Publishe Date: 4:22 PM - 5/5/2015 | Print

Saudi Arabia and Challenges in East Asia

Politics - Najib Tun Razak's first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010 set the stage to sign an agreement in April 2011 for security cooperation. According to a report developed by the former state minister, Datuk Seri Hisham Aldin Tone Hussein, the main purpose of signing this agreement was to deal with terrorism, drug trafficking, forging documents and terrorist activities.

Najib Tun Razak's first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010 set the stage to sign an agreement in April 2011 for security cooperation. According to a report developed by the former state minister, Datuk Seri Hisham Aldin Tone Hussein, the main purpose of signing this agreement was to deal with terrorism, drug trafficking, forging documents and terrorist activities.
Economic cooperations followed by security agreement between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia led to more highlighted and extended religious cooperations between the two countries than before as the cornerstone of a long relationship between the two countries. Despite the differences between Saudi-backed Wahhabi views and traditional Shafii view in Malaysia, we see that the religious cooperations between the two countries are expanding. A number of Malaysia religious movements are strongly influenced by the teachings of the Wahhabi missionaries supported by the Saudi Arabia such as “the Sunnis” community in Perlis, “the tradition movement” of Johor, “the Orang tradition” in Pahang, “the Atbaul Sunnah” or followers of tradition in Negri Simbilan and "the Muslim community" of Selangor although these religious movements and Malaysian organizations are influenced by the Wahhabism; and it is interesting to note that none of the Salafi movements are affiliated with one of the four Sunni schools, this reflects the views of the Salafi movements regarding these religious movements; since Wahhabism has not had brilliant records in history. None of the leaders of these Malaysian movements are interested in using the term Wahhabism to explain and introduce their own religious movements and avoid using it; however, because of the many similarities between faith and extremism encountering with other religions of Sunni and Shiite, one can place these currents at the forefront of Wahhabism.
The common point of these Malaysian Islamic movements and Wahhabism is the use of the terms “Salaf scholars”, “tradition”, “contrasting with superstition and innovation” among Muslims, especially in worshiping. Obviously, following the Saudi government's efforts to promote Wahhabism in Malaysia and the Malaysian authorities meaningful silence, it is the turn to conclude security agreements between the two countries to fight terrorism by the definition they have on the issue. On April 18, 2011, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia signed the security and information agreement to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and criminal groups. Crimes such as international terrorism, financial support, organizing terrorist movements, money laundering, trafficking of drugs and weapons, illicit trade, economic offenses, faking money and information crimes were part of the provisions of this Agreement. Hisham Aldin, the former state minister of Malaysia, introduced this agreement signed during the decision of these two countries in the fight against terrorism. Based on this agreement, the parties of the agreement committed on security cooperation and exchange of security experience and training of especial personnel. Malaysian authorities announced the reason of signing the contract as a Syrian student possibly in connection with al-Qaeda, the explosion of religious houses of worship and drug trafficking from Iran was arrested. To prevent these crimes, such a memorandum of understanding was signed. Regarding the Syrian student, it was said that he was going to organize Malaysian students. Some Malaysian analysts believe that due to low job conducted in the field of Malaysia security in the years before 2001, activities of religious extremist groups in the country have been increased and the Government of Malaysia cooperates Saudi Arabia to monitor these activities. It should be noted that the movements of al-Qaeda and the extremist movements of Al-Nusra Front in the Middle East, and excommunication movements have always been supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
One of the major challenges Saudi Arabia faced in East Asia, particularly Malaysia is the explicit positions of this country against the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Malaysia is a rival for Saudi Arabia influence and empowering of this movement in Egypt in recent years attracted the attention of many Islamic groups in Malaysia. The explicit opposition of Saudi Arabia with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood made many political Malaysia leaders assess Saudi Arabia as an arrogance-oriented and the West-oriented country. On the other hand, Turkey, which used the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to create a crisis against the Syrian government realized its historical error; and large areas of south of Turkey were in the hands of the terrorist groups to be used as a base against Syria; and in spite of all the West's support for the terrorist groups, it was seen that the Syrian people stood up, defend their homeland against the invaders and did not let up the resistance crush against the Israel. In this situation, the protests and the internal crisis in Turkey and criticism of the Turkish government increased; therefore, the Turkish government withdrew its previous positions regarding the change of the Syria political system; and the Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood which was trying to take the advantages of these relationships did not achieve much success. After these events, the Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood was disappointed of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Sunni extremist groups which were advocating Al-Nusra Front, ISIS, Talibanism and Saudi Arabia performed in such a way that the mainstream of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia expressed their aversion of the performance of Saudi Arabia. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have been the victim of the policies of Saudi Arabia, America and the West; they do not have a good image of themselves among the Islamists in the region. For this reason, we see that the various political parties of Malaysia from PAS to UMNO seek to treat their relations with Saudi rivals. The next challenge after the invasion of Saudi Arabia against Yemen took place in the past two weeks because Yemeni indigenous migrants have linked with the indigenous people of Malaysian and Indonesian for many centuries and the distinction between them was not easy. Also, many Malaysian Muslims seek their origins in the land of Yemen and any violation of the territory exceeds their religious origins. Following the event and killing children and women in that territory, the Malaysian protesting citizens submitted a memorandum to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Kuala Lumpur, strongly condemned the attacks and called for an immediate halt to the air strikes. The protesters condemned the attacks of Saudi Arabia fighters to Yemen and called these actions of Saudi Arabia and its allies as terrorism. The protest movement against Saudi Arabia was formed in Malaysia while the Wahhabism have invested heavily in South East Asia and have influenced in high-level governments and politicians of the region; however, recently the anti-Wahhabi movements have been taken place in the region. Malaysian demonstrators in front of Saudi Arabia embassy confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s hands are dirty with blood by stimulation of the Zionist regime, America and its other allies who attempted to invade Yemen. The statement of the Malaysian Muslims also states that “invading Yemen and killing people, Saudi Arabia, which claims of shrines servant, tarnished its image and that of the Islamic nation; and turned out itself as the slave of the superpowers”. Protesters also believed that the Saudi Arabia’s policy was contrary to the principles of the holy Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); they stressed that Islam has never allowed Muslims to be slaves of others. Human rights activists and other participants in this protest introduced Saudi Arabia as a country that is bloodthirsty, they also condemned killing innocent women and children as well as Yemeni citizens.
This group considered Saudi Arabia’s attacks to Yemen as a war crime and in conflict with the UN Conventions. At the end, the protesters urged Saudi Arabia to stop immediately the attacks to Yemen to and allow Yemen to address its internal challenges and set the political future of the country. Shafii scholars of Malaysia, who had good relations with Saudi Arabia, have faced with its aggressive actions against other Islamic countries; and a little later than usual, the Malaysian authorities have found the Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting extremism due to rise of excommunication in the region. Following the same approach, Hussein Abdul Shakoor, the chairman of the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia said that the followers of the Wahhabism know Muslims as pagan just as they do not follow their religion. He said, “Malaysia only accepts Shafii branch of Islam as a legal one. The Mufti of Negri Simbilan State in Malaysia has announced that Wahhabism conflicts the teachings of Sunnis and as a result it is prohibited. Wahhabism is common in Saudi Arabis, it is blamed to rise the Islamic extremist groups around the world. The chairman of the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia added that “creating any restrictions for the promotion of the teachings of Wahhabism by decree or fatwa in each Malaysian state depends on the state officials.
Recent movements all are against the investments of Saudi Arabia in promoting Wahhabism, Salafism and religious extremism. We will see serious actions by the Malaysian authorities against the extremist religious elements under the influence of Saudi Arabia at different governmental and non-governmental levels.

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