Stop young men from going to Syria, says mother of Malaysian militant

KUALA LUMPUR - The mother of a 22-year-old Malaysian who is believed to have joined militants fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's government in Syria has urged the Malaysian government to do more to prevent more young men from going to Syria.

"He does not fully understand jihad. He was eager and strongly influenced by these people," Ms Rozini Talib told the New Straits Times in an interview, saying that her son had left the country with Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, 26, believed to be Malaysia's first suicide bomber linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Ms Rozini, a 49-year-old housewife, said her son had assumed the name Salman Al Farisi had last been in touch with the family on Father's Day on June 15. She said she did not know which jihadist group her son was affiliated with or who his contacts were.

She did not want to reveal his real name in the interview but referred to Salman as "Along" (a term used in Malay families to refer to the eldest child), and, occasionally, Syafiq.

He had told his mother in late February that he was going to Syria for a "humanitarian mission". He has not been back since.

"I told him not to go because I don't know how long I will be around. I never thought that he was going to pick up arms and go to war," said Ms Rozini who suffers from a heart condition for which she has previously been hospitalised.

"I kept reminding him that helping his family is also a form of jihad, but he was dead set on leaving us.

"All he wants is martyrdom," she said in the interview.

The New Straits Times contacted Ms Rozini after several Malaysian jihadists in Syria posted her address on Facebook and appealed to supporters and friends in Malaysia to help their "comrade" (Salman) by checking on his mother and helping her financially.

Ms Rozini told the newspaper that a stranger who claimed to have served in Palestine, had recently approached her and gave her RM100 (S$39). He did not stay long, telling her that he was under police surveillance.

She said that her husband, a 49-year-old security guard, was equally heartbroken by their son's decision to leave them behind.

"He is beyond angry with him for leaving like he did," she said.

She told the New Straits Times that her son, who studied at the Cybernetics Institute of Technology, had been chipping in for household expenses and contributing pocket money to his school-going siblings as soon as he began working in Sepang, where he was involved in the klia2 project.

"He told his brother and sisters in February that money from him would stop coming in.

"He sold his superbike and gave his brother his EX5.

"And then, he was gone.

"Salman didn't allow us to send him off that day. He will be 23 in October. I hope to hold my son in my arms again on that day," she said, choking back tears.

She also told the New Straits Times that Salman had been in contact with the family through an online chat on Fathers Day.

"He asked for my chicken porridge recipe and was disappointed to know that he was going to have to do without a lot of the ingredients," Ms Rozini said.

"His interest in jihad was sudden and he never spoke about it until just before he left," she said.

She said her worries about Salman grew after reports said that Ahmad Tarmimi, the last person to be seen with her son, had rammed a military sports utility vehicle filled with explosives into an Iraqi special forces headquarters on May 26, blowing up himself and killing 25 elite Iraqi soldiers.

"I am appealing to the police to forgive my son and to give him a chance if he comes back. He is not a threat to this country and has never even joined street demonstrations," said Ms Rozini.

Malaysians involved in jihadist groups in Syria have been warned they would be arrested the minute they set foot in the country. The authorities have expressed concern that the conflict in Syria has radicalised a new generation of militants who, they say, have been brainwashed to an unprecedented degree through the use of social media.

At least 30 Malaysians and 56 Indonesians have gone to fight in Syria, the authorities estimated.

Ms Rozini said her son was reluctant to return home. "He also said to me: 'What's the point of returning when he could be put behind bars for years?

"As a mother, while I don't approve of what he is doing there, I ask that the Almighty keep him safe,"she said.