The Impact of 9/11 on Malaysia

Kent Kobersteen, former Director of Photography of National Geographic
“The pictures are by Robert Clark, and were shot from the window of his studio in Brooklyn. Others shot the second plane hitting the tower, but I think there are elements in Clark’s photographs that make them special. To me the wider shots not only give context to the tragedy, but also portray the normalcy of the day in every respect except at the Towers. I generally prefer tighter shots, but in this case I think the overall context of Manhattan makes a stronger image. And, the fact that Clark shot the pictures from his studio indicates how the events of 9/11 literally hit home. I find these images very compelling and in fact, whenever I see them they force me to study them in great detail.”

When the September 11 attacks (usually referred to as 9/11) happened 19 years ago on this day, not only the United States, but the whole world was in shock of what they were witnessing near and far across the globe.

Four coordinated terrorist attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States resulted in 2,977 deaths and over 25,000 injuries, not to mention the substantial long-term health consequences that stuck with several other victims as well.

On top of that, with property damage of up to $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage, it is the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States.

Ever since the attack, September the 9th has been tailored into all of those who witnessed it on that day; many in the U.S. mourn for those that perished while many others still find it hard to believe that such acts of terror is in fact possible.

As the attacks began to be taken personally by countries near and far, it soon became clear that the attacks also shaken even those here in Malaysia who were 14,000 kilometres away.

Here’s how the 9/11 attacks affected Malaysia back then.

Malaysia Responds

Malaysia who has a majority Muslim population, responded by condemning the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, while pledging full support for the US-led effort to combat terrorism.

Both Malaysia and Singapore at that time cooperated with the U.S. through exchange of intelligence information and coordinating security measures against possible terrorist attacks.

Through their powers under the Internal Security Act, scores of Muslims involved in plots to carry out attacks against government and western targets in their regions were arrested; which included 50 people from militant Muslim groups such as the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia which were link to the JI and AQ networks. 

International Relations

The U.S. Administration and Congress appreciated Malaysia’s open support for the war against terrorism, in which help with the strained relations between the two ever since the 1998 sacking, detention, trial and jailing of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Both Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President George Bush agreed about the need to address the roots causes of terrorism such as the suicide bombers in Palestine. Mahathir even went the extra mile to persuade the Islamic world to condemn suicide bombings, but was unsuccessful to getting an agreement from the Organisation of Islamic Conference on a common definition of terrorism that would include such tactics.

However, Mahathir’s condemnation for the Israeli military occupation and suppression of Palestine remained unchanged.

Political Impact

The arrests of four dozen militant Muslims was largely linked to the Opposition Islamic Party, PAS, which put the party on the defensive end while increasing popularity of UMNO as a party of moderate Muslims.

According to Mushahid Ali a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Western-educated Muslim intellectuals also began debating Islamic issues with ulemas to reform rules in regards to women, governing family, governing society and to resist the introduction of the hudud punishment and restrictive practices for Muslims.

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