The need for stable governments to keep terrorism at bay

I think there is no need for me to repeat here the images that we have seen coming out from the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. I am just too disturbed and distressed to be nice. I just pray such atrocities will stop, especially when they are done in the name of religion.

Although the IS has avowed to set up a worldwide caliphate, the crisis, however, is not purely religious in nature. In Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and the Middle-East, where governments have failed and collapsed, Muslim militias with their own respective brand of Islam have cropped up, with the more powerful ones eventually assuming predominance –examples are the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and now the IS.

Where the IS is concerned, analysts put the blame on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (a Shiite) who they say badly alienated Iraq’s Sunni political community resulting in some Sunni armed factions siding with the militant group, and, thus, enabling the IS to overrun a large swathe of the country.

Like all militant groups, the IS grew because there was no good governance in Iraq or Syria. In the absence of a good and stable government and in the vacuum it creates, stronger, more disciplined and determined groups with their own agendas and with power (political or armed) — with or without the people’s mandate — even under a misguided leadership, will seize power. It happened in the Middle-East, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Egypt and Thailand just recently.

And it seems to be happening in my home state of Selangor in Malaysia. The Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim was sacked by his party (which put him there in the first place) for not being accountable to his party but he is refusing to step down by invoking procedures under the leadership of the Sultan.

Meanwhile, the opposition party, Umno, which also leads the federal government, is waiting for the state government to collapse, so that it can take over. In the sidelines is also the very conservative PAS — the Islamic party which rules the northern state of Kelantan and which has openly declared it would set up an Islamic government if it came to power. It is a partner with Keadilaan and the DAP in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance which rules Selangor, but it has kept mum since the MB’s sacking.

As a partner in PR, PAS has failed to show solidarity with Keadilan and the DAP in the MB issue. It’s anybody’s guess which side it will support, which means its commitment to PR is suspect. If the fluid politics in the state opens the way for the very conservative factions to take pole position in the party and PAS seizes control or increases its influence, the consequences may be less than desirable for minority groups.

This is the scenario playing out in many parts of the world now: governments are failing and in Muslim communities powerful religious groups are posturing, positioning and manoeuvring to seize control. Observing them, I am inclined — like never before — to pray, yes, pray! The world is changing and new power bases are springing up against which we seem powerless. All the more reason why we should go on our knees! We need to pray unceasingly and make decisions which will be to our good in the future before it’s too late.

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