Militants linked to ISIS preying on civil servants in Malaysia

Islamic State-linked groups are preying on unsuspecting civil servants yearning for religious knowledge. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 
Islamic State-linked groups are preying on unsuspecting civil servants yearning for religious knowledge. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK 

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Militant groups linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are tapping into the big demand for religious knowledge to prey on unsuspecting civil servants.

President of the civil service union Cuepacs, Datuk Azih Muda, said many among the country's 1.5 million public servants take informal religious classes during their off-work time to deepen their knowledge on Islam.

Some inadvertently ended up being influenced by individuals linked to militant groups, including the ISIS.

"It may have started as a genuine interest to delve deeper into religion, but it was misconstrued and twisted into extremism.

"They may have found a tok guru (teacher) who began teaching good things before leading them to a more extreme path," Azih told The Star on Friday.

Commenting on the involvement and subsequent detention of civil servants, especially lower-ranking personnel, in militant groups this year, Azih said such individuals were blinded with the promise of a false "jihad" or holy war, and martyrdom.

Azih hoped that no more civil servants would be involved with militant groups.

"They should remember the oath and pledge that they took when they started work and that extremism has no place in this country."

Anti-terrorism expert Prof Dr Mohd Kamarulnizam Abdullah from Universiti Utara Malaysia said lower-ranking civil servants were more likely to form the majority at religious and social gatherings, making them an easier target.

Kamarulnizam, who is director of the university's Research Institute for Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore, said he did not believe that recruiters posing as religious teachers had managed to infiltrate government agencies.

"I believe that the recruitment effort took place after office hours such as during weekends."

He said the situation was still very much under control as the number of those involved was still very low.

"To me it will start to be worrying if we were to start seeing recurring cases of senior officers being influenced, as that would show that the ideology has influenced the decision makers," said Kamarulnizam.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Najib Razak singled out corruption in his year-end message to civil servants, the threat of terrorism and racial polarisation as issues that should be given serious attention.

Describing the threat posed by militant groups such as the ISIS as "very dangerous", enough for the Government to table a White Paper in Parliament recently, he said: "This is a serious threat faced by civil servants. Fortunately, only the lower ranks in the civil service have been influenced by the ideology of IS so far, and we have taken action to address this."

Najib said new anti-terror laws would be tabled in Parliament next year, including amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and other preventive laws.