Thursday, 11 June 2015

Helpline to be set up to counter ISIS propaganda

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2015

A HELPLINE will be set up next month for people worried that their family members or friends may fall prey to radical ideas.

Giveaway signs could be the unusual amount of hours they spend surfing for violent material, following social media sites linked to terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or expressing radical views about current affairs.

But people who want to better understand concepts like jihad or the caliphate can also call the helpline on 1800-774-7747.

The hotline was announced by the co-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), Ustaz Ali Mohamed, at the group's retreat yesterday on "Protecting our youth from violent extremism".

The RRG, with more than 30 Islamic religious teachers, was set up in 2003 to counsel detained members of terror group Jemaah Islamiah, and has gone on to counsel self-radicalised individuals and educate the community about the dangers of extremism.

Its volunteers will man the helpline, which is one of several measures Singapore's Muslim religious leaders are taking to counter ISIS propaganda.

The other counter-measures are a new manual on refuting ISIS' extremist narrative, and RRG leaders stepping up public education through talks before Friday sermons at mosques.

In April, a 19-year-old Singaporean was detained under the Internal Security Act for making plans to join ISIS and, if he could not leave the country, to kill President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

A 17-year-old student was arrested last month for investigation into the extent of his radicalisation.

Ustaz Ali said such radicalised young people displayed an understanding of Islam that was "both shallow and narrow". They may also grow distant from their parents, said an RRG counsellor, Ustaz Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan, who cited how a worried father asked the group for help when his son "unfriended" him on Facebook and showed signs that he sympathised with ISIS.

To educate the community about the dangers of radicalism, the RRG is working with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to give talks before Friday sermons at mosques. They started last week, with the RRG co-chair, Ustaz Hasbi Hassan, speaking in Ang Mo Kio and the vice-chair, Ustaz Mohamed Ali, in Clementi.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, also spoke at the retreat. He said security agencies and the community have to work together to protect the youth from radical influences.

He was also glad the RRG had made progress in countering ISIS ideology, and in reaching out to the youth through social media.

The message that different communities can live together in harmony in Singapore's multi-racial, multi-religious society must also be put across, he added.

"This is a precious legacy built by our founding leaders and pioneers," he said. "This peace and stability serves as the foundation for our social and economic development."

Security expert Bilveer Singh said that while the new measures will help counter ISIS' appeal, it is important that they are delivered effectively, like through charismatic young people who are respected by their peers. "Otherwise, it would be lost even before the message is delivered," he said.

New RRG helpline 1800-7747747 manned by religious counsellors available to clarify religious concepts misused by...
Posted by Teo Chee Hean on Monday, June 29, 2015

Joined Religious Rehab Grp members at annual retreat, and thanked them for their good work. New counselling manual to...
Posted by Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Guide for counsellors dealing with radicalised youth
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2015

ON FACEBOOK pages and Twitter posts, in blogs and YouTube videos, members of terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its supporters argue that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to take up arms and live in a caliphate.

These views, however, are a distortion of Islamic teachings, a point that is being emphasised in a new guidebook for Muslim religious leaders to use to debunk ISIS' propaganda.

The 130-page manual is put together by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), a group of Singaporean Muslim scholars who counsel terror detainees and radicalised individuals.

It contains material that counsellors can draw on when they deal with radicalised youth.

"The manual provides arguments to debunk ISIS' caliphate, its view on obligations of jihad and several other narratives of ISIS," RRG co-chairman, Ustaz Ali Mohamed, said at its launch yesterday at the group's annual retreat. "It discusses topics such as Muslims living in a secular environment, and the need for critical thinking to evaluate religious sources," he added.

ISIS messages have radicalised youth from all over the world, driving them to travel and join the terror group in ISIS-held territories in Syria and Iraq, where there are an estimated 30,000 foreign fighters.

The manual also has information on ISIS' evolution and organisation, and efforts by globally renowned Islamic scholars in quashing ISIS rhetoric.

These scholars, as well as RRG leaders, explain why the caliphate declared by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is illegitimate, and that taking up arms in both Syria and Iraq is not a legitimate jihad, or struggle.

RRG vice-chairman, Ustaz Mohamed Ali, said the issue of jihad remains one of the most misunderstood religious concepts today.

"We hope that discussing jihad will explain to Muslims as well as non-Muslims that the fight in Syria and Iraq is not an obligation, as some may believe," he added.

The manual also counters ISIS' exploitation of Islamic beliefs like declaring certain Muslims and non-Muslims as unbelievers who can be attacked.

"The counter-narrative we provide is that we have a rich tradition of co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims in this region, not just in the last 10 or 15 years, but for more than 500 years," said RRG counsellor, Ustaz Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan, a senior research analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He also hopes young people will critically evaluate what they come across online: "Many think the information they get on the Internet is real knowledge without applying any thought process."

No comments:

Post a Comment