University in Selangor under scrutiny for ISIS recruits

KUALA LUMPUR • A little-known university based in Selangor's capital, Shah Alam, is attracting scrutiny from the authorities for potential ISIS recruits and sympathisers, after police arrested and deported two of its foreign students recently for suspected militant activities.

A high-level meeting between government officials and representatives of Al-Madinah International University (Mediu) took place yesterday evening, news site Malay Mail Online reported, ostensibly to discuss curriculum and accreditation issues, though a representative from the Selangor Islamic Religious Council was expected to attend too.

On Tuesday, Malaysian police announced that they had detained seven people between Nov 3 and Dec 16 over suspected links with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Two of those detained were foreign students of Mediu who were allegedly planning an attack on an international school in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed confirmed to the news site yesterday that terrorists had plans to recruit students from the university, but he stressed that the private institution was not a hotbed of terrorism or recruitment hub.

The university was set up in 2007 following government-to- government talks between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, reported The Star.

In March this year, state government station TV Selangor reported that the Saudi Arabian government was committed to investing in the education sector, and was looking to develop the university campus on a roughly 80ha plot of land in Selangor.

The institution has about 1,300 students from 43 countries, with the majority coming from Nigeria, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Courses offered include Islamic science, engineering, IT and Arabic.

"We don't promote extremism and neither are we a breeding ground for militants," the university's international relations deputy director Abdul Ghani Mohamad told Malay Mail Online.

He also said that the university will work more closely with police and the immigration department, as the two agencies are involved in screening foreign students and lecturers.

According to the news site, Malaysia's counter-terrorism chief Ayub Khan said that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department, Selangor Mufti Department and Higher Education Ministry were investigating the university's syllabus, and that the authorities had red-flagged the university in the past for following deviant teachings.

"Certain topics were related to militant ideologies. The university has been advised to alter its syllabus and teachings, but we found some of them remained the same... even after assuring us it would make amendments," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline 'University in Selangor under scrutiny for ISIS recruits'. Print Edition | Subscribe