- The Washington Times - Friday, November 23, 2001

The spawning grounds for the terrorist assault on America are countries ruled by lawless, rogue governments and dictatorships.

Afghanistan has no effective controlling government. As a result, the thugs of the Taliban have established a rough rule by intimidation and force, with a small base of popular support. Essentially it is a country controlled by a mafia that invokes the deity to justify anything it desires.

Consequently, the country has attracted the worst elements of the underworld of extremist fanaticism brutal killers who seek to extend their control the same way warring drug lords or mafia chieftains do, by murder. Facing no real effective government or law enforcement, those attracted to this life of thuggery have been able to set up a base of operations in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the ability of any government to control Lebanon was destroyed years ago, precisely so terrorist groups could use its territory as a base for their assault on Israel.

And so it goes around the world. Terrorism is associated with mafia-style governments and rogue dictatorships from Iraq to Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Iran.

In sharp contrast, Malaysia offers an example of an Islamic country that has long been governed by democracy and the rule of law. That land has held free and fair elections since it gained independence in 1957. It has a strong economic development program that has made it the regional leader in information technology, with investments by Microsoft, Dell and Sun Microsystems, among others.

The country is not without its own problems of extremism. The Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) seeks to establish a rigid theocracy.

The deputy president of the PAS, Abdul Awang Hadi, has proposed legislation to punish with death Muslims who convert to Christianity. He would impose special taxes on non-Muslims, and punish adultery with stoning. The son of the party's spiritual leader, Nik Aziz Nik Mat, has himself trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

Moreover, Nik Aziz has already begun denouncing the United States after the Sept. 11 attack. He has proclaimed that Muslims would consider President Bush a "gangster" if he ordered military attacks without "concrete proof."

But the Malaysian police have kept a lid on terrorist violence by moving quickly to counter any threats. Within a week of the World Trade Center attack, the police had detained Muslim extremists whom they had already identified as having trained in Afghanistan, including the son of Nik Aziz.

Moreover, Malaysia has long cooperated quite successfully with the U.S. to counter terrorist threats to Americans. Wali Khan Amir Shah, who had worked on a plot to blow up a dozen U.S. passenger jets in the mid-1990s, was apprehended in Malaysia by law enforcement authorities there working closely with the U.S. Wali is now serving a long prison sentence in the U.S.

In October 2000, Malaysian security forces working closely with the FBI and CIA arrested five members of the notorious Hezbollah terrorist group plotting assaults on American property in the region.

Malaysia has already volunteered to help Mr. Bush in his worldwide effort to snuff out terrorism. Malaysia's leaders are quite rightly anxious to help out, as they correctly see this as an opportunity to terminate the extremist terrorism that threatens Southeast Asia as well as other regions.

Such a staunch Islamic ally in the region may be especially helpful because terrorists fearing U.S. counterstrikes in the Middle East may well flee to Southeast Asia to hide out. The Malaysian government is willing and able to take a lead role in apprehending these escapees.

U.S. relations with Malaysia deteriorated during the Clinton administration over alleged civil rights transgressions in the Malaysian counterterror campaign. True, Malaysian law enforcement does not operate under all the same rules that apply in the U.S.

But these issues can be discussed over time. They are relatively minor, internal governance matters when considered in the grand scheme of the worldwide war against terror. At least now we have a better understanding of what they have been up against.

The U.S. should reaffirm its relations with Malaysia and collaborate closely with it in the global war against terror. Indeed, the U.S. should uphold Malaysia along with Turkey as models of Islamic democracy, where the governments work to maintain peace and security, and advance the long-term economic prospects of their people.

Indeed, the long-term goal of the U.S. should be to replace the rogue Islamic regimes with Islamic democracy as exemplified by Malaysia. For only then will the terror network be denied any safe haven.

Peter Ferrara is an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law.


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