Malaysia 'on alert for militant kindergartens'

Online storm over photo of kids in military fatigues toting toy guns, with two 'teachers'

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police said kindergartens across the country are being monitored to ensure they will not be turned into training centres for child soldiers.

The director of Special Branch police intelligence, Datuk Seri Fuzi Harun, said this to the Malay Mail Online news site yesterday, following an online storm over a picture showing Malaysian kindergarten children in military fatigues toting toy guns, with two women who appeared to be their teachers.

He said police have been monitoring that particular kindergarten, located in Bandar Sri Damansara just outside Kuala Lumpur, since last year. "We have already been investigating the school from last year. If we find enough evidence that suggests such (militant) ideologies are being taught, we will move in on them," Mr Fuzi told the Malay Mail Online when contacted.

That picture, and another of kindergarten girls waving Palestinian flags and the two women wearing headbands with Arabic writing, riled netizens after they were posted on Instagram.

"I'm shocked to see the photos. What I'm concerned about is that it looks like they are training the kids to be terrorists. They are holding guns," lawyer Siti Zabedah Kasim told The Star. She raised the issue by posting the pictures on her Facebook account. She added: "Being religious is doing good, not acting like you're in the army."

Social media users were shocked by this image of kindergarten children with toy guns. PHOTO: SITIFATHIMA/ INSTAGRAM

A reader of her Facebook account wrote "even if you support Palestine, this is not the way, this is like ISIS" - a reference to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist group.

Malay Mail said its checks revealed that several kindergarten teachers, one of whom works in the Kota Damansara kindergarten, had uploaded the images to their Instagram accounts.

Malaysia is on alert against terrorist plots and has so far arrested more than 160 men and women linked to ISIS.

Mr Fuzi in January said the police had foiled an attempt by ISIS militants to set up a terrorist training centre for children in Malaysia.

The headmistress of the kindergarten told the New Straits Times newspaper yesterday that the children were participating in a play on the Israel-Palestine conflict in 2014. The teacher who posted the picture on Instagram quit in February, she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia 'on alert for militant kindergartens''. Print Edition | Subscribe