideologies among Malaysia's youths.


While law enforcement agencies are diligently doing their part to stop militants and extremists in their tracks, why are our youths still easily swayed by the false propaganda peddled by these groups?

Putting the blame squarely on militant groups, Wan Kamal said they have taken to literally translating certain verses from the Al Quran and hadith, without understanding their true meaning, to justify their acts of violence.

"They are making use of the jihad-related verses from the Al Quran and hadith and sowing seeds of hatred and extremism. They are doing this in subtle ways and are making use of mosques and surau to propagate their ideology," he said.

Acknowledging that the Al Quran has many verses related to jihad, he said there were also clarifications on what constituted true jihad.

"Indeed, there are many verses regarding jihad but there are clarifications as well. But they (deviationists) are deceiving people into joining them. They are merely exploiting the verses and coming up with their own interpretations.

"Those who end up joining these groups have obviously not studied the true context of these verses. Actually, (the concept of) jihad also involves one's assets and other specific objectives, and not merely weapons. They have not interpreted the verses correctly... it seems like these people are attracted to jihad which involves bloodshed, what's more when they are tricked into believing that they will go straight to heaven if they get killed," he added.


Wan Kamal said extremist groups were now using the Internet as a medium to expand their indoctrination.

"While social media can help one to gain knowledge and develop, it can also destroy our society because certain quarters are abusing it," he said, adding that these militant groups usually operated in rural areas and took advantage of the rural environment's shortcomings to plant seeds of discontent and rev up their indoctrination process.

Bukit Aman Special Branch's Counter-Terrorism division principal assistant director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, who also spoke at the seminar, touched on the importance of tackling the issue at the grass-root level.

He said while enforcement authorities serve to apprehend suspected militants and prosecute them, the problem can only be resolved if it is nipped in the bud.

"If we don't address the core issue, we won't be able to stop the propagation of extremist ideology. The same goes for the exploitation of religious teachings, like verses in the Quran and hadith, to justify the killing of people," he said in his working paper titled, "Militant Extremism Threats Against the Nation".


Ayob Khan said the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim), state religious departments and religious scholars should act more aggressively to rectify the misinterpretations.

"As long as this is not handled, there will be no end to it (threat). It will not end because it's not being addressed at the grass-root level and the police will be forced to continue making arrests... and these arrests are increasing in number.

"Don't allow the (extremist) idealogy to flourish... if we have to detain them (militants), we will do so. Idealogy that is creeping into the country from abroad must also be monitored," he said.

Ayob Khan said looking at the history of the emergence of terror organisations, it was extremist ideology that triggered their formation. If the propagation of such idealogy is curtailed at an early stage, it can deter the establishment of terror groups, he added.

GMMF executive chairman and chief executive oficer Datuk Dr Nasharudin Mat Isa suggested that the authorities provide clear explanations, in the form of videos and infographics, of religious rulings or fatwa concerning jihad that were usually distorted by militant groups to justify their violent acts.

"There are a lot of fatwa (regarding jihad)... when can we finish reading them all? Take all the fatwa and present them in the form of infographics. Make videos out of them and explain in a language that youths will understand.

"We at GMMF are ready to use our platform for this purpose because so far no one has presented the fatwa in the form of infographics," he said in his working paper, "Driving Moderate Thoughts and Narrative Feedback in Tackling Extremism".

- Bernama