June 16, 2021 House of Trust

Countering Violent Extremism in Malaysia

Summary of “The Role of Universities and Schools in Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism: Malaysian Experience.” written by Ahmad El-Muhammady published in ‘Combating Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Asia and Europe’ by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The article explores the functions of universities and schools in dealing with violent extremism. The article was divided into 3 parts. First, it discusses the history of students’ involvement in militancy, from an international and domestic standpoint. In the 1980s and the 1990s, the Malaysian police had detected involvements of some Malaysian students in the Jihadi movements against the Soviet occupation and the Bosnian War. The second part of the article took the example of Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, Aishah Atam and Hafizi Jusoh, a senior lecturer at the University of Malaya, a student of the former and a former STPM student in Kelantan respectively. Despite their impressive scholarly and educational attainment, the author has identified four similar patterns shared by them, which are:

  1. Radicalization occurs in the educational environment.
  2. The persons involved have already shown overt signs of radicalization.
  3. The institution is unable to detect the signs of radicalization.
  4. The persons involved have crossed the “red line”, therefore are at the last stage of radicalization, where national laws were violated.

In the next segment, Dr. Ahmad El-Muhammady asks a very pertinent question. Why have universities and schools become targets of radicalization? He then pointed out fundamental aspects of  a successful recruitment drive, which comprise of:

  1. Effective recruiter.
  2. Impactful messages.
  3. Powerful tools or platforms.
  4. Vulnerable individuals.

The fourth section of the article discusses the role of educational institutions in countering and preventing violent extremism. They can do so by playing multiple roles such as the detector, the preventor, planner, and producer of ideas in tackling the threat of violent extremism. Thus, the author suggested some steps that could be taken by educational institutions in countering and preventing violent extremism. The mentioned steps are:

  1. The schools and university administration need to be more proactive in detecting extremist elements in their communities.
  2. Background checks on prospective lecturers and teachers.
  3. Providing early warning system about students’ inclination to extremism by the lecturers and teachers.
  4. Revise and redesign syllabus by incorporating peace studies elements in the teaching.
  5. More research should be conducted by universities, especially on matters of violent extremism.
  6. Involve student bodies, associations, and clubs in countering and preventing violent extremism.
  7. Involve youths in rural areas and from low-income groups, as programs to counter and prevent violent extremism are always done in the cities.
  8. The schools and universities can also involve civil society organizations (CSO) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly those which are dealing directly with issues of extremism, interfaith dialogues, and racial harmony.
  9. Counter and prevent violent extremism shall be inclusive by involving both Muslims and the non-Muslim community as well.
  10. There should be an active interaction between parents of the students, the lecturers or teachers and the educational institution at large against violent extremism.

Last, not least, the author calls for educational institutions to be more proactive in countering and preventing violent extremism. They must not adopt with the ‘wait and see’ or ‘play safe’ attitude against violent atrocities, instead must act promptly on the said matter.

Here is the full article:

*For full report, please refer to Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

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