23 June 2024

Ulu Tiram attack: Of violent ideologies and its ramifications


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By Dr Haezreena Begum Abdul Hamid

The attack on the Ulu Tiram station by an unknown assailant (now identified) in the wee hours of Friday morning tormented and shocked the entire nation to its core.

There’s been comments on whether this was a staged attack or an isolated one. Before one can adequately articulate and formulate new ideas about this attack, it’s imperative to have sufficient knowledge about the assailant’s background and history.

The assailant did not have a criminal record and therefore was not someone under the police radar. However, given that the father was a known Jemaah Islamiyah member in the 90s and 2000s, questions arise on whether violent ideological thoughts can simply pulverize over time or continue to grow.

The attack by the assailant may also stem from years of anger, grudge, and frustration towards the authorities who grew up witnessing the father’s detention and family’s hardship which resulted in the vicious attack at the Ulu Tiram police station causing the death of two police constables and seriously wounding one police corporal.

The news stating that the assailant and his other siblings did not receive formal education and was home schooled by their father establishes the learning theories which describes how people absorb, process, and retain information and are influenced by their master’s teachings, the father in this case. Therefore, being indoctrinated by their master is inevitable.

While home-schooling in Malaysia is allowed, it is only a privilege and not a right. Home schooling in Malaysia is only granted to parents who has children with chronic health problems and needing close care by the guardian. The home schooling mentioned in a news report might refer to informal home schooling which provides impunity to the home-school teacher, the father in this case.

This gives rise to further questions such as the father’s disengagement from violent ideology, the re-integration process of the father and family members, the reason for home-schooling, their social re-integration with the immediate community and their socio-economic status.

From a criminological point of view, the social learning theory asserts that people learn to be aggressive by observing others acting aggressively to achieve some goal or being rewarded as a direct result of committing violent acts. Therefore, individuals may become aggressive by imitating role models. The assailant’s act could and might have been predicted by his family members or people who might have been acquainted with him. In this case, we can postulate that the attack may have been reinforced vicariously by the assailant from the learning he has observed or learned.

Whatever the motivation is, the attack has clearly shown that crime can occur unexpectedly and at a time where we are most vulnerable. While we strive towards social justice and cohesion, we must be quick to respond to violent ideological risks and threats. In this regard, we cannot only rely on the authorities but need to take an active role as a citizen to ensure that our family members, relatives, and neighbours are in check and do not pose a threat to the society.

The author is a criminologist and Deputy Dean (Postgraduate Degree) at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya. She may be reached at haezreena@um.edu.my