A so-called friendly immigration policy has been identified as one of the factors in Malaysia being known as a transit country for terrorist groups.
Normah Ishak, assistant director of the Special Branch of the Counter-Terrorism Division, said as Malaysia is only used as a transit country, it is considered a safe haven where terrorist groups will try and avoid any confrontation with the authorities.
She said as such, groups would move quietly and without causing a commotion in the country.
“Terrorists from West Asia and other countries including from Europe also transit in Malaysia and may go to South Korea or other countries because we have a friendly immigration policy where we accept visitors from most International Islamic Organization countries through visas,” she said.
“That is one of the factors for them to come and transit before continuing their journey to other countries,” she said at a webinar on the role of women in financing terrorist activities.
She gave the example of the January 2019 church bombing in Jolo, Sulu, saying she believed the individuals involved had used Malaysia to transit before arriving in southern Philippines.
“The area may be seen as a location for jihad,” she added. “That is why there are extremist fighters from West Asia and foreign countries including Malaysia and Indonesia.
“They only transit in Malaysia and during that time, they will try their best to avoid confrontation with the authorities,” she said.
Normah also said that the police had arrested 558 people including 51 women involved with terrorist groups since 2013.
She said about 80% of prosecutions involve the possession of items related to terrorist groups.
“So far there have been no cases involving the financing of terrorist activities in Malaysia involving women,” she added.
“But we do not rule out the possibility of their involvement in this regard. Perhaps some are involved, just not in Malaysia but in other countries such as Syria.”
She said investigations had found that the main reason local women wanted to go to Syria was because they wanted to support their husbands or partners there.
“Their dream is to live in an Islamic country, and they believe that this is the only one.
“They also think that they will die as martyrs if they are killed in the conflict there,” she said.