13 Malaysians who joined IS (Islamic State terrorist group) in Syria are pleading for their return to Malaysia after being detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Currently, the local police are working with the Turkish officials to bring them back to Malaysia.
It was reported that upon their return to Malaysia, they must comply with specific check-in procedures, and will be subjected to a systematically-conducted rehabilitation programme before being released.
Special Branch counterterrorism unit head Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay announced that the authorities are at the final stage of bringing them home. He said Muslim leaders and psychologists would be evaluating the returnees’ ideologies and psychological make-up.
Although reports indicate that the IS “caliphate” located in Syria and Iraq has been collapsed by SDF, Ayob revealed that there are still Malaysians who will die fighting for IS. He added that those who couldn’t join the Syrian fight might go to southern Philippines instead, as there are also IS militants there.
Additionally, the “graduates” of the rehabilitation program will be continuously monitored for any suspicious activities.
Other than that, they will compare notes with foreign intelligence to probe on the innocence of the 13 returnees. If found guilty of helping the IS in any way, they will be charged in court.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said Malaysian authorities must exercise caution with the returnees. He stated counterterrorism studies have shown these hard-core militants will not disentangle from their ideologies that easily.
Prof. Fauzi also said the rehab and de-radicalisation course imposed on them must be continuous and not temporary. He said the toxic ethno-religious policies in Malaysia can re-trigger the former militant’s behaviours to carry out acts in unexpected and dangerous way.
On the Internet, netizens responded negatively to the authority effort of bringing the 13 Malaysians back into the country. Majority criticized the government’s decision of allowing terrorists to return to Malaysia.
Do these individuals who pledged their lives to the cause of terrorism deserve a second chance? Besides, is the one-month rehabilitation enough for them to change their ideologies?