Standing up to brazen terrorists

That military and diplomatic pincers are being applied on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was clear at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. There, United States President Barack Obama said that the American military would combine forces with allies to take apart the militant group's deadly network. This joint effort is shaping up through air strikes on ISIS targets carried out by the US and Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The terror group's signature activity - beheadings of foreign hostages broadcast in videos - in protest against military strikes on its assets and people attests to the fact that punitive actions do hurt them deeply. This military pressure must be intensified to contain and exterminate ISIS. The military solution will not be without its detractors, but in the face of brazen acts of terror, the US and the rest of the civilised world could hardly afford to sit on their hands, allowing the killing to continue.

On the diplomatic front, Mr Obama led the UN Security Council in approving a resolution demanding that countries take steps to stem the flow of fighters to ISIS. This is an important part of the strategy against the malevolent international grouping. Malaysia's decision to designate it as a terrorist organisation, and determination to take stern action against its members, sends a strong signal that Muslim-majority countries are against the violent twisting of religion for the political ends that ISIS represents so reprehensibly. South-east Asian countries must stop their citizens from joining the group, not only because it is causing mayhem in the Middle East but also to prevent returning ISIS fighters from destabilising their home countries. Intelligence gathering and sharing would play an essential role in preventive policing. 

Equally important would be regional cooperation in the Middle East to cut off the millions of dollars in oil revenue that ISIS makes, particularly on the black market. The group's financial muscle differentiates it from other terrorist organisations that must make do with money laundering or public donations, which are less difficult to monitor and curb, compared to the oil money that ISIS commands by virtue of controlling sizeable territory in the two countries. It is this money which enables it to exercise the functions of a state.

The war will also need the support of countervailing ideas. Political and religious leaders, especially in Muslim countries, must lend their weight and credibility to the argument that killing innocent people in the name of faith is a travesty of both belief and justice. Young Muslims will need to be safeguarded from the unfortunate perversion of a great religion for ISIS' political purposes.