KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — A university professor on the run over his alleged terror links was a staunch advocate of jihadism and martyrdom, according to colleagues who had worked with him in Universiti Malaya’s Islamic studies faculty.
Fellow lecturers interviewed by the New Straits Times claimed there was a noticeable change in Dr Mahmud Ahmad’s behaviour in late 2013, when he began openly preaching of every Muslim man’s responsibility to defend Islam at all costs.
“He was not discreet about his passion for jihadism and martyrdom. We would be chatting about the most mundane of topics and somehow he always managed to divert the conversation to these subjects,” a fellow faculty member told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
Mahmud, who also went by the name Abu Hanadzalah, is one of five men sought by police for their alleged ties to terrorist organisations.
He has been identified as a militant recruiter for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), along with Mohd Najib Husen — also known as Abraham — the operator of a photocopy and stationaries shop in UM, and Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee or Abu Nur, a secretariat staff with the Selayang city council.
Another colleague, who also declined to be named, said Mahmud had talked frequently about “struggles, wars and linking them to jihad”.
The senior academic noted that it was at the end of last year when Mahmud started emphasising his discussions on martyrdom and the holy war.
“Now that the police have said he is a wanted man, everything makes sense now,” the academic said.
The newspaper also claimed that Mahmud had written a journal titled “Iman Para Mujahidin”, or Faith of the Mujahidin, which is allegedly used as a guideline by one terror sect on Malaysia’s watch list, and that he had founded a religious school called Open Tahfiz Centre in Gombak, Selangor.
Staff at the centre said that Mahmud has been unreachable since January, adding that they were told to contact Muhammad Joraimee directly if they needed any help with the centre.
Muhammad Joraimee’s mother, meanwhile, told Malay daily Harian Metro that she was heartbroken to find out that her youngest son is a suspected terrorist.
She said that Muhammad Joraimee had quit his job with the Selayang council prior to flying off to the Philippines, and had even collected donations from their local mosque on the pretext of helping Muslim nations in turmoil.
“For 10 years he studied at al-Azhar University in Egypt, with no help from anyone, only using my money. I had scolded him before and stopped him from being involved in this movement, but he refused to listen.
“Now, I just leave it to fate. Even if he comes back and he is arrested, I leave it to God,” said his mother, who only gave her name as Siti.
Two others, Mohd Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil, both from Tawau, Sabah, are linked to Darul Islam Sabah, a group affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist sect based in the South Philippines.
All five men are believed to have left the country and are now in hiding in the South Philippines.