Monday 19 March 2018

We'll join fight against 'evil' IS, says Muslim Malaysia's PM

Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak said the evil ideology of IS must be defeated (AP)
Malaysia's prime minister Najib Razak said the evil ideology of IS must be defeated (AP)

Malaysia's leader has condemned the Islamic State (IS) as an "evil" terrorist group and says his Muslim-majority country is ready to join others to defeat it.

But prime minister Najib Razak also warned that a military solution alone was not enough.

What needed to be "vanquished" was the ideology of IS, he said in a speech in Kuala Lumpur to open two days of summits that will also include US president Barack Obama.

Mr Obama said the world was determined "to push back on the hateful ideologies that fuel this terrorism".

"We will not allow these killers to have a safe haven," he said at a business conference on the sidelines of the leaders' summit.

Mr Najib said the world was in dire need of moderation. "This is how Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King won the hearts and minds of their enemies. They won by transforming their foes into friends," he said.

The summit of the 10-nation Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), followed by a series of nine other summits involving Asia-Pacific countries, is taking place in the Malaysian capital in the backdrop of several extremist attacks around the world, some of which were carried out by IS.

The attacks included the bombings and assaults in Paris and Beirut, the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt, and the hostage taking in Bamako, Mali, yesterday. Closer to home, a Malaysian hostage was killed by an Islamic militant group in the southern Philippines.

"The perpetrators do not represent any race, religion or creed. They are terrorists and should be confronted as such, with the full force of the law," Mr Najib said in a stirring speech that repeatedly emphasised the tolerance of Islam.

"Malaysia stands ready to provide any help and support that we can, and be assured that we stand with you against this new evil that blasphemes against the name of Islam," he said.

Besides Malaysia, the region also includes Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation that is no stranger to extremism. But by and large, south-east Asia has not been inflicted by the kind of violence seen in the Middle East, where IS is most potent.

Mr Najib suggested economic growth had been the bedrock of the region's relative peace and progress. The combined GDP of the 10 nations - a motley conglomeration of 630 million people following Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism and Taoism - was 2.6 trillion dollars (£1.7tn) in 2014, an 80% increase in seven years.

The region is aiming for greater economic, political and cultural integration. Asean will formally establish the Asean Community tomorrow to create a unified economic entity.

Envisaged in 2002, work on the community began in 2007, and it is already delivering benefits to the region.

But despite the good news that Mr Najib delivered, the community falls short in more politically sensitive areas such as opening up agriculture, steel, car production and other protected sectors.

Intra-regional trade has remained at around 24% of Asean's total global trade for the last decade, far lower than the 60% in the European Union.

There are also other hurdles, such as corruption, uneven infrastructure and unequal costs of transportation and shipping. A wide economic gulf divides south-east Asia's rich and middle income economies - Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines - and its four less developed members, Communist Vietnam and Laos, Burma and Cambodia.

Press Association

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