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Becoming Mahmud

  • One thing we are very certain about is that there are still many new Mahmuds rising from somewhere, unless we really tackle the root of the problem.

Sin Chew Daily

Dr Mahmud Ahmad used to study overseas and was a lecturer at Universiti Malaya.

Such an academic credential should make him a man admired by many for his social status and income. He should have become a model of success.

But Mahmud Ahmad was a terrorist, an IS fighter.

He enlisted a large number of Malaysians into the IS group, sending them to Iraq or Syria for training. One of them became Malaysia's first ever suicide bomber.

He was IS' chief coordinator in Southeast Asia, and was prepared to cluster terror outfits in the region to form the IS' regional faction in Southeast Asia.

It was said that Mahmud was killed in the latest raids by the Philippine military, putting an end to his self-destructive and completely failed life.

Mahmud's death brought out a very important question: Why such a seemingly successful man could have opted a self-destructive road of no return.

Mahmud came to know religious extremism while studying at Pakistan's Islamabad Islamic University. He even attended al--Qaeda's training in Afghanistan.

If we were to explore from this particular angle, Mahmud Ahmad was brainwashed by foreign religious extremists and the impact of wars that explains why he chose to be an IS militant.

But, this only explains part of the question.

There are many others who have never stepped out of the country nor experienced the destruction of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. As DPM Ahmad Zahid has said, some are not even very enthusiastic about the religion and are not fanatics in any way.

But why do they join terror groups like IS and kill the innocent?

I have discovered that such a situation is particularly relevant among the terrorists in Europe.

Many of the terror attacks in London, Paris or Berlin were carried out by locally born young Muslims who did not know a word of the Arabic language and were not very devout Muslims either. Even though their parents could have arrived from North Africa or the Middle East, they were themselves very much British, French or German.

They ended up being suicide bombers, or ramming the truck into the crowd.

Why did they choose such a destructive path having been delivered from impoverished and war-torn North Africa or Middle East to a utopia called Europe?

Scholars studying terrorist behaviors explain that this is a social issue that transcends the question of religion.

They became terrorists not wholly because of influences of extremist thinking. More importantly, they felt they had been sidelined by the mainstream society.

These young people were not admitted into prestigious universities and were denied of decent jobs. They lived in neighborhoods devoid of proper planning and facilities, and were invariably discriminated and excluded by the mainstream society they came into contact with.

Life to them was hard, their future extremely remote. All that they had was depression and frustration.

That made them perfect targets of extremism, which imparted in them the belief that wars and killing of dissidents were righteousness and true meaning of life.

I did attend a briefing by Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division, and the reasons for Malaysians joining terrorist groups offered were largely identical.

Many young Malaysians today lack distinct goals in life or are at a disadvantage competing against their peers. Such real life setback and frustration built up over the years, coupled with the existing socioeconomic structure and widening wealth disparity, have robbed them of their hopes for future.

They have joined the terrorist groups in hope of smashing the existing structure and creating their ideal society. They believe they will obtain the craved approval and even reincarnation through such terror activities, including sacrificing their own lives.

Such misperception contrary to the laws and humanity will eventually lead to their own annihilation.

Mahmud Ahmad might have been killed, but one thing we are very certain about is that there are still many new Mahmuds rising from somewhere, unless we really tackle the root of the problem.

Our only answer is to instill the right religious education, create a moderate and caring social environment, help the youngsters going astray, give them hope and bring them back to the mainstream society.


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