Non-Smoking, Sinless Men to Fight Israel in Gaza; Indonesian Jihadist Group FJI is Recruiting

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Attacks against Jews have intensified around the world in the aftermath of the renewed conflict in Gaza, with some violence resulting in physical injuries to the people targeted. Now, a video has emerged in Malaysia in which hardline Islamists have called for attacks on Israelis.

The video that circulates on social media encourages jihadis to travel to Gaza to fight against Israel, the South China Morning Post has reported. The video shows Malaysian militants hailing "impending martyrdom" and exhorting radical Islamists to travel for jihad. It was apparently shot in 2014, but is being recirculated in the new context, with a view to encourage radical elements to travel to Palestine for jihad.

'Aims to Fan Jihadist Sentiment'

According to Malaysian security officials, the men featured in the video are dead. "The person who took the video eventually returned home in August 2014. We have arrested and charged him. He is still serving his prison sentence ... The video has re-emerged maybe to create or fan jihadist sentiment among Malaysians against the Israeli attacks in Gaza," the officials told This Week In Asia, according to SCMP.

indonesia jihad groups
The flag of Laskar Jihad, an Islamist and anti-Christian Indonesian militia, which was founded and led by Jafar Umar Thalib. Wikimedia Commons

The analysis was seconded by Muh Taufiqurrohman, a senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies. The video aims to egg on Indonesians and Malaysians to travel to Palestine and "wage jihad against Israel", he says.

Hamas Support Across Asia

While overt support for Palestine and Hamas is absent in the Gulf Arab capitals, the Islamic countries in Asia have been more vocal with their support. Hundreds of Indonesians took out a protest march in Jakarta on Tuesday, condemning Israel. Other Indonesian cities like Surabaya, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Makassar and Riau also witnessed such protests. Popular anger is boiling over in other Muslim nations in the region like Malaysia, Brunei, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp are used vehemently for propagating radical ideologies and instigating cross-border jihadist movements. According to Taufiqurrohman, the video was shared on jihadist WhatsApp chat groups and immediately gained momentum.

"Today, praise be to God, the mujahedin from Malaysia have been called upon to participate in an operation for defence or attack. This may be the last video," a man is seen saying in the video.

However, Malaysian security establishment is not sure if the video will actually push jihadist sympathizers into action.

"Among those [jihadists] aligned with Daesh, I don't think so, because they could have gone to Gaza a long time ago if they wanted to, but they preferred going to Syria because of the attractiveness of the caliphate," the story cites a Malaysian source as saying.

"Gaza is not fighting for the caliphate ... but fighting for the Palestinians," the source added.

In Indonesia, a senior security source said there was no sign yet of local jihadis trying to travel to Gaza to fight Israel.

Islam Jihad Front Recruits Fighters

However, reports from Central Java said fliers seeking recruits to fight for Palestine were circulated on Twitter and WhatsApp. This was done by a radical Islamist group called Islam Jihad Front.

One of the criteria for recruitment was that the would-be recruits should have "readiness to die a martyr' and should never have "committed vice or smoked".

Taufiqurrohman adds that if the conflict in Gaza continues, jihadis from Indonesia might start travelling to the conflict zone.

Meanwhile, Israel said the airstrikes on Gaza will not stop even as international pressure for a ceasefire mounted. "The fighting will not cease until we bring total and long-term quiet," Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in a video statement. The Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas exhorted Palestinians to observe a "day of anger".

IDF ground attack in Gaza
Palestinians search through the rubble of their destroyed homes hit by Israeli strikes in the northern Gaza Strip - file photo Wikimedia Commons

Death Toll in Gaza, West Bank and Israel

The conflict has so far killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children and 36 women, while Israeli authorities said 12 people have been killed in Israel, including two children. More than 1,400 people have been wounded in Israel. According to the Palestinian health ministry, the death toll in the West Bank rose to 24.

This article was first published on May 19, 2021