Hishammuddin is right that the terrorism attacks in Paris which finally left 20 dead can happen in Malaysia but why are the extremists in the country allowed to purvey their rhetoric and politics of hatred and intolerance unchecked?

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein is right when he warned yesterday that the terrorism attack in Paris, which finally left 20 dead, can also happen in Malaysia.

Hishammuddin said he came back from Paris and London last month where he had discussion with their intelligence agencies and what happened was not something unexpected.

He said what happened in France should not be taken lightly as it is not impossible to face the same scenario in the country, and that Malaysia must beef up its security, especially in the Sabah coastal area.

It is most unfortunate that the Defence Minister is looking at the problem solely from the perspective of security intelligence, preparations and assets instead of why Malaysia is becoming increasingly prone to threats of terrorism, whether in the country or emanating from the country as evidenced by Malaysians rallying to Islamic State’s Caliphate cause despite mass murders and beheadings.

The Global Terrorism Index 2014 released by the Institute of Economic and Peace in November, where Malaysia climbed 42 places in the international terrorism indicator, citing religious extremism as the primary cause of terror attacks worldwide, should be a wake-up call that the peace, harmony and unity of Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural polity is placed in jeopardy if nothing is done to check the rhetoric and politics of hatred, intolerance and extremism which had increasingly aggravated racial and religious polarization in recent years.

Malaysia is now 48th in a ranking that has Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the top, having risen from 91st spot in the 2012 issue of the report.

Malaysia’s score on the index measuring the number of terrorist incidents, fatalities and casualties as well as damage to property has also risen steadily from 2012, going from 0.415 out of a possible 10 to the current 3.04. Ten signifies the highest impact of terrorism.

The Global Terrorism Index 2014 is bad news for Malaysia, for overnight, Malaysia has shot into the international radar of the top 50 countries under the world’s terrorism-watch, having overtaken 43 countries in a matter of two years as a country where terrorism is a bigger problem – overtaking countries like Uganda, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, France, Chile, Italy, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Tajikistan, Spain, Jordan, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Serbia.

What has gone wrong as Malaysia has always prided itself as a model for the world for inter-racial and inter-religious understanding, tolerance and harmony that we are now in the top 50 countries in the world in the Global Terrorism Index on the negative impact of terrorism, when Malaysia should be one of the countries with score of zero, indicating no negative effects from terrorism.

There are a total of 39 out of 162 countries in the Global Terrorism Index 2014 ranked 124 with a zero score indicating negative effects from terrorism, including Qatar, South Korea, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, Malawi and Mauritius. In 2012, there were 43 countries with a score of zero with no impact of terrorism.

The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, together with Malaysia’s adverse ranking in the Global Terrorism Index, should set off the alarm bells in the country as it come at a most critical juncture of the nation’s history, with the recent lurch towards the rhetoric and politics of hatred, intolerance and extremism with racial and religious polarization at its lowest point for over four decades.

Hishammuddin is right when he said that the terrorism attacks in Paris could happen in Malaysia.

However, there could be no dispute that under the first five Prime Ministers from 1957 to 2009, the likelihood of the Paris terrorism attacks taking place in Malaysia were substantially less likely than under the sixth premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, especially with the extremists allowed to purvey their rhetoric and politics of hatred and intolerance unchecked in the past few years!

It is most ironic that while the Prime Minister is promoting the Global Movement of Moderates in international platforms, extremists at home were rearing their ugly heads and had never been so blatant and reckless in their rhetoric and politics of hatred, intolerance and bigotry to the extent that the Defence Minister in the country openly admits the possibility of the Paris terrorist attacks happening in Malaysia.

It is time for Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, gender, age or even political affiliation, to stand up for moderation, and for the politics of inclusion to replace the politics of exclusion.

Is the Prime Minister and his Cabinet prepared to take the lead in the country to promote moderation and drown out the voices of extremists, who can only represent a tiny though raucous minority in the country?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah