Americans and Malaysians alike have been shocked by the horrific images of the senseless violence carried out by the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”, also called ISIL. Atrocities described by Iraqi officials include the massacre of 1,000 people, including 100 children, in Mosul and the killing, raping, burning, and selling of innocent women in Sinjar. More than an estimated 1.8 million people have fled their homes out of fear that they will be next.
ISIL represents a grave threat to people of all nations and all religions: it is destabilizing peace and security in the Middle East and it has the potential to project its hateful ideology in our own countries. Indeed, world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly this month are discussing a common approach to defeating ISIL. Prime Minister Najib has rightly condemned ISIL and said their actions run counter to the faith, culture, and humanity of all Malaysians. The Prime Minister helpfully reinforced his condemnation of extremism during a multitude of relevant meetings and speeches this week at the United Nations General Assembly.
On September 10, President Obama announced the U.S. strategy to support the creation of a broad international coalition focused on multiple lines of effort to defeat ISIL. We cannot carry out this plan alone and are grateful for the initial commitment from more than 40 international partners– including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Nations, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation–to support the campaign to defeat ISIL.
This week Malaysia joined 103 countries around the world in unanimously passing a United Nations Security Council resolution on Foreign Terrorist Fighters. During that Council Meeting Foreign Minister Anifah reiterated Malaysia’s strong and unequivocal condemnation of ISIL. The Foreign Minister also underscored that the Malaysian Government has designated ISIL as a terrorist organization and will spare no effort to act against its members. At every level in Malaysia—from government officials to leaders at the grassroots level, from the largest Islamic organizations to small political parties and to neighborhood associations—this country is united in rejecting ISIL.
By necessity, some of our immediate efforts must include targeted intervention in order to combat ISIL and deny them safe-haven. We have a humanitarian duty to stop the spread of violence carried out by ISIL. Our efforts are aimed at preventing ISIL from inflicting more damage and suffering. Military action is but one part of a multi-pronged, comprehensive strategy that includes a broad range of policies and actions, all of which are required in order to succeed. In fact, Malaysia and the United States are working in parallel on many of the same lines of action.
International cooperation is a major focus of our strategy. Working with our international and regional partners, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding, counter its warped ideology, improve our intelligence, strengthen our defenses, and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East, all initiatives where Malaysia has already taken strong action. Together and with partners we are enhancing information sharing, exposing and countering ISIL’s warped ideology, and working to prevent the flow of foreign fighters to the region.
Delivering humanitarian assistance is another major element of our response. We will continue to work with the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria who have been displaced by this brutal terrorist organization. This includes Muslims who have borne the brunt of this terror, as well as hundreds of thousands of other religious and ethnic minorities. We call upon the conscience of peace-loving people everywhere to offer humanitarian assistance at this time of great need. Regardless of differences, we cannot turn away from those most in need of basic life-giving support.
The United States’ longer term efforts also include working with our partners to support effective governance in Iraq, denying ISIL safe-haven, and building partner capacity. A united Iraq and strong regional partners will ensure future freedom and security in the future.
It is the responsibility of each of us to counter hateful voices by promoting peace and tolerance – values that are embraced by all religions – in our daily lives. The United States aims to work with our partners to face the serious challenges that now confront us. By working shoulder to shoulder with those dedicated to freedom, security, and peace we affirm our common humanity and these universal values that underpin both of our great democracies.