A recent study has shown that the majority of students in the country’s private and public universities are oblivious about the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
The survey conducted by University Utara Malaysia (UUM) political lecturer and researcher Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, involved 1,280 students from four regions in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Almost all survey respondents did not really understand IS. For example, some were unable to identify if IS was a Sunni, Shia, Salafi or Sufi group,” Dr Mohd Azizuddin was reported as saying in The Star Online.
The good news however is that of those who did know of the terror group, over 80 per cent rejected it outright, with the rest while not showing outward support for the group, did not react negatively to it either.
“Only a small group of respondents seemed interested in IS. The number is below 20 per cent. They do not subscribe to the IS ideology, but they sympathise with what’s happening in Syria.”
Mohd Azizuddin said this group also perceived the IS as helping oppressed Muslims. The respondents also chose not to focus on the beheadings or other atrocities the militants carried out as some felt it was only Western propaganda and did not really take place.
“They see the atrocities, but they also see a group that is fighting Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and the western powers. They only accept IS on this level. I don’t think they accept the brutality of IS. They also do not think it is right. But they also know that in wars, things like this happen,” he said.
Reviewing their replies, Mohd Azizuddin said it was clear the respondents had little knowledge of the goings-on in Syria and the world besides begin too caught up with their own lives and relying too much on social media updates and not the actual news for their information.
“Even though social media is an important propaganda tool for IS, what surprised us is that some students feel that their peers are the ones who influence them. For example, their friends come up to them and broach the subject of IS,” he said, adding that many supported the concept of the IS but not the violence the militants perpetrated on others.
The study was commissioned by the Youth and Sports Ministry and is due to be published soon.