Asia Watch: Fear and Loathing
Jul 31, 2015 | Michael Shannon
Such is the mesmerising effect of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS that any act committed in its name appears only to be the tip of the iceberg. Far from its epicentre in Syria and Iraq, the spate of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks means that Islamic groups and individuals expressing any identification with ISIS understandably fall under suspicion.
An intelligence report from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) details concern about the potential radicalisation of two Indonesian commercial pilots. Obtained by the news website The Intercept, the report profiles two Indonesian pilots who “both appear to be influenced by pro (Islamic State) elements.” It details the social media behaviour of the two men who the AFP believes posed potential security threats because of their knowledge of aviation.
One pilot’s Facebook profile showed a history of employment with the Malaysian-based discount airline AirAsia starting in 2009, including flying on international routes. Then, in 2014, the report said he began to post content supportive of ISIS and to interact with others affiliated with ISIS and Indonesian terrorist groups. He likely changed his name on Facebook and in March listed his current city as Raqqa, Syria. The Facebook profile is no longer online.
When contacted by CNN, AirAsia Indonesia said the pilot is no longer an employee and therefore the company was unable to comment.
According to the AFP report, a second pilot began posting pro-ISIS material in December and went on to post material from “extremist-related” articles. The Intercept article says he now posts on Facebook under a different name, although the career history matches that listed in the report.
The Facebook user regularly posts ISIS propaganda and news reports alongside family photos and aviation news. On March 19, he reposted a photo of a man holding an ISIS flag with a quote in Bahasa Indonesian calling for jihad. It began, “You become a mujahid. If you are not able. Be supportive of them.”
The second pilot contacted local media with an unconvincing denial of any ties with ISIS. “I have no links with ISIS, as they allege … Does liking someone’s status mean we are like them? There is no allegiance between me and ISIS to this date,” he told Indonesia’s Detik.com.
While these elusive ISIS sympathisers have disappeared into the shadows, Chinese state television gave prominent coverage to the extradition from Thailand of 109 Chinese Muslim Uighurs back to China, of whom 13 are suspected of terrorism offences. The report showed images of people with black hoods over their heads and large numbers pinned to their chests as they sat in a commercial aircraft surrounded by Chinese police in face masks.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs keen to escape unrest in China’s western Xinjiang region have travelled clandestinely via south-east Asia to Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora.
State television said some of those deported had admitted to being incited by messages from the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing says is waging an insurgency for independence in Xinjiang, as well as the exiled group World Uyghur Congress. A senior Chinese police officer said that some of the Uighurs who reached Turkey were being sold to fight for groups such as Islamic State as “cannon fodder”.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, the mounting financial scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak and the government-backed 1MDB investment fund has become such an embarrassment that his loyalists are lashing out at critics real and imaginary.
PM Najib has long accused former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohammad of masterminding the allegations of financial scandals against him, but now even the Jews are being blamed for perpetrating the claims.
Federal Territories UMNO Youth chief Mohd Razlan Muhammad Rafii said the claims were being carried by the ‘Jewish media network’, which he claimed comprised The Edge, the Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini, and who were supported by the Wall Street Journal, AFP, CNN and the BBC.
“Where is the logic and rationale for the country’s number one leader doing this merely to steal the government’s money? … Regardless whether it is true or not, that is not the point but the key is that Jewish media and propaganda are being used to slander,” he said in a statement on July 4.
Razlan went on to liken the allegations to US claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as justification for military action. “This is the strength of the Jewish media and is the main weapon being used in bringing down influential Islamic countries,” he said.