ISIS recruits Southeast Asians through newspaper

ISIS recruits Southeast Asians through newspaper

THE Extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) has launched a new Malay-language publication in an effort to gain support among jihadists in Southeast Asia, according to Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian.

Called Al-Fahitin (Arabic for “The Conqueror”), the newspaper was launched in the southern Philippines on June 20 and has been distributed to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand and in parts of Mindanao where many of the Filipino Muslims there speak the Malay language.

CNN Indonesia reported that ISIS has its own sector of Malay-speaking correspondents from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines called Katiba Nusantara.

Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Jani, terrorism analysts at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-authored a research paper last month called “Al-Fatihin: Islamic State’s First Malay-Language Newspaper”, which detailed the purposes of the newspaper, which were to serve Southeast Asian jihadists and recruit new ones.

They also analyzed the underlying effects of introducing such a publication to the region.

“Al-Fatihin’s tagline (“The newspaper for Malay-speaking migrants in the Islamic State”) drives the point that, no matter the differences and nuances in language, identity and origins, Southeast Asian jihadists have [a] common logos and as such, all Malay-speaking jihadists should act as one,” said Singh and Jani.

The paper detailed the first issue of the newspaper, which was 20 pages long and focused on the month of Ramadan and the act of jihad, also known as the “holy struggle.”

The issue also included a three-page message from the late Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Egyptian insurgent and former al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, encouraging insurgents to “continue their jihadist activities, search for martyrdom and kill and crucify the polytheists, disbelievers, oppressors and transgressors.”

The use of the Malay language was an effective strategy for recruitment because it allows for the organization to “disseminate [ISIS] propaganda” to a broader audience in an effort to unify the jihadist population in the region.

“Al-Fatihin buttresses [ISIS] messages calling on militant groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to unite and pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi,” the paper read.

An anonymous security expert told Berita Harian that the newspaper can be seen as a warning that Malay-speaking territories are in ISIS’s sight.

“This psychological campaign means that the terrorists have a big objective, which is to expand their influence among people who understand the Malay language,” said the expert.

The source added that based on the way that the language is being used, the writer(s) and/or editor(s) may be from Southeast Asia.

Two days after Al-Fahitin was launched, ISIS released a video claiming the Philippines as its territory and told its supporters in Southeast Asia to travel to the country   if they can’t make it to Syria, according to Singaporean newspaper Strait Times.

The Philippine military reportedly dismissed the video as “mere propaganda,” according to Strait Times.

Over the last few years, there has been growing speculation that the Philippines is ISIS’s next target. Southeast Asian militant groups have already pledged allegiance to ISIS, like the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao and Mujahideen in eastern Indonesia. An upsurge of jihadist activity from Abu Sayyaf, has raised concern over ISIS’ influence in the country.

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