Malaysia Prime Minister's Pep Talk to Party: Be 'Brave' Like ISIS Terrorists
The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is under fire for calling for members of his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) Party to follow the example of radical Islamist terrorists the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), complimenting the terrorists' "bravery."
In what is either a staggeringly tone-deaf gaffe or a sign of more sinister interest in the terrorist group, Najib saluted the courage of the jihadists during remarks at a party rally this week. "When someone dares to fight to their death, they can even defeat a much bigger team,“ he told the audience, according to the Malay Mail Online. “As proof — whether we agree or not is another matter — the group ISIL with the strength of just 1,300 people, can defeat an Iraqi army of 30,000 soldiers, until four, five generals with three, four stars run for their lives, jump out the window at night. Why?" he concludes, "Because they are afraid of those who are brave."
Some have interpreted the comments as something of a gaffe-- one research analyst told Channel News Asia, "I think he was simply saying that he expects UMNO members to be brave and selfless. Of course, it's a rather awkward and clumsy example to use given what's happening in Iraq now."
Others note that Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, cannot afford such lionization of terrorist groups, particularly by heads of state. Opposition party leaders are claiming that Najib "rejected democracy and has destroyed diplomatic relations between Malaysia and other countries," including Iraq, with whose government Malaysia has cordial relations. Despite the governments being nominal allies, Malaysia has lost citizens to the war in Iraq and Syria. Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that up to 15 Malaysia citizens have died fighting for ISIS. “As a peace-loving country that practices moderation, Malaysia abhors and does not condone any acts of terrorism or extremism by any parties, including its own nationals,” the Ministry said in a statement.
Islam in Malaysia has made waves legally in the past few months with a ban on the use of the world "Allah" by non-Muslim Malaysians, which was upheld at the highest level of the judiciary yesterday. The ban has led to mass seizures of Bibles referring to the Judeo-Christian god as "Allah," and has allowed punishments to be available to law enforcement for those that do not abide by the ban.