The Malaysian Prime Minister’s headline appearance at this year’s Jeddah Economic Conference is a sign of Najib Razak and Malaysia’s growing international clout.
The leader of a majority Muslim nation, Najib is increasingly seen as one of South East Asia’s strongest voices in the fight against terrorism.
Najib has consistently promoted moderate Islamic values. At the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur last year, he condemned the Islamic State as a “new evil that blasphemes against the name of Islam”.
Under Najib’s leadership Malaysia joined the international coalition against ISIS and November’s ASEAN Summit saw it take on a dedicated role to combat ISIS’s online propaganda in South East Asia by establishing a regional messaging centre.
During his time as Prime Minister, Najib has forged stronger economic and security ties with the United States, signing up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and recently joining President Obama at the U.S.-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit in Sunnylands, California.
For his part, 2014 saw Obama become the first US President to visit Malaysia in fifty years. A second visit by Obama followed in 2015 when the two countries struck a deal to share intelligence.
Malaysia is also developing deeper strategic ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It has joined the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance for Combating Terrorism, and is participating, for the first time, in multinational military exercises in Saudi Arabia known as the “Thunder of the North”.
The two nations are also united by their desire to combat efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood to extend its influence into South East Asia.
January’s terror attacks in Jakarta were a tragic reminder of the vulnerability of the South East Asia to terrorism, a region where around 60 percent of the world’s Muslims live.
It is believed that the Muslim Brotherhood, having been declared a terrorist organization in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is seeking to move its international headquarters from Qatar to Malaysia and Turkey.
Najib was recently cleared of corruption allegations after it was revealed that a donation received in 2013 had not come from state agencies as claimed, but was in fact a gift of the Saudi Royal Family. The giving of the donation is consistent with a known Saudi tradition of supporting foreign allies with shared interests and values.
It has also been report that proponents of the false corruption allegations were supported in their efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood.