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With the Increased Violence in the Middle East, How Safe Are Expats in Malaysia?

As more violence erupts in the Middle East and the political and military issues become more complex, some expats ask what impact, if any, does this have on their safety here in Malaysia?

We all know we now live in a world where acts of terrorism mean civilians are increasingly victims of related violence. The struggle against Islamist terrorism has spread around the world. Few people still think the invasion of Iraq was a wise decision. Apart from not helping the war against terrorism, they have also made Iraq a lot more dangerous place to live. The situation in Afghanistan is a little better, but by no means settled, and the final outcome for both countries is unclear.

The Arab Spring, which was initially welcomed as the arrival of democracy in the Middle East, has resulted in a lot more violence and suffering than was expected. The uprising in Syria has resulted in a huge loss of life and destruction of property with no end in sight. It has attracted various jihadist groups bent on victory for their own brand of Islam. The most violent of these groups, ISIS, routinely employs such extreme degrees of violence that apparently Al Qaeda has refused to recognise them. Their rapid success in creating a new state and the absence of any military force currently capable of stopping them has created considerable alarm and confusion.

At times like this, many countries look to the United States for leadership, but it is clear they have no concrete strategy in place, nor an immediate idea of what role to play. Having lost so many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are understandably reluctant to put more troops in harm’s way. However, playing a predominantly observer’s role may result in even bigger problems in the future.

The current situation in the Middle East has thrown prior relationships into confusion. Former foes look like potential allies, and leaders once backed by the United States are finding themselves without their support.

Israel’s policy of making all the people of Gaza suffer for Hamas’s policies through blockades, checkpoints, mass imprisonment, and frequent deadly attacks is clearly not working. Their ongoing suffering creates a lot of anger, especially among Muslims. Although Hamas is certainly provoking them, the Israeli’s response is hard to justify if they are truly looking for a long-term peaceful solution.

Equally concerning are the number of people from many different countries who have rushed to join the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Supporting the rebels in Syria was to some extent understandable, but deciding to join an extremist group like ISIS is harder to understand or justify. It raises serious issues of what to do with these people, if and when they return to their respective countries. According to US intelligence reports, ISIS has already requested some to return to their own countries and start up terror cells.

Some people say that for a non-Muslim to live in a Muslim country is by definition dangerous in these troubled times, but the facts speak differently. The biggest acts of terrorism have of course occurred in non-Muslim countries, although the various wars breaking out in some Muslim countries have caused expats to leave.

Fortunately, the Malaysian government has shown no tolerance for any religious groups who pose a threat to law and order. Additionally, Malaysian security services have so far shown themselves to be very efficient at identifying and arresting people involved in actual or potential terror networks.

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So while the inability of the world’s most powerful nations to immediately address these troubling issues is a concern, we see no reason for expats in Malaysia to be unduly concerned.

Stay safe,

Source: The Expat Magazine September 2014

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