The Danger of a Virtual Caliphate

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As ISIS loses its physical strongholds in Iraq and Syria, many predict that it will turn to its online presence and set up a “virtual caliphate” of sympathizers all over the world. This could become particularly problematic in Malaysia, our SC18 people focus.  


Up to this point, ISIS has been far away from Malaysia, although some Malaysians have left to join in the fighting. Many Malaysians do not feel threatened by ISIS, and some believe the government’s efforts to keep terrorism out of the country are working well. While Malaysia is a more tolerant Islamic society, the growing strength of a “virtual caliphate” could put the country at considerable risk.  


The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a Singapore-based research company, recently identified Malaysia as a country of particular concern. [1] What makes the online caliphate so dangerous for Malaysia is its ability to influence the minds of citizens in a way that is essentially undetectable. The battle to fight terrorism gets down to the community level, as friends and family must watch out for one another, discourage radical leanings, and monitor internet activity.  


The ICPVTR says that Malaysia faces threats both inside and outside the country. From the outside, Malaysia is situated in the middle of three well-known areas of terrorist activity: Arakan in Myanmar, the southern provinces of Thailand, and Marawi in the Philippines. Terrorist groups from these regions use Malaysia to recruit, plan attacks, smuggle weapons, and contact one another.  


The less noticeable threats of terrorism and ISIS activity come from inside Malaysia. Some citizens in Malaysia do sympathize with the mission and goals of ISIS and other terrorist groups. Influenced by terrorist propaganda online, these sympathizers could pose the biggest threat to the country as they are recruited for acts of violence.  


In general, Malaysians are not aware of the reality of these threats. With little in terms of visible terrorist activity in the country, it can be difficult to treat the threat seriously. However, many researchers believe that the more ISIS declines in its physical presence, the more danger will come from a virtual one, especially in areas like Malaysia where there is already potential for increased terrorist activity.  


Pray for God to prepare his church in Malaysia for the possibility of terrorist activity in their country. Pray for the government and local communities to root out terrorist activity that threatens all of Malaysia’s citizens.  



[1] See The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research’s latest journal titled Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses.

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