Singapore

Acting PM Teo: Islamic teachers can help battle terrorists online

Acting PM Teo: Imams and accredited asatizah can guide youth away from ISIS

There have been 15 Singaporeans who have been detained or given restriction orders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after being radicalised by terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

All were below the age of 30, said Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who stressed how vulnerable the young were to online extremist and exclusivist ideology.

Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security, revealed that five of 15 were radicalised when they were still teenagers.

They had accessed online material that promoted extremism and violence, which played a significant part in radicalising them over time, according to Mr Teo. He was speaking at a breaking fast event organised by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang yesterday.

He underscored the importance of seeking help from the proper channels available.

"The guidance of families and friends is important," he said.

"We need to teach our people, especially the youth, that if they have questions on Islam, they should seek answers from the imams and asatizah who are accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, and not search the Internet in a haphazard and unguided way."

Mr Teo added that the terror threat Singapore faces is at its highest level since 9/11.

He warned that even if ISIS is eventually defeated, terror groups would "continue to push out extremist propaganda".

Mr Teo highlighted three rings of "trust and confidence" that have kept Singapore safe: security agencies that work round-the-clock, the trust and confidence Singaporeans have in the Muslim community and the bonds that stretch across communities of different beliefs.

His comments came two days after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that a 22-year-old had become the first Singaporean woman to be detained earlier this month under the ISA for radicalism.

Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, an infant care assistant and a mother of one, started to be radicalised by online propaganda in 2013, when she was around 18.

Although her family knew about it in 2015, they did not report her.

Mr Teo said Izzah's radicalisation could have been prevented if her family had sought help earlier, underscoring the importance of loved ones coming forward and seeking help.

He said: "If Izzah had gone to Syria to join ISIS, her family may have lost her and her daughter forever. Luckily, she was arrested in time and stopped."

Ustaz Ali Mohamed, co-chairman of the RRG, echoed Mr Teo's sentiments and urged parents to be alert if their children are "on the path to radicalism".

He said they could seek help from authorities like RRG, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), or an accredited asatizah.

"It is our duty to provide advice and guidance to our children and report them to the authorities should they choose to take the path towards violence," he said.

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