IACSP ASEAN Security Conference (27-28 August 2018) – Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia


Assalamualaikum Warahmatu Illahi Wa Barakatuhu

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Honourable Delegates and to our friends from around the world, Selamat Datang ke Malaysia!

I am deeply honoured to be invited to give the key note address at the International Association for Counter-terrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP) ASEAN Security Symposium. The defence and security of the nation is something that is close to my heart, not only because of my responsibilities as the Defence Minister but I believe every citizen has a duty to safeguard their country and their fellow man from threats both domestic and foreign which aim to attack our values, divide us and disrupt our way of life.

Terrorism globally has taken a toll on the international community and the rise in religious and ideological inspired terrorism in this last two decades have divided communities and religious orders globally. It is of vital importance that we as a citizen of this planet ascertain if, and how our children will inherit a world of peace and security.

Which is why the theme of this year’s IACSP Symposium “Trends and Forecast: Threats and Responses” I believe, is an assessment of our successes so far in addressing present and emerging threats and how we can do more in countering them.
Here I would like to thank the IACSP for organising this symposium for the second time in Kuala Lumpur. We regard this as recognition of our counter-terrorism initiatives and commitment to regional and global security.

Malaysia being a Muslim majority nation has always been an example of a harmonious country of how peoples from various cultural and religious backgrounds can not only co-exist but also thrive!

Although Islam is the official religion, other faiths are practised openly and peacefully where we celebrate each other’s festivals and important religious days as fellow Malaysians.

Malaysia has long advocated freedom of speech and worship as a core force multiplier for the nation. The Government of today has pledged that this right is preserved under the Federal Constitution.

Deviant religious groups have tried unsuccessfully to attack our way of life, and the core fundamental rights of democracy and the rule of law.
Unfortunately, the main targets are, in the case of extreme Islamist groups, Muslims themselves. Moderate Muslims who want to live in peace and harmony with each other and their non-Muslim brethren are seen as the main threat to these terrorist groups.

I strongly believe that the threat of terrorism today is rooted in certain nation states that support and fund terrorist groups for their national interest, as well as the self-preservation of regimes.

The question now is who is really behind these terrorists? Who are their ‘mother’ and ‘father’?

How do we now ascertain this dilemma? I hope that the experts and academia assembled here will be able to enlighten us from their own perspectives.

Malaysia has fought communist insurgency where security forces were able to identify and curtail the threat throughout the years leading from the height of communism from the early 70’s to the early 80’s where the communist were defeated with the “hearts and minds” strategy. I would say Malaysia is the first country to use the term ‘terrorist’ long before it became a world wide mayhem.

However, terrorism today differs from insurgency back then. The latter was driven by political ideology while the former is driven by extremism and madness if I may say so. We walk in the shadows of people who believe that a ‘just world’ is only achieved through violence and the cleansing of infidels based on their own misguided understanding of religion or rules or merely anti-social.

This is reflected by deviant and extremist religious groups such as DAESH and al Qaeda which manipulates Islamic teachings and glorifies violence. But we cannot be complacent about the rise in extremist ideologies in other communities. It was because we wanted to be politically correct and be mindful of sensitivities, that we allowed extremists to infiltrate and stain the religion of Islam.

Today we see similar extremist violence against the Rohingyas in the Rakhine region, Myanmar. Malaysia being a Muslim nation and a member of ASEAN takes this crisis seriously as it is this very crisis that deviant groups will exploit to justify extremist views among the Rohingya community. We are very concerns that these Rohingyas could be manipulated to become suicide bombers or recruited into terrorist cells in this region.

The threat of terrorism Ladies and Gentlemen, will only escalate further if the global community continues to disengage its communities from race and religion. We are here to safeguard this planet that we all share from its resources to living in peace and harmony that has been provided to all of us from the Almighty.

Terrorism and conflicts should not be part of us all as we live and breathe the same air and enjoy the fruits of our labour and hence must stay united to safeguard future generations.

I hope in these two days, you will come up with new ways to curtail these threats. I believe your solutions will be multi-pronged and will also adopt soft approaches such as education, inter-faith and cross-cultural counter narratives.

I also welcome suggestions as to how we governments can improve on our own efforts such as policy changes, enactment of new laws and review of existing ones, assessing our bilateral relationships and if we are doing enough for marginalised and disenfranchised groups which are often targets for manipulation.

In this respect, I expect to see the IACSP, which I am happy to note has its regional office in Kuala Lumpur, to play a more active role in its counter-terrorism efforts through education, training and continuous engagements with all stakeholders including governments and society at large.

On our part, Malaysia will continue to play a significant role in addressing the UN Security Council’s resolution of countering terrorism and violent extremism and work together within the region and globally to win this war of ideas and to bring peace and security within the ASEAN region and globally.

In this regard, with great hope and enthusiasm, and in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, I hereby declare open this IACSP ASEAN Security Symposium.

Assalamualaikum Warahmatu Illahi Wa Barakatuhu and Thank you.



28 Aug 2018
Winning the Hearts and Minds and Countering Terrorism with Democratic Institutions

⦁ It is my pleasure to be speaking to you today, after two days of what I trust has been fruitful deliberations of this very pressing topic of counter-terrorism. The Malaysian Government is honoured to host, for the second time, the ASEAN Security Symposium organised by the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals in Kuala Lumpur. This symposium, which brings together key experts on countering terrorism in Southeast Asia such as yourselves, is a timely reminder to all of us the fragility of our peace in face of constant threats of terrorism and violent extremism.

1. The challenges facing our security today are multifaceted. Gone were the days when wars were mostly waged between states, today we face a wide range of non-traditional security threats from non-state actors – these are not only a battle of guns and bullets, but of hearts and minds. Technological advancement has not only improved the lives of humankind, but also the ways to destroy it. Our battlefields are no longer only in the forests and desserts, but in cyberspace, in social media and in public places across our cities.

2. While we have enjoyed relative peace in Southeast Asia, the terror attacks in recent years, such as the attacks by ISIS-affiliated groups in central Jakarta and Southern Philippines in 2016 and 2017, served as a wake-up call for all of us that terrorism persists. We need to be ready to face the evolving security threats, identifying the gaps and reviewing our approach in order to future-proof our security. We must build resilience of our key national infrastructure, have good intelligence gathering to neutralise potential attacks, establish early warnings and intervention system to detect radicalization and disenchantment among communities, as well as develop ways to rehabilitate former radicals and counter-messages to combat extremist ideologies.

3. Indeed, none of us stand alone in this battle. Combating terrorism and radicalisation requires our collective efforts at all levels. There needs to be a ‘whole of society’ approach, where government, businesses, civil society, police and military work together to develop comprehensive and holistic policies to provide fastest first responses, but more importantly, to tackle the root of the problem.

4. We must never lose sight of the root cause. How to win the hearts and minds, or rather, how not lose the hearts and minds of people and fuel the ground for radical fringe actors to thrive, is an important question our societies must examine. We can draw from the experience of the Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1960 which was won not only through military means, but also through extraordinary efforts in winning the hearts and minds of the people.

⦁ For the contemporary world, democratic institutions that provide the space for the political participation of all citizens of various identities and ideologies in the most dignified manner would reduce the size of the fringe to the minimum. A functioning democracy would also deliver wellbeing for all, closing the gaps between the haves and have-nots and minimising the disenchantment among the economically disadvantaged that often turn into breeding ground for radicalization. A healthy and inclusive democracy should be the ultimate check on radicalization.

1. In this regard, Malaysia has been a shining beacon of democracy through the peaceful change of government for the first time in our history in May. We hope that Malaysia’s new experience with democracy would also help shape our future responses to our work in counter-terrorism. I believe that our Defence Minister Mohamed Sabu would have shared with you yesterday during his opening remarks some of his visions for the country, and how the Malaysian Ministry of Defence and the Malaysian Armed Forces can be agents of change in this New Malaysia. Going forward, we must live up to the promise of this new democratic era by practicing transparency, accountability, integrity and openness in our engagement with all stakeholders.

2. Our responsibility does not stop at maintaining democracy at home. We need to also ensure that democracy is still the norm internationally so that there would be no cause célèbre for the radicals to ride on. For instance, Minister Mohamed Sabu is very concerned with the fate of Rohingyas in Bangladesh, for whom Malaysia have set up a medical facility at Cox’s Bazaar. We have a collective duty to ensure that there is no radicalisation among the refugees and that the international community is committed to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

3. We live in uncertain times and we cannot afford to keep our guard down. There will always be those who want to disrupt and destroy, whether for ideological reasons or control of resources, but we must not lose the bigger picture as we go on fulfilling our daily, at times mundane roles – that our work is part and parcel of maintaining peace and stability of our country and the region, which in turn contributes to the economy and better quality of life for all.

4. I am certain that you have exchanged much information and hands-on tools in tackling terrorism and violent extremism these past two days. It is imperative that we continue to look out for each other through the sharing of intelligence and expertise and learn from each other. On behalf of my Ministry and myself, I take this opportunity to congratulate the organisers for yet another successful symposium. Thank you for your invitation to the Ministry of Defence to be a strategic partner in this conference. For the participants, I wish you all the best in your undertakings and safe travels back to your homes. I hereby declare this symposium closed.
Thank you.