Machete Attacks: From Police Stations to the National Palace, A Surface Thought

Machete Attacks: From Police Stations to the National Palace, A Surface Thought

Malaysia is being shocked by machete-wielding incidents, which seem to have become a chosen form of action by the public at this time. From the police station in Ulu Tiram, Johor, to Dato Keramat in Penang, even the National Palace has not been spared from such incidents.

On the surface, these incidents may seem like minor incidents, but fundamentally, they could have a greater impact on the harmony between our country and neighboring countries like Singapore and Indonesia.

One significant impact is the tightened border controls on the Singapore side, affecting over 300,000 Malaysian workers who commute to Singapore. They now face stricter security screenings at the border.

Moreover, for Singaporean tourists, the Singapore government has issued a travel advisory to its residents. This can indirectly slow down cross-border movements between Malaysia and Singapore.

In simple terms, the economic vibrancy in the southern region of Peninsular Malaysia is expected to decline and not grow as hoped. If this issue is not contained, it will spread to many other areas.

Furthermore, Malaysia is currently preparing for Visit Malaysia Year 2026. Such violent acts will hinder the tourism sector’s growth in the future.

When we look at the vehicle used by the two individuals who allegedly breached the National Palace, it appears they were struggling in life, possibly having just moved, changed jobs, or were recently unemployed.

In the case of the attacker who assaulted the police station in Dato Keramat, Penang, he was reported to be drunk and attempted to seize the HK MP5 submachine gun used by the police officer on duty.

The attacker at the police station in Ulu Tiram, Johor Bahru, appeared determined to carry out the attack using just a motorcycle and a machete. He tried to seize the HK MP5 firearm and the pistol of the police station’s guard, despite knowing the station was heavily guarded with armed personnel.

Moreover, their neighbors did not know much about these attackers, describing them as individuals who were not socially active, lonely, and isolated from the community.

According to Fauzi Faizal, 39, a member of the Johor Bahru City Council (MBJB) Tiram Zone, the suspect in the parang rampage has four siblings, did not attend school, and was educated by his father, who is also a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, as revealed by Inspector-General of Police Razarudin Husain on his Friday press conference.

“It is believed that the siblings (of the suspect) also did not receive formal education and were schooled by their father, possibly indoctrinated with extremist teachings,” said Fauzi, a native of the village.

“Residents are indeed worried and shocked that the ‘killer’ resided here among us, but we trust the police to maintain order and ensure that this incident is the last of its kind,” he said.

In this situation, we see a desperate state driving individuals to lose their rational judgment. In both cases, we observe “lone wolf” behavior.

According to data from UNICEF’s “Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan” longitudinal study on post-COVID-19 impact assessment among low-income households in Kuala Lumpur, circa May 2024, it provides an important perspective on the current mental health and economic pressures faced by Malaysians.

A person can become a terrorist through a complex process involving various factors. There is no single path leading someone to terrorism, but a combination of individual, social, political, and economic factors can contribute to a person’s radicalization.

When we examine the mental health data of low-income people, we see an increase in depression compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Conflicts with others, including friends, family, or coworkers, can trigger aggressive behavior. Individuals might display aggressive behavior to fit into certain social groups that value or encourage such behavior.

Feelings of injustice or dissatisfaction with living conditions, the government, or society can motivate someone to seek extreme ways to effect change.

Feelings of alienation or marginalization from mainstream society can make someone more vulnerable to radicalization. Dissatisfaction with government policies or repressive actions can trigger radicalization.

Marginalization can play a crucial role in someone’s radicalization process. Individuals who feel ostracized may have an identity crisis as well as feelings of unworthiness or alienation from society. Radicalization frequently provides a strong new identity as well as meaning and purpose, which they believe are lacking.

Marginalization is frequently accompanied by sentiments of injustice and rage at the system or the majority group deemed unjust. Radical groups frequently capitalize on these feelings by depicting a shared enemy and offering a means of retaliating against perceived injustice.

People who are marginalized often feel lonely and alone. Radical groups provide a sense of belonging, fraternity, and support, which can be especially appealing to individuals who feel ostracized.

Individuals who feel marginalized may be more susceptible to radical propaganda promising social or political changes that seem fairer and promoting the narrative that radicalization is the only way to achieve that justice.

Discrimination and stigma experienced by marginalized individuals can reinforce their belief that mainstream or peaceful paths to change are ineffective, making them more likely to accept radical ideas as a legitimate alternative.

Although the UNICEF report states that the labor market has shown encouraging progress, with median household income returning to pre-pandemic levels at nearly RM3,000, it has not alleviated the anxiety of many people in dealing with living costs.

Economic inequality can increase stress levels and mental health issues, especially among low-income groups. Low-income individuals tend to have poorer access to healthcare, good nutrition, and education, contributing to health disparities.

Another concern is education, where parents face significant challenges in providing quality education. The challenges include additional costs such as extra tuition fees, daily expenses, transportation costs, and extracurricular activities.

Children from low-income families may have limited access to quality education, reducing their future income potential. Large income gaps can create environments where educational and job training opportunities are highly unequal, reinforcing cycles of inequality.

When most economic resources are concentrated among a few wealthy individuals, it can reduce incentives and resources for broader societal innovation and creativity. Significant income inequality can lead to a decline in overall life satisfaction and happiness due to feelings of injustice and inequality.

Difficult living conditions, such as poverty, unemployment, or living in high-crime neighborhoods, can exacerbate stress and aggression. Parents who struggle to manage their impulses or anger may exhibit violent conduct. Children raised in abusive or negligent situations are more likely to exhibit aggressive conduct.

At the same time, this anxiety contributes to the decline in mental health among low-income people, potentially leading to more aggressive behavior.

Regardless of the factors given, we must acknowledge that the income disparity in our country is quite severe. Large income gaps can have various negative impacts on society, the economy, and politics.

When income is concentrated among a few wealthy individuals, the purchasing power of the majority decreases. This can reduce domestic consumption, which is a key driver of economic growth.

Income inequality can hinder long-term economic growth as investments tend to focus on sectors that benefit only the wealthy.

Large income gaps make it difficult for individuals from low-income backgrounds to improve their economic status, reinforcing poverty cycles. Significant income inequality can lead to social dissatisfaction and tension, potentially sparking protests and unrest.

Substantial wealth inequality might raise crime rates because low-income groups may feel obliged to commit crimes in order to meet their basic requirements. Low-income people typically have less access to healthcare, adequate nutrition, and education, which contributes to health inequities.

When income gaps are narrowed, more people have access to better economic opportunities, stable jobs, and adequate income. This reduces the economic pressure that often drives individuals to join radical groups offering financial compensation or benefits.

With more equitable income distribution, access to quality education and job opportunities increases. Good education not only provides necessary job skills but also promotes critical thinking that can help individuals reject radical ideologies.

Economic inequality often leads to feelings of injustice and social dissatisfaction. When income gaps are reduced, social justice increases, reducing the anger and frustration that make individuals vulnerable to radicalization.

Narrowing income gaps allows more individuals to feel they have a significant role and place in society. This increases the sense of belonging and social involvement, reducing the appeal of extremist ideologies offering new identities and purposes.

Income inequality is often linked to discrimination and social stigma against lower-income groups. By reducing inequality, society can become more inclusive and appreciative, reducing the feelings of marginalization that often underlie radicalization.

Smaller income gaps are usually associated with more cohesive societies where people feel more connected and supported by their communities. Strong social networks can act as buffers against radicalization by providing emotional support and alternative resources.

Starting with an in-depth understanding of these factors can help the government design effective preventive strategies to combat terrorism and radicalization.

To prevent radicalization, a multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach is essential. This includes good education, improved economic conditions, social inclusion, fair policies, and deradicalization and reintegration programs for those already radicalized.When basic needs like financial security and economic opportunities are met, individuals are less vulnerable to radical propaganda exploiting economic hardships and promising drastic changes.

Reducing income gaps helps create a fairer and more stable society where everyone has better opportunities to thrive. This significantly reduces the factors driving radicalization and increases individuals’ resistance to extremist ideologies.Significant income inequality can hinder economic growth and stability, increase social and political tensions, and worsen social and health conditions for low-income communities.

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