The Danger of a Virtual Caliphate - Radical

The Danger of a Virtual Caliphate

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. Some believe the government’s efforts to keep terrorism out of the country are working well. Malaysia is a more tolerant Islamic society and allows Islam to impact its society. However, the growing strength and danger 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 an essentially undetectable way. 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.

Threats Inside Malaysia

The ICPVTR says that Malaysia faces threats both inside and outside the country. From the outside, Malaysia is in the middle of three well-known areas of terrorist activity. It is next to 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 because of sympathizers. Some citizens in Malaysia do sympathize with the mission and goals of ISIS and other terrorist groups. Sympathizers are influenced by terrorist propaganda online and drawn to take action. 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. Virtual presence is growing 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 dangers of virtual caliphates in their country. Pray for the government and local communities to root out a 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.

Harper McKay is a missionary in Malaysia who has served as a guest contributor for Radical covering missions and work among the unreached.

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