Officials from both Indonesia, the state with the world’s largest Muslim population, and Malaysia have warned that the radical Islamic State (IS) terror group is now targeting their respective countries.
Indonesia and Malaysia, known for their more secular governing policies in relation to other Muslim-majority countries, are being targeted because they have thus far refused to follow the strict and oppressive Islamic Shariah law.
Indonesian authorities announced last week they had banned support for the Islamic State terror group. Public support for the Islamic State has increased exponentially in Indonesia over the past several months. Recently, there have been documented meetings in support of the Islamic State in Jakarta, Solo, Central Java, and Bima. An official said of banning the radical IS ideology, “ISIS’s ideology is against Panacasila, the defining principle of Indonesia’s pluralistic and multicultural society. We want to make sure that Indonesia is not a country where you can spread ideas about ISIS or Islamic State.” Indonesian officials believe that over 50 Indonesian nationals have traveled to Syria and Iraq to wage jihad for the Islamic State.
Radical, jailed Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir and his Al-Qaeda-linked Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamayiah has declared support for the Islamic State. His jihadist group is known for being behind the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed over 200 people.
A counter-terror expert told the South China Morning Post that Islamic State has been able to pay off prospective jihadists to join their cause. “[Islamic State] is also far richer and better armed than al-Qaeda from taking over banks and weapons in places it has overrun. It can afford to pay each fighter who joins them US$250 every month,” he said.
Malaysian authorities have arrested at least 19 of their nationals in just seven months, suspecting them of being connected to the Islamic State. A Malaysian counter-terror official said of the arrests, “During questioning, [suspects] admitted one of their main objectives was to attack the government. They also discussed planning attacks against a disco, pubs in Kuala Lumpur and a Carlsberg factory…”
Islam is the dominant religion in both Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia is home to over 200 million Muslims, or almost 90 percent of its population. Islam is the most-practiced religion in Malaysia, with 60 percent (20 million) of its population following the religion.