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Islam-West chasm grows, and terror may spread as Middle East conflict drags on

Updated On: Aug 08, 2006

The US-French draft resolution to end the Israel-Hizbollah war was delayed further on Monday (August 7) with the UN Security Council divided over the Lebanese demand for a quick withdrawal of Israeli troops from LebanonIsrael in turn, intends to keep its soldiers in southern Lebanon until an international force takes over.

Meanwhile, Hizbollah enacted its deadliest strike by killing 11 Israeli soldiers on the same day. But Lebanon has suffered a grim death-toll of at least 747.

Even if the UN Security Council had successfully voted to pass the resolution, much more needs to be done to stop the actual fighting. A second UN resolution is planned for a week or two after the first is adopted, to set conditions for a permanent ceasefire and to put in place an international force to be stationed in Lebanon.

Yet time may not be on the side of a peaceful Middle East, as rising discontent from Muslims in other parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia, unite to militarise against what they perceive as Western-supported Israeli terrorism against Islam.

The recently concluded Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Malaysia witnessed unanimous support for Lebanon through a 15-point declaration, which includes setting up a Contact Group to enforce an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, and a seven-point peace plan initiated by the Lebanese government.MalaysiaIndonesia and Brunei have all expressed interest in participating in a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, after an unconditional ceasefire is secured.

Kindred Islamic nations in Southeast Asia have clearly put up a strong response against Israel, and anger has also been targeted at the US for its clear support ofIsrael.  In Malaysia for instance, besides street protests against Israeli actions in Lebanon, Muslims have heeded calls backed by mainstream groups such as UMNO Youth to boycott American goods.

But what has grown worrisome in the last few weeks or so is the rise of Islamic radicalisation on the ground.  In Indonesia, Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah, just released recently from jail after serving 2 years for his suspected role in the Bali bombing, has called for a “jihad” force to fight Israel.  But before him, a group called the Asean Muslim Youth Movement (AMSEC) said it was prepared to send jihadis to attack Jewish interests in countries that back Israel. 

According to Suaib Didu, the head of the Jakarta chapter of the AMSEC, 217 youths from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines had 'embarked' on suicide missions and another 3,000 volunteers from Kalimantan would follow suit. On August 5, a 200-strong "Jihad Bombers Force" (PBJ) announced their readiness for dispatch to Palestine and Lebanon to paralyse Israeli vital facilities if the latter fails to abide by a 4 x 24-hour deadline.

However, the Indonesian police in reaction to Didu’s claims said there was no evidence that anyone had left for Middle East to attack Israeli interests. The police added that the Indonesian government does not condone such actions, and would ban Islamic militants from traveling to Middle East for such purpose.

Muslim states in the region must pay closer attention to the new fervour of Islamic radicalization. As terrorism experts warn, anger over the continued carnage in Lebanon could motivate some in the jihadist community and “terror may echo in region”.  Ms Sidney Jones, the Southeast Asia project director of the International Crisis Group warned in a report in Today, that there is a danger that “we could see defection back into the Al Qaeda line as a result of this war”.  

Events in Middle East also sent a timely reminder on the need for dialogue to create mutual understanding. In his speech to military officers from the Asia-Pacific countries here in Singapore for a week-long course, Teo Chee Hean, Defence Minister of Singapore, reiterated the importance of building up “a thick web of cooperation and collaboration” among countries and developing a “habit of working closely together” through enhanced dialogue as the only way to ensure peace and stability.

Sources:

Indonesian group warns of suicide bomb attacks (The Straits Times, 5 August 2006)

Some 200 "Jihad Bombers" ready to leave for middle east (The Straits Times, 5 August 2006)

Muslims in Asia protest against Israel as KL offers peacekeepers (AP/Reuters/ The Straits Times, 5 August 2006)

No Diplomatic Ties, M'sia Rejects Dialogue With Israel – Abdullah (Bernama, 5 August 2006)

M'sia, Indonesia And Brunei Ready To Participate In Lebanese Peace Mission (Bernama, 6 August 2006)

Lebanese PM Appreciates Outcome Of OIC Special Meeting – PM (Bernama, 6 August 2006)

UN council divisions delay vote on Mid-East measure (Reuters/ The Straits Times, 7 August 2006)

Deadliest Hizbollah strike kills 11 Israeli soldiers (AP/Reuters/AFP/The Straits Times, 7 August 2006)

Long way ahead to peace (AP/AFP/The Straits Times, 7 August 2006)

Thousands rally against Israeli attacks (Jakarta Post, 7 August 2006)

Muslims in KL starting to boycott US goods in protest (The Strait Times, 7 August 2006)

Time to step up military cooperation: Chee Hean (The Straits Times, 8 August 2006

As bombs fall in Middle East, terror may occur in region (Today, 8 August 2006)