By Marina Mahathir
July 3, 2014
[Marina Mahathir is Mahathir Mohamad's daughter (his eldest child).]
Our concern should make us look at the state of our young men today, particularly the Muslim men at the bottom of the social scale.
SO we finally stepped over the line. When the first Malaysian suicide bomber died in Syria, we finally put to rest the idea that Malaysian Muslims would never do this. For so long, we have believed that suicide in itself is a sin and such drastic action is sinful because it harms and kills innocent people. But now these concepts seem not to hold water any more.
In the age of social media, not only are our youth going off to fight wars in a foreign land, they are even boasting about it to all their friends back home via Facebook and Twitter.
They need this self-advertising in order to ensure that everyone thinks of them as heroes and warriors, fighting for a cause that nobody really understands.
After all, by joining the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), they are fighting other Muslims, not people of other faiths.
But why should we be surprised at this development? For the past year or so, Malaysian Muslims have been bombarded by propaganda against Syiahs in the mosques and in the media.
Alleged Syiahs are arrested and few care what happens to them. Our Home Minister has even declared Syiahs unIslamic, something even the rabidly anti-Syiah Saudis have never done.
Syiahs make up only about 10% of the world’s Muslims and even fewer in number in Malaysia compared to Sunnis.
Yet our Inspector-General of Police insisted that if we do not control Syiah activities in Malaysia, it “could lead to militant activities.
We do not want what happened in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to happen here, do we?”
Well, he’s wrong on two counts. The Malaysian militants going to fight with ISIL in Syria are all Sunnis, and if Syria doesn’t happen here, then they’ll just go to Syria. If they survive, they’ll eventually bring it home.
Another Malaysian on a humanitarian mission to Syria, who met one of these jihadists, had this to say: “Most of them who join are fanatics, mat rempits, those without high education or were from problematic families. Some of them committed some big sin and were told that they could purify themselves by taking part in the jihad. They want a short cut to heaven.”
This is an important clue as to what drives these young men to join a war that is far away from home. When home is dull and problematic, a fo¬¬reign war with the promise of heaven sounds infinitely more exciting.
Getting heads broken at their motorbike races on Friday nights pales in comparison to actually holding an AK47 and killing another human being.
Back home if you kill someone you might get punished for it. Here in Syria, you’ll go to heaven. What could be better than that? Even the clothes are cooler.
If anyone is worried about this development, and they certainly should be, then the answer is to look at the state of our young men today, particularly the Muslim men at the bottom of the social scale.
The ones who drop out of school early and face a future of either unemployment or menial work. The ones who take drugs in order to make their dull and bleak everyday lives slightly more interesting.
And we need to take some responsibility for these young men. We’ve been telling them that as Malay Muslim men, they are superior to everyone else and entitled to everything in this country.
Yet when they fail to attain any of these, when this so-called entitlement only goes to those with better connections than them, we discard and neglect them and call them names such as rempit.
We prohibit them from being anything but what we want them to be, and while we sneer at them, we also glorify and romanticise the violence in their lives through movies and novels.
The hero apparently always gets the girl, even if he has to rape her first.
But in real life, this doesn’t happen. The girls would rather they had a good job and a decent car.
As drug-ridden fishermen or mechanics, they will never earn enough to win the girls of their dreams.
That rage sometimes leads them to take it out on the nearest girls, the ones in their own villages. Why not? After all, society will always blame the girls anyway.
It is likely these are the types of young men who wind up being wooed by jihadist recruiters with promises of adventure, excitement and a free pass to heaven where the best girls are waiting.
We are complicit in the wasted lives of these young men. We may wring our hands in disbelief now but we’ve been moulding them for this for years. Why should we be surprised now?
Maybe some deeper reflection on our responsibility is needed this Ramadan.
Marina Mahathir is a human rights activist who works on women, children and HIV/AIDS issues. Her column in this newspaper goes back 25 years and has likewise evolved because, in her own words, “she probably thinks too much for her own good.” Marina continues to speak out and crusade for causes that she passionately believes in. The views expressed here are entirely her own.