The Evolution of Online Extremism in Malaysia

The apocalyptic narrative of the Syrian civil war promoted by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in 2014 had galvanised around a hundred radicals in Malaysia who subsequently migrated to Iraq and Syria. At least forty-five of them propagated their jihadist cause online resulting in the mushrooming of online extremism in the country. The growth spans over five years (2013-2017) in two phases, one led by Muhammad Lotfi Arifin’s network of online followers and the other by Muhammad Wanndy Muhammad Jedi’s online supporters and sympathizers. Lotfi and his network popularised the concept of ‘jihad’ from the perspective of militant groups, while Wanndy lured vulnerable online followers deeper into the later stages of violent radicalisation. The trajectory of Malaysia’s online violent radicalism from Lotfi to Wanndy was coincidental rather than deliberate, signifying the ‘funnel’ process of radicalisation. This process is synced with the terrorists’ switch from online public platforms to encrypted and private ones.

Tags: ISIS, Radicalisation, Violent Jihadism