THE multiple bombing attacks in Jakarta by terrorists reportedly linked to the Islamic State show that when militants want to strike, they can do so at any time. All that the authorities can do is take maximum precaution by tracking their movements and monitoring their Internet chatter to nip in the bud their plots before they strike.
I believe all police forces in the region are doing this quite well, but there is no guarantee that a terrorist strike like in Jakarta will not happen in other cities.
The most effective response to a terrorist attack is citizen unity to demonstrate the will of the people to reject any form of extremism, including religious-inspired terrorism.
At the same time, the government must empower citizen activism by practising open democracy and allowing freedom of expression, so that the majority voice of reason and moderation will drown out the minority extremists and their hopes for a religious uprising against their enemies.
The biggest enemies of the extremists are moderate Muslims who have a different orientation in terms of social and political values and who believe in tolerance and respect for the rights of others.
The moderates are the rock of the nation, and therefore, they should be allowed to play an active role in society to uphold the constitutional principles of law and order, clean government, and a proper implementation of Islam that respects the fundamental rights of men, women and girls.
In Malaysia, there are several civil society groups which believe in constitutional freedoms, human rights and religious tolerance. The government should encourage them to become partners with the authorities to spread the message of peace and harmony though all means of communication, including the government-controlled media.
The rise of civil society in our country should be viewed not with alarm by the authorities. Instead, it should be accepted as normal for a relatively well-developed country with a sizeable well-educated middle class, which is becoming increasingly more sophisticated by the day, to be vocal in their dissent.
I am confident that Indonesians will not be afraid of any terrorist attacks, because they have a vibrant democracy with freedom of expression and resilience, as seen in pictures of spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Jakarta saying “Kami Tidak Takut” (We are Not Afraid). There was hardly a ripple in the financial sector despite the attack. The Indonesian currency remains intact and business carries on as usual.
That’s the best way to handle a terrorist attack – by remaining cool and calm. The biggest humiliation to terrorists is when they see their attempts at creating fear and panic fail, and when they see the people going on with their life as usual.
I firmly believe when a country is fortified with the virtues of democracy, freedom of expression and tolerance, no terrorist attack can shake the nation.
TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM,