An article published in The Diplomat contrasted the different approaches of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on the Rohingya issue, warning about the dangerous consequences one of them could have on the region.
The Tokyo-based international magazine published a column on Dec 24 by David Hutt, who claimed that one of these leaders' actions risked seeing the Rohingya issue being hijacked by international jihadists.
He said Najib, as pointed out by Singapore's Straits Times, attempted to turn the issue into a religious one to burnish his domestic Islamic credentials.
However, Jokowi, he noted, despite leading the world's largest Muslim nation and facing religious tension at home, chose not to do so.
"That he (Najib) would exclusively call upon Jokowi (rather than the premiers of other Asean countries) to stand in solidarity with him and the Rohingya people clearly shows he was hoping to turn it into a religious issue.
"One can only praise Jokowi for not taking the bait, which must be tempting for the Indonesian president considering the religious tensions currently mounting in his country.
"In fact, Najib even attempted to inflame these when he called upon the protesters who rallied against Jakata’s mayor Basuki 'Ahok' Purnama to expand their fight to defending the Rohingya," he added.
Ahok is presently facing charges of blasphemy for erroneously quoting the Quran.
'Faux naif' politics
Hutt claimed Najib's “faux naif” (pretending to be naive) politics risked internationalising an issue that should remain local.
"By making the issue international and religious, as Najib had done, it not only risks dividing the region between Muslims and Buddhists, it also allows foreign groups to appropriate the Rohingya struggle for their own ends.
"It risks making Myanmar yet another spot on the map for international jihadists," he said.
The article pointed out that the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Qaeda and Somalia’s al-Shabaab have in the past urged Muslims to come to the aid of the Rohingya.
"And it was reported last year that IS (Islamic State) has been trying to recruit from the Rohingya.
"Indeed, in April 2016, the online magazine of IS, Dabiq, published an interview with Bangladeshi jihadist Abu Ibrahim who urged others to join him in fighting for the Rohingya in Myanmar.
"He also warned that IS militants from Bangladesh would launch attacks in Myanmar in good time," added the writer.
Hutt noted that the Myanmar military's latest crackdown was in response to attacks by Harakah al-Yaqin on a number of police stations, killing nine officers.
He added the attack was sophisticated, as several hundred people overran a headquarters, planted improvised explosive devices along the road to slow down military reinforcements, and made away with 50 guns and thousands of bullets from the armoury.
"Al-Yaqin’s public face is a man known as Ata Ullah (who also goes by other aliases) who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, to a Rohingya father, and grew up in Makkah.
"The armed group is believed to be overseen by a committee of Rohingya based in Makkah.
"Its members have been training local Rohingya recruits for two years and several hundred Rohingya refugees have travelled from Bangladesh to Myanmar's Rakhine state to train with the group in recent months," he said.
He also noted that an article published in the Time magazine had warned that excessive force by the Myanmar government, risked creating a condition of radicalisation amongst the Rohingya that could be exploited by international jihadists.
Unfortunately, he noted that excessive force was exactly how the Mynammar government was responding, and Najib's attempt to turn the issue into a religious issue did not help.
Najib, together with several government leaders, participated in the Solidarity for Rohingya rally on Dec 4. Also in attendance were PAS leaders, including party president Abdul Hadi Awang.
Previously, an editorial published in the online version of the Frontier Myanmar magazine had also accused Najib of making the situation worse in the Rakhine state.- Mkini