Singapore

Student, 17, detained under ISA for supporting ISIS group

MHA had tried to steer teen away from radical path in 2017, but he persisted in his support

A 17-year-old secondary school boy was detained last month under the Internal Security Act for supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

He is the youngest person detained under the ISA to date.

In a statement yesterday, the Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) said he was first investigated in September 2017 when he was 15, after he posted defaced images of President Halimah Yacob on social media and called on ISIS to behead her. Madam Halimah was elected as president of Singapore, which the student viewed as an "infidel" state.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) debunked the view that Muslims cannot live in a secular country and take up any roles in government or as the head of state.

"The Singapore Muslim community is a clear example of confident Muslims thriving in our secular and multi-religious context and actively contributing to our public institutions and society as a whole," said Muis.

The boy's journey to radicalisation began in 2017, when he was introduced to pro-ISIS social media groups by a foreign online contact. Through these groups, he gained access to what he believed was exclusive ISIS content, said MHA.

"In his eyes, ISIS was a powerful group that was fighting for Islam and its use of violence against its opponents was therefore justified."

After this came to light in 2017, MHA said it had tried to steer the boy away from the radical path, but he remained a staunch supporter of ISIS.

An MHA spokesman told The Straits Times that arrangements were made for the youth to undergo religious counselling, and its officers also reached out to him.

His parents were told so that they could keep a closer eye on him, she said. "Unfortunately... he persisted with viewing pro-ISIS materials online and hid his continued support for ISIS from those trying to help him."

MHA said the student continued to believe in ISIS, even with the demise of the terrorist group's so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and was willing to assist ISIS in its online propaganda efforts.

He was also willing to undertake other activities if called upon, the ministry added. But there were no signs that the teen had spread his pro-ISIS views.

The spokesman said in dealing with young people being radicalised, the key concerns are the security threat they pose, and how to steer them away from radicalism through counselling and monitoring. In the case of this boy, the intervention failed and the decision was made to detain him because of the seriousness of the threat he posed.

HOLISTIC ASSESSMENT

"Other options were considered, including placing him on a Restriction Order, but after a careful and holistic assessment, it was decided that this would not be in the public's interest, or his interest."

The youth will be placed on a holistic programme that comprises religious, psychological and social rehabilitation.

He will be granted family visits and an aftercare officer will be assigned to his family to provide social and financial support. Arrangements will also be made so he can continue with his studies.

"The decision to use the ISA against young persons is never taken lightly. This is why, in 2017, other efforts were undertaken to try and steer him away from his radical path, but these were ultimately not successful."

COURT & CRIME