ISIS Casts a Shadow Over Southeast Asia Tourism Following Malaysia’s Attack

A bomb explosion last year in Bangkok, another one earlier this year in Jakarta and recently near Kuala Lumpur. A grenade explosion into a bar was finally confirmed by Malaysian authorities last week that it was the work of the Islamic State (IS). The grenade attack occurred on a nightspot of the Malaysian capital during a time where viewers were gathering around the Euro football tournament.

Authorities believed that it was the first successful attempt in Malaysia by the militant group. Action from the police was rapid. Immediately after the attack, two men have been arrested. The announcement was done by Inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar who explained that “the two of those arrested had received instructions from Muhammad Wanndy, who had commanded them to carry out attacks in Malaysia, on our government leaders, top police officials and judges. These groups are considered as threatening to IS activities,” Khalid said at a news conference.

Police are hunting for two more people who could have been linked to the attack and will proceed to arrest more suspects.The IS recently released a video of its fighters across Southeast Asia, asking them to take on the fight in the region. A newspaper is even printed in the region which supports ISIS fighters. The paper is now banned in Malaysia with the government announcing that anyone supporting that paper would be arrested. Many groups are also using actively social media to propagate hatred to ‘infidels at war with Islam’.

To prevent further potential actions, the Malaysian government decided to beef up security in the city centre and at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Screening of passengers are stricter while KL Sentral, the city’s main public transport hub has seen new security measures to be implemented. “We have given orders for KL Sentral to be an entry point to KLIA; all bags and passengers will go through the same screening checks as at KLIA,” said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai to local media.

The grenade attack in Malaysia should then remind authorities in Southeast Asia that this part of the world is unfortunately not immune from terrorist attacks. Especially as countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia -with their large Muslim population- have been so far living with a high degree of tolerance for other religions or even for some customary practices. In Indonesia, Malaysia or the Philippines and Thailand, Islam has been a relatively new religion- arriving around the 12th or 13th century- and then mixing with other religions present on the continent.

This blend of religious customs is part of the social fabric in the region. To destroy it with the target of implementing instead a rigid rule of Islam is the principal motivation behind the attacks in Bangkok, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Latest casualty occurred on July 4, when a suicide bombing attack targeted a Police Station in Solo, Central Java.

The bombing prompting the Indonesian government to reassure that the country was safe for both locals and visitors. President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) appealed to people in the country to stay calm. “I have coordinated, and the security personnel have been able to take control of the situation, and so, we hope the people will stay calm while being alert as tomorrow we will celebrate Eid al-Fitr,” Jokowi stated at a press conference in Padang, West Sumatra.
Jokowi highlighted that the police is tracking down the masterminds of the attack to arrest members of the network.

Governments around the region should then be anything but accommodating towards fundamentalists movements. Not only terrorism acts will turn away travellers, depriving locals from an important source of income and from jobs, but they also put a serious cast over countries known for their liberal, easy approach of religions. In one word, they would destroy the essence of Southeast Asia.