The Struggle against Islamic Terrorism in Southeast Asia

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-8-27-36
N. Rogozhina (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation


The problem of terrorism is far from new for the countries of Southeast Asia. In the early 2000s, the legal and institutional framework was created for its solution. The use of predominantly hard methods allowed countries to succeed in defeating the terrorist underground. However, the situation sharply worsened with the advent of ISIS and the spread of its influence in the region, which leads to activation of its supporters. The methods of combating terrorism, tested for decades, were not enough to counter the growing threat. The ongoing changes in the social composition and structure of terrorism have required the adjustment of counter-terrorism policies – reinforcing its legal base and strengthening its humanitarian component. An analysis of successes and failures of this policy in relation to the four Southeast Asian countries facing the threat of Islamic terrorism (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines) is the subject of this study. The article notes that the need for preventive measures is dictated by the process of radicalization of part of the Muslim population falling under the ideological influence of ISIS. Radicalization, as the author notes, occurs in different ways: through the Internet; acquaintance with Islamic propaganda literature and materials of ISIS; attending sermons of radical imams; studying in religious and secular educational institutions; in prisons; within a family or a clan. The fight against the spread of extremist ideology is the most difficult task facing the countries of the region today and requiring an integrated approach to its solution in cooperation with the Muslim community, civil society and business. The modern strategy of the fight against terrorism, aimed at narrowing its social base, includes the implementation of a set of measures – promoting deradicalization programs, counter-propaganda of the radical Islamism ideology, work with youth, etc. In the sum, the author concludes that, although the Southeast Asian countries have managed to avoid large-scale terrorist attacks, the situation may worsen at any time, which was confirmed by the events in the southern Philippines in 2017. The main thing for the Philippines in counter-terrorism remains the implementation of measures to improve the political and socio-economic position of the local population. Indonesia, in turn, faces great difficulties in the fight against terrorism, which cannot be overcome only by strengthening the powers of counter-terrorist agencies. Even deradicalization programs will not give the expected effect in a situation when the process of Islamization of the country accelerates. This problem also threatens Malaysia whose success in counter-terrorist activities can be minimized amid the politicization of Islam, which creates a breeding ground for the radicalization of part of the Muslim population, especially young people. The most important thing in the fight against terrorism, as the experience of Singapore shows, is mobilization of the whole society, close interaction of the state and population.


Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, terrorism, radical Islamism, ISIS, radicalization


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For citation:
Rogozhina N. The Struggle against Islamic Terrorism in Southeast Asia. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2020, vol. 64, No 8, pp. 27-36.

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