Malaysia shuts down Saudi-backed anti-terrorism centre
The centre was supposed to attract Islamic scholars interested in combatting extremist views and promoting tolerance
Malaysia’s new government has closed a Saudi-backed anti-terrorism centre, just over a year after it was launched by the kingdom’s ruling monarch during a visit.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said in a written reply to a question in parliament on Monday that the King Salman Centre for International Peace will cease operation immediately and that its function will be absorbed by the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security.
He did not give a reason for the closure.
The centre, which aims to draw Islamic scholars to combat extremist views and promote tolerance, was announced in March last year during King Salman’s visit to Malaysia under former Malaysian leader Najib Razak. It has a temporary office in Kuala Lumpur while awaiting the construction of a permanent building in Malaysia’s administrative capital of Putrajaya.
Najib suffered a shocking defeat in May’s national polls and is now facing corruption charges.
Opposition lawmaker Hishammuddin Hussein, who was formerly defence minister, said on Tuesday that the move to close the centre was a loss to the nation amid growing terrorism in the Muslim world. He said the centre was aimed at putting predominantly Muslim Malaysia at the forefront of the fight against violent extremism and ideologies together with Saudi Arabia.
There have been concerns in recent years that under Najib, Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative interpretation of Islam has gained an expanded foothold in Malaysia. The kingdom has built mosques and schools across the region and offers scholarships to Malaysians and other Southeast Asian Muslims who want to study in Saudi Arabia.