An Exchange of Ideas on Counterterrorism

By : Benedict Weerasena

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A group picture of all the participants of the dicussion

In just a short span of less than 90 days, Britain was hit with a series of terror attacks, 4 to be exact, killing 36 and injuring 166 people. Motives varied with differeing modus operandis and no observable patterns were found. This portrays the huge and almost insurmountable challenge faced by the policymakers, stakeholders and especially the police force – The Challenge of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).

With such horrifying incidences and many families affected by the injury and death of loves ones, communities are at their wits end with trying to take the necessary measures to prevent another attack from happening. Paul Wilkinson once said and I quote,

“Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.”

That was the exact same sentiment I experienced during our roundtable discussion with 4 British Parliamentarians and several notable Malaysian researchers and representatives. In a highly interesting and very lively Roundtable Discussion session held on 25th of July 2017 at 3pm at the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur, we shared our thoughts and ideas on countering terrorism, giving a Malaysian perspective to these efforts.

 

A group picture of all the participants of the dicussion
A group picture of all the participants of the dicussion

Bait Al-Amanah was privileged to be part of this meeting, with Mohd Daud, our Research director, Zila Fawzi, Analyst and Benedict Weerasena, Economist as representatives to this meeting organized by the British High Commission. The other Malaysian representatives were Badrul Hisham and Derek Kok from Iman Research, Aizat Shamsuddin from Komuniti Muslim Universal and Adli Zakuan from Pusat Komas. The British delegation comprised of Members of Parliament Rt Hon. John Whittingdale OBE and Sir David Amess from the Conservative Party, Chris Leslie (Labour Party), Rt Hon. Baroness Northover (Liberal Democrat) and Susie Latta, the Head of International Outreach of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK as the Delegation Secretary.

Throughout the session, participants from both countries exchanged their views and thoughts about counter terrorism and deradicalization efforts in Malaysia. Our British counterparts were very intrigued by Malaysia’s performance in countering terrorism activities and our successes in thwarting various terror attacks so far. For instance, the police managed to prevent Islamic State (IS) operatives in the country from carrying out a planned attack during the recent official visit by King Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. In fact, our very efficient and dependable police force has foiled at least 14 planned terror attacks on Malaysian soil in 2016 by IS militants by conducting close surveillance and restrictions on the militant group’s funding to prevent the acquisition of firearms and explosives and also through the exchange of intelligence with many agencies at the international level.

One takeaway from this entire session was the importance of investing our efforts in long term prevention strategies such as holistic and balanced education, instilling virtuous values of care and tolerance between various ethnicities since young and social integration throughout every generation, whether first generation immigrants or the current youth. It’s about influencing the mindsets of each and every member of society to stay away from the searching tentacles of terror groups recruiters as a preventive measure for the future. As Claire Danes aptly put in,

“Counterterrorism isn’t really about the nunchakus, the guns and gadgets. It’s about psychology.”

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