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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interesting Article on recent ISA arrest

The Arrest of Some Nigerians and other Nationals in Malaysia: The Truth of the Matter


Olawepo John

On the 19th January, 2010, the Malaysian security arrested some individuals. Those arrested have been described by the flagship of the Malaysian newspaper, New Strait Times, as having links with international terrorist organizations. (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010). The arrest which was effected in Kampung Sungai Chincin as reported Alang Bendahara of the New Strait Times, was carried out under the provision of the International Security Act (ISA). (New Strait Times, 29 January, 2010).

Bendahara’s report was based on the pronouncement of the Chairman of the Gerekan Mansuhkan ISA, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh. Syed Ibrahim claimed that 50 people, including some Malaysians, who have been Malaysian dwellers since 2003 were picked up on the 21st January, 2010, under the ISA. (The Malaysian Insider, 28 January, 2010).

Syed Ibrahim further announced that 14 people out the 50 earlier arrested were detained under the ISA. He was able to identify the identity of nine of the fourteen detainees as: Azzahari Murad (Malaysia); Aiman Al Dakkak (Syria); Mohamed Hozifa (Syria); Kutiba Al-Issa (Syria); Khalid Salem (Yemen); Luqman Abdul Salam (Nigeria); Hassan Barudi (Syria); Hussam Khalid (Jordan); and Abdul Alhi Bolajoko Uthman (Nigeria). (The Malaysian Insider, 28 January, 2010).

In his reaction to this matter, Datu Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian Home Affairs Minister, said those arrested were nine foreigners who had just arrived Malaysia when they were caught. (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

Hishammuddin proclaimed, “they would not have had time to do much and establish themselves here. They posed a serious threat to the country and have been detained under the ISA. (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

When Hishammuddin’s account is crossed examined with that of the Chairman of the Gerekan Mansuhkan ISA, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, evident contradictions would be observed.

The first inconsistency is that unlike Syed Ibrahim, Hishammuddin claimed that it was only foreigners that were arrested. This leaves much to be desired as further analysis would suggest that the Malaysian government may be playing racial and alarmist card.

The second discrepancy is that while Hishammuddin claimed those arrested recently arrive Malaysian, Syed Ibrahim reported that they arrived in 2003. Investigated reports show that Syed Ibrahim got it right to a reasonable extent. Some of them arrived Malaysia as earlier as 2000 and are still legal residents.

Hishammuddin who was somewhat sure of his fact went as far as challenging Syed Ibrahim’s claim. A government controlled newspaper confirmed this by stating that, “he rubbished reports claiming there were 50 people arrested under the ISA last week and that 38 of them were released the following day,” (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

To validate its claim, Hishammuddin was quoted by New Strait Times as saying, “this is not true. We were working with other international anti-terrorism agencies and nabbed the 10 suspects who are on the international wanted list.” (28 January, 2010).

However, independent investigated reports show that some of those arrested and detained arrived Malaysia before 2003. The Syrian teacher, Aiman Al Dakkak, who was conducting the religious classes has just completed his doctorate in hadith, in the prestigious University of Malaya, (UM). It is further learnt that those who were arrested with him were once his colleagues at the International Islamic University Malaysia, (IIUM), where Aiman earlier began his studies.

Following the inability of Aiman to pass the English Language test which the IIUM conducts on its students, he was required to pass through graded English Language class at the University’s centre for English Language enhancement.

Aiman who was to write his doctorate in Arabic language was unable to scale the hurdle at the language centre. Dissatisfied with how his academic life was progressing, Aiman decided to leave the IIUM for UM, where English is not a prerequisite for some of those whose doctorate is research-based and are expected to pen their dissertation in Arabic.

However, Aiman is said to have even been one of those who were conducting weekly devotional talks at the IIUM main mosque. The permission to do this is often issued by the IIUM management. There is no report which linked any of the sessions he conducted to radicalism.

Others who attended Aiman’s talk which he conducted in one of the IIUM muhalla (Hostel) mosque during the recently concluded Ramadan remarked that he preached against terrorism. He was reported to have even prayed against Osama bin Ladden and his group. Aiman is also reported to have been involved in providing some humanitarian services to some local residents who are leaving in Kampung, that is, villagers.

If Aiman and those students have been on the wanted list as claimed Hishammuddin, why is it that they have not been nabbed before now since the man’s activities have been a public thing?

Another begging question is to ask, if the names of those arrested and detained under the ISA were sourced through shared intelligence reports, would it not be proper to name the sources of such reports?

Again, since the acclaimed intelligence reports indicted those detained as threats, why is it that the activities which so make them to be one are not made known to the public?

If this intelligence report is not fabricated, why has Hishammuddin and the Malaysian Government refused to furnish representatives of the countries of those detained with details of these intelligence reports?

One is wonder struck that unlike other news coverage on counter terrorism, the international sources from which Malaysia obtained its intelligence tips are yet to acknowledge that those detained are on their wanted list?

To make their claim to be real, the Malaysian government stated that the intelligence tips also established that those arrested were members of a religious group linked to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The screaming headline under which this was reported-“10 Terror Suspects held: Tip-off Links them to Nigerian Underwear Bomber” is a food for thought. (New Strait Times, 28 January, 2010).

This claim is ridiculous because to have linked those arrested with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a superficial way of earning a false claim measure of authenticity. How are they linked? Is it because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian as were two of the detainees? Is it because Aiman is a Syrian or what else could be locus?

However, a keen observer would have asked why not connect the detainees to followers of Noordin, a Malaysian who, before he was recently killed in Indonesia, was coordinating terrorist cells in Southeast Asia. Logic would warrants that it would be easier for those detained to align with the followers of Noordin M. Tap since they are resident in Malaysia.

Since four out of the 50 people that were arrested are Malaysians, (New Strait Times, 29 January, 2009, page 13) the Noordin linkage would have offered a better intellectual appeal.

One would have also expected the Malaysian authority to have used the dummy of a possible linkage with the Malaysians who are in Guantanamo bay prison. Available fact suggests there is no Nigerian among those in Guantanamo. Once more, could it be that Malaysia is playing an alarmist and racial card? Emergent realities would foretell.

At this juncture, there is the need to quote another statement of Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh and juxtapose it with the statements of those leaving in the neighbourhood where the arrest was effected.

While explaining in a conference, the circumstance under which the detainees were arrested, Syed Ibrahim said, “they were attending an informal religious gathering when they were detained”. (New Strait Times, 29 January, 2009).

According to the report of a villager who was interviewed, “the foreigners who rented houses two houses there were quite and peaceful people. They were always clad in jubbah and rarely went out during the day.” Another villager was reported to have said, “I knew something was not right when two weeks ago, two strangers came and stayed at the house. They stood out from the rest as the two wore normal clothes. One of them was in his 60s and had a long, white beard, while the other in his 30s was very unfriendly.” (New Strait Times, 29 January, 2010).

The last part of one of the villagers’ testimony provides the hint on what has been presented as international intelligence tip off. It is possible that the man who observed one of the residents to be unfriendly could have hinted other locals of his observation. Then, to foreigners who are conversant with the Malaysian disposition to perceived threat, police report is the expected next step. This is most probable what was relied upon by the Malaysian authority who later on, began to brag that they have busted the activities of a budding terrorist group.

Investigated reports also have it that the foreigners, especially Nigerians who are residing in the part of Kampung Sungai Chincin where the arrest was effected have been for long, object of racial ridicule. Therefore, if a report is logged, there is the high probability that it would be exaggerated and that some race and nationals would be singled out for stigmatization. A similar development took place sometimes in Malaysia, when a Nigerian was widely reported to have killed a Chinese Malay businesswoman. Upon proper investigation, this was discovered to be false. There was neither a public apology tendered to Nigerians nor was there a sensational coverage of the new discovery.

In yet another pathetic development, when an African foreign student, a Chadian was stabbed to death by some Malaysian youths, Sentul District Police Chief Assistant Commissioner, Zakaria Pagan remarked that, “We believe the youths who attacked the Africans wanted to teach them a lesson…” From the reality on ground, racial hatred cannot be ruled out of the unfolding drama.

This discriminatory stint is not only experienced by African students, but predominantly, by foreign students in Malaysia. Even, it is a common talk among foreign students in Malaysia, that a foreigner has no right in Malaysia. On this basis, whatever wrong done against them are seen as part of the Malaysian experience.

In a follow up report on the matter at hand, particularly as reported in the 29th, 30th and 31st January, 2010 edition of the government-linked New Strait Times, the government is now applying new twist to the same old story. Realising the shallowness of its claim that those arrested are terrorist having links with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, they are now playing the Wahabbi card.

The new twist to this story is that those detained are followers of the puritanical Wahabbi preaching. A possible linkage between Wahabbism and Osama’s ideology would then be established. With this, those detained would be prosecuted and indicted based on this thesis.

In a build up of this thesis, Alang Bendahara and Lee Shi-lan provided a news report furnished with details of the police investigation into this matter.

As reported, the investigating police source, said, “according to our investigations, the terror suspects had been taught to live plainly and modestly, without any extravagance. The theology of Wahabbism is similar to that practiced by Osama and al Qaeda.” (New Strait Times, 31 January, 2010).

By claiming that Osama shares similar thought with the Wahabbi’s, the police are simply saying the obvious. However, it is misleading and crooked to have said all those who have Wahabbi orientation are followers or sympathisers of Osama.

Wahabbism is the state ideology in Saudi Arabia. With the Wahabbi-Osama hypothesis of the Malaysian police, then, all Saudi citizens are loyalist of Osama and al Qaeda. Also, this claim means, all Saudi residents in Malaysia as well as others who have previously received religious education in Saudi and are now leaving in Malaysia, are sympathisers of Osama and al Qaeda.

As crooked as this claim is, it is the easiest way through which the Malaysian government can ground its claim a measure of legitimacy.

From the analysis done so far, those detained are victims of something other than terrorism. As the reality suggests, their rights are being unnecessarily violated.

The Nigerian government and the international community must swing into action by launching a high powered investigation into this matter. A special delegation should be dispatched to Malaysia to verify what have been reported.

International community should also assist in their own ways to conduct independent investigations into the abuse that is being perpetrated in the name of busting a terrorist group.

Report also has it that those Nigerians resident in Malaysia are not happy with the lukewarm disposition of the Nigeria High Commissioner to Malaysia.

Until now, His Excellency, Chief Peter J.E. Anegbeh, the Nigeria High Commissioner to Malaysia had been accused of being untoward and inactive in attending to the concerns of Nigerians in Malaysia.

Unconfirmed reports have it that some individuals have requested his re-deployment to another place and that efforts are still on to mobilize more signatures in achieving this goal. Authority should look into this and act swiftly because one would have expected an active diplomat to have done one or two things to address the burning issues affecting the well being of Nigerians before it got to the present stage.


My Comments: His opinions regarding the government of Malaysia is entirely his, and I do not want to speak bad about the government, especially without proof.  But I can confirm what he said about Syaikh Ayman as being true. The Shaikh is, without doubt, against terrorism and he reiterates this point many times. And I recall him saying regarding Usama bin Laden as "Jaahil" (Ignorant).

I pray that Allah opens the hearts of the authorities to see the truth and release him and those arrested with him.

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