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An incident involving the removal of a school sign and the replacement with a blue board stating “No trespassing. Private property” has sparked concerns about a possible resurgence of violent militancy in Johor, Malaysia. The boarding school in question was set up by JI exiles, including founders Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Bashir. Noteworthy individuals who attended the school include Noordin Muhammad Top and Mukhlas, both linked to past terrorist attacks. The school was modelled after JI boarding schools in Indonesia and the surrounding Ulu Tiram community was considered fanatical and extremist.

Despite Malaysian authorities having neutralized violent elements within the JI community long ago, there are concerns that a newer generation of violent elements could be regenerating. More than 20 known JI members in Johor are currently under surveillance. However, extremism expert Munira Mustaffa cautioned against jumping to conclusions based on a single incident, emphasizing the need to understand the suspect’s grievances, motivations, and objectives before labeling this as part of a larger plot. The suspect’s connection to JI is currently only established through his father, and it is essential to confirm their actual membership status.

Further investigations are necessary to determine the extent of any resurgence of violent militancy among the community associated with the old Luqmanul Hakiem pesantren. The attack itself was described as “rudimentary” by experts, suggesting it involved a lone actor attempting to steal a firearm from the police. Assistant Professor Ahmad El-Muhammady noted that the suspect may have been inspired by similar terror attacks on police stations in Indonesia, such as a suicide bombing in Bandung affiliated with Jamaah Ansharut Daulah. External events, like the war in Gaza, could also have acted as triggers for the suspect, fueling a sense of injustice.

With JI’s main nucleus in Indonesia weakened due to a lack of leadership and decentralization, the incident in Johor may be isolated. Munira Mustaffa stressed the importance of verifying the existence of an active JI cell in Johor before making any allegations. The suspect’s actions could be linked to a continued propagation of extremist ideology even after the organization has been largely dismantled. The suspect’s attempt to steal a firearm from the police may have been part of a misguided effort to assert his beliefs through violent means. It is crucial for authorities to conduct thorough investigations to uncover the true motives behind the attack and assess the potential threat of violent extremism in the region.

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