Southeast Asia is a region that has been generalized as a Muslim region and yet Indonesia is the only country with a large population of Muslims. There has also been a perception that this region is a threat to the international security because it is known to harbor terrorists and encourage recruitment and training of terrorist. The generalization and perception has caused problems for people with no links to terrorism and Muslim origin; the region is targeted by the international community for terrorism.
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The September attack which took place in the United States of America changed the world view of terrorism and Muslims; the experience made states to see terrorism as a reality (O’Neill 90). This attack raised so many questions regarding international security and the relationships of one state to the other. The issue of the relationship between Muslims and terrorism was also a question which many people still have no answer about.
Southeast Asia, being a Muslim dominated region has also been affected by the 9/11 attacks; Muslim dominated regions were seen as the source of terrorists and masterminds of international attacks (Peters 42). Southeast Asia is seen as a threat to international security; this is because it has harbored terrorists, and this is the region where the recruitment of world terrorist and training took place (Ressa 56).
This paper will seek the understanding of Muslims in Southeast Asia region and the world generalization of Muslims as terrorists, and discuss why the world views Southeast Asia as a security threat.
After the 9/11 attacks, Muslims around the world were confronted with a lot of questions about their religion as well as their religious identity. The Muslim belief system was subjected to extensive discussions both in public forums and in the media. There were questions of whether Muslims were possible in a secular environment; another question was whether the Islam region was in-line with democracy (O’Neill 178).
It is believed that Muslims were faced with these issues before the 9/11 attacks; for instance, in 1970s and 1980s urbanization, mass education together with telecommunication developments pluralized religious authority and raised questions on the meaning and Islam’s social relevance.
These issues which were faced by Muslims around the world were refreshed by the 9/11 attacks. Southeast Asia being a Muslim dominated region is not exempted from the processes as well as tensions that are faced by the other Islamic dominated region in the world. Conflicts are developing between the Islam religion and the United States and the same applies for Southeast Asia, and the United States leads the war on terrorism in this region (Ressa 67).
The war on terrorism is focused on controlling the region in order to eradicate terrorist threats and to do this eradication, the region should not be generalized as a terrorist region, first, the world should understand the dynamics of Southeast Asia to understand the Southeast Asia Muslims and the evolution of Muslim politics.
After the September 11 attack, Muslims in Southeast Asia were worried that they will be involved in the attack; this is because of the generalization of Muslim communities as terrorists.
The leaders of Islamic organizations together with leaders from countries with majority of its people being Muslims such as Malaysia and Indonesia showed the difference between Muslims in Southeast Asia and the Muslim terrorist groups whose leaders subscribe to terrorist activities (Ressa 102). The Southeast Asia Islam is generalized with the other Muslim groups in the world because of the ignorance of history of Muslim politics in the region.
Southeast Asia has 260 million Muslims, which is almost half the population of this region. The 260 million of Muslims is about 20% of the total population of Muslims in the world. Each country in this region has Muslims with 90% in Indonesia, and 6% in Malaysia. The rest of the countries in this region have Muslim minority population; these countries include Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Singapore (O’Neill 304).
Indonesia being a country with a big number of Muslims in the world and in Southeast Asian, it has led to the generalization that the Southeast Asian region are purely Muslim and any issue concerning Muslim in the world is generalized to Southeast Asia. Terrorism has been tied to Muslims and countries that are in Southeast Asia are not exceptions; they are affected by the fight against terrorism because they are generalized as Muslims.
Southeast Asian Islam is diverse; the region has different approaches to Islamic practices and beliefs. The world should understand that Southeast Asia is also a home for non-Muslim communities; therefore, Muslim communities in this region are influenced by non-Islamic religious and cultural traditions (Linden 198).
The region is in contrast with the Middle East region; the Middle East is predominantly Muslims, therefore, Southeast Asian Muslims are considered as tolerant and the most moderate when compared to Muslims from the other Muslim regions.
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All the same, Islam is a political and social force that has mobilized anti-colonial struggles especially in Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Radical elements in the region clashed with the federal governments; this was at the time they were pushing an Islamic state to be established (Ressa 234).
This shows how diverse and pluralistic the Islam is in this region; the politics of Muslims in this region has never produced benign outcomes. Therefore, violent activities that are championed by Islamist groups are evident in the history of Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia is considered as an Islamic region; Islam came to this region through Persian, Indian and Arab traders, who spread it through elite conversion. The spread was not even in the region; some countries such as Indonesia were influenced greatly by the traders who spread Islam to most part of the country, other countries were not influenced greatly, therefore, there is a small percentage of Islamic people.
This region is represented as an Islamic region because of Indonesian Muslim population. The traditional cultural beliefs together with the practices influenced the spread of Islam in Singapore and Malaysia, for instance, Sufi beliefs and Islamic beliefs mingled. Islam in these two countries were homogeneous, this was as opposed to Indonesia (Ressa 306).
The development of Islam in Southeast Asia introduced groups and practices that subscribed to terrorist activities. This justifies the generalization of Muslim communities to terrorist attacks; also the small groups of terrorists have grown because of the support from terrorist groups outside the region.
Southeast Asia is seen as a threat to the international security because of it is dominated by Muslims; it is also known to support terrorists in many ways. This region is known to harbor terrorist organizations; these terrorist organizations have adapted to this region and have become resourceful in a way that they have rendered the counterterrorism strategy devised by those against them ineffective (Ressa 467).
Southeast Asia also harbors expansive network terrorist actors; these actors operate from Mindanao as well as from the neighboring islands found in the south of Philippines. This region is a major operation center for Al-Qaida; there is the connection of the Afghan to the Middle East extremists.
The Southeast Asian Islamic grievances opened ways to international terrorists; Al-Qaida being a network with Islamic charities and the spread Islamic banks in this region together with a friendly environment for doing business attracted them. This made them to strongly be established in this region. They recruit and train their members in this region and as the world tries hard to fight and these terrorists, more people are absorbed through this recruitment and training.
This issue influences the way the world views Southeast Asia when it comes to fighting terrorism; this region puts down the efforts made by the international community to fight terrorism (Peters 45). If they were an anti-terrorism region, they would not have allowed the training and recruitment on in the region.
The presence of the Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia has made the world to believe that this region is the future terrorist. The arrival of Al-Qaeda has changed the regions view of terrorism; the region is now recruiting terrorists (Linden 213).
The Al-Qaeda, when it arrived in this region it helped in the creation of regional terrorist networks, this networks were used to plot attacks against the Western countries; one of these networks is Jemaah Islamiyah, which is believed to have bombed Bali in 2002. This shows that terrorist are not only harboring in this region, but also growing and expanding in the region; this why this region is seen as a threat to international security.
Al-Qaeda cells worked together with the radical Islamic groups in Southeast Asia; they provided these groups with money and training, and the training took place in Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino camps. This shows that the region has militants who are followers of Al-Qaeda and collaborations with the international community to fight the terrorist group cannot be achieved, unless the followers denounce the group (Rashid 352).
The Southeast Asia region has been presented as a corrupt region with military organizations and government administrations being corrupt; they make the plan of American military to engage the terrorist difficult, they do not offer assistance so that the engagement does not create a human right abuse.
Also, Indonesia being a Muslim Dominated country, it offers resistance on any attack made on terrorists; this also justifies the generalization of the world on relations of Muslims and terrorism. This resistance is interpreted as support for terrorism (Rashid 234).
However, the world should not attack the whole region in the name of fighting terrorism; this is because, there are other countries in this region such as Philippines, which welcome assistance from the international community to fight terrorist who plan their terrorist activities while in this region.
The world knows the threat of Southeast Asian region to security, however, it is difficult to fight the terrorists in the region; the region has 11 countries and the kind of borders present in this region is porous maritime (Peters 98). There are short distances separating countries in this region; this gives way for transnational terrorism and therefore, it is difficult to maintain border security.
There is also a problem in developing effective counterterrorism strategies to deal with terrorist organizations; these terrorist organizations require capabilities that are beyond the military mighty (Linden 345). For any anti-terrorist group to win this battle, they must get support from the Southeast Asian countries, which is very difficult because of the resistance the Muslims have towards anti-terrorism groups.
The Southeast Asia is a region with a large population of Muslims and this means that the political forces are influenced by Islam religion and their practices influence even the minority religions in the region, and fighting they practices is not easy, unless they cooperate.
The generalization of Muslims in relation to terrorist attacks can have a lot of consequences to the world security. When a certain group of Muslims engage in terrorism, it does not mean that each and everyone is a terrorist. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the only country with a large population of Muslims; also, this does not mean that all of them are terrorists.
In the country we have Muslims and non-Muslims who are not terrorists as well and any generalization would be unfair to those who are not terrorists (Ressa 503). In case of war against terrorism, attacking the whole region of Southeast Asia might kill the innocent people. Indonesia is just one country in Southeast Asian region, and it being a Muslim dominated country does not mean that other the whole region is purely Muslim.
The generalization might cause more problems; some of the people who are not Muslims might choose to defect to Muslim and the join the terrorism groups against the anti-terrorism groups. This might be to seek defense and revenge against the non-Muslim groups. The war will now change from being against terrorism to against religion (Rashid 286).
If Muslims in Southeast Asia join other Muslims against other religions then there will be no safe region in the world. Also, if all anti-terrorism groups declare war against the Southeast Asian people, then the region will be left without people and the innocent will also be affected.
The Southeast Asia is also seen as a threat to international security; this claim might be because it has been a home and a harbor for terrorist groups and network. Also, the region has recruited and trained some groups, which have engaged in terrorist attacks some parts of the world (Peters 112).
However, the fight should be against terrorism, and not against a region where terrorist are harboring; this is because this region live other people who are not terrorist. The generalization might cause lead to human right abuse and committing crime against mankind.
Generalization of issues when an incident happens like in the case of the 9/11 attack in the United States is not good, and should not be encouraged; there can be evidence to proof so, but as long as the issue involves a group of people, then there is a possibility that not all of them are guilty of the offense (Linden 467).
Therefore, the world should always find suspects and target to deal with the issue for example, the world should target terrorism and terrorist and not a group in which the terrorists belong. In the case of Southeast Asia, terrorism should not be generalized to all people in this region, despite the fact that terrorist harbor in this region.
The world should devise ways of identifying the suspects and capture them without involving the innocent people (Rashid 408). Also, the innocent people should also find ways of conveying useful information to the international community to help them fight terrorism or any issue. They should not cooperate with the offenders like in the case of Southeast Asians. This world belongs to us and we should all make it a safe place to live, and avoid generalization.
Linden, Edward. World Terrorism. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2002. Print.
O’Neill, Bard. Insurgency and Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare. Virginia: Brassey’s Inc, 1990. Print.
Peters, Ralph. Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2002. Print.
Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.
Ressa, Maria. Seeds of Terror: An eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia. New York: Free Press, 2003. Print.