Sunday, 21 August 2016

4 self-radicalised Singaporeans who supported ISIS dealt with under ISA in August 2016

2 Singaporeans planning to join Islamic State detained
They were radicalised by Batam radio station; two others given Restriction Orders
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2016

Two Singaporeans planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) this month.

Rosli Hamzah, 50, a car washer, and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, 33, a waste truck driver, received two- year detention orders, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said.

In a statement yesterday, MHA also said two Singaporeans have been placed under Restriction Orders, which curtail their movements and activities.

One of them is Omar's wife, Dian Faezah Ismail, 34, the first woman to be dealt with under the ISA for terror activity in recent years.

The ministry said the two detained men had sought information online on how to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.

"There is growing concern that ISIS propaganda has led to an increase in the rate of Singaporeans being radicalised," MHA said.

Between 2007 and 2014, five citizens were detained and six placed on Restriction Orders. But since January last year, eight citizens have been detained and five placed on Restriction Orders.

Rosli searched for possible travel routes to Syria, while Omar contacted militants for travel advice.

One of the militants was from a South-east Asian country and was later killed in combat in Syria, the ministry said without elaborating.

Both Rosli and Omar became radicalised after listening to Radio HangFM, a Batam-based religious radio station that features speakers who preach extreme views.

Rosli began listening to the station in 2009, and was introduced to ISIS propaganda in 2014 by "social media contacts who shared his religious orientation", MHA said.

He became convinced that ISIS militants were fighting for Islam, and their beheading of 'enemies' was religiously permissible.

"Rosli was prepared to die for the ISIS cause," MHA said.

He was stopped for investigation last month when he returned from Batam after visiting his Indonesian wife and children, and was arrested.

As for Omar, he started to listen to the same station in 2010, and came across propaganda by radical Al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki in 2012. It led him to read more radical materials online, including from ISIS, and he became a believer of ISIS' warped ideology.

"By 2014, Omar was convinced that ISIS was fighting to bring glory to Islam, and that it was his religious duty to become an ISIS fighter in Syria," MHA said. "He was prepared to die a martyr."

Omar's wife, like her husband, came to believe the terror group's violent actions were legitimate, and helped him in his plans to relocate their family to Syria.

There is no evidence at this point that their children were radicalised, the ministry said. Dian has moderated her views and will undergo religious counselling, it said.

Also placed on Restriction Order is Mohamad Reiney Noor Mohd, 26, a building technician related to Dian and Omar by marriage. He decided in 2013 to adopt a more fundamentalist form of religious practice, and in 2014 came across radical ISIS-related material online.

After viewing ISIS propaganda, he aspired to fight for it and was prepared to die in battle. He also intended to take his family to Syria, MHA said.

But his views about ISIS were moderated after he read negative reports about the group.

"He has also set aside the intention to travel to Syria to join ISIS after he was admonished by a close relative that it was 'forbidden' for him to do so because the fighting in Syria did not concern him and he would be placing his family in harm's way," MHA said.

Reiney will also undergo religious counselling, it added.

There are now 18 Singaporeans and four Bangladesh nationals on Detention Orders, and 24 Singaporeans on Restriction Orders.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post that renowned Muslim scholars had refuted ISIS' teachings, "yet their tentacles are long and devious enough to reach our peaceful society". "Support us as we fight this scourge," he added.

ISA arrests: Batam radio station draws strong opposition for extreme leanings
By Arlina Arshad, Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2016

Armed with saws, a group of 300 Muslims gathered outside a radio station in Batam three years ago, threatening to cut its radio antenna if it did not stop airing extreme religious sermons.

"They shouted, 'If you don't stop criticising us, we will break down this post,' " the head of Indonesia's Religious Affairs Ministry in Batam, Mr Zulkifli Aka, told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday.

The authorities stepped in to control the crowd, and held a meeting between the protesters and clerics from the station, called Radio HangFM, to iron out their differences. The station's preachers then signed an agreement promising not to call people who refused to follow their teachings infidels, he said.

But it broke its word, and the provincial broadcasting regulatory body, called the KPI, sent a warning letter to the station early last year.

"The government has been monitoring the station closely since then, and we are now gathering evidence to shut it down. We can't simply close it for being against the mainstream as that's not a crime," Mr Zulkifli said.

The controversial radio station has a following among Batam's neighbours, and even as local residents take issue with its intolerant, divisive preachers, their extreme views appear to have played a role in the radicalisation of several persons.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday announced it had detained two self-radicalised Singaporeans and issued Restriction Orders against another two who had planned to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

The ministry noted that detainees Rosli Hamzah, 50, and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, 33, began listening to Radio HangFM in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

It is believed the station's extreme preachers made them more susceptible to being radicalised by ISIS propaganda in later years, observers noted.

Mr Zulkifli said Radio HangFM was set up by a Batam resident, Mr Zein Alatas, a bank officer who "suddenly underwent a transformation after mingling with clerics who studied in the Middle East".

The station can be accessed online and over the airwaves, and its website mentions an audience in "Batam, Singapore and Johor".

It airs mostly Quranic recitations and religious speeches by local Bahasa Indonesia-speaking clerics who hold extremely conservative and exclusivist views and reject local traditions and customs, even though these have long been practised by many Muslims in South-east Asia.

"They say cultural ceremonies like shaving a newborn baby's head and reading the Quran on Friday nights were not the Prophet Muhammad's way," he said.

The station, he added, had "tens of thousands" of listeners. Fans could call the station to get advice from its clerics and a number of them attended events it organised.

"The station plays no music, just Quranic reading and religious sermons non-stop. They say they are anti-terror, anti-radical and anti- ISIS," he said.

"Their problem is that they try to impose their views on others. Those who do not subscribe to these views are called misguided."

Mr Zulkifli added that he had been to a coffee shop in Singapore and noticed that "people were tuning in to the station".

Some of the station's followers in Batam have formed an "exclusive" group of about 500 people. The men wear white robes and keep long beards, and the women wear veils covering their faces except the eyes, he said. They have even built their own mosque and run their own elementary school in Batam.

"We are worried. If they are not stopped, they will surely break up the community and I won't rule out the possibility that it could lead to radicalism," he said.

"This is not the brand of Islam that Indonesia represents. We are inclusive and tolerant," he added.

Exclusivist teachings could prime listeners to ISIS propaganda
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2016

A Batam radio station's line-up of preachers with extreme views appears to have made some long- time followers more receptive to the terror group's radical ideology.

Two such listeners - Singaporeans Rosli Hamzah, 50, and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, 33 - were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) this month for planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Their cases highlight the danger of exclusivist teachings like those spread by the station, Radio HangFM, in priming individuals for ISIS propaganda, community leaders and experts interviewed said.

While these teachings may not directly encourage violence, they ask believers to stay apart from non-Muslims and Muslims who don't share their views, and this is a slippery slope, they added.

Radio HangFM has been criticised by the mainstream Muslim community in Batam for divisive leanings that, among other things, say Muslims should isolate themselves to maintain their purity.

Ustaz Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) that counsels terror detainees, said the station may purport to preach Islamic teachings, but listeners must critically assess if what they hear suits the context and environment they live in.

Teachings that exhort believers to keep other communities at arm's length are not suitable especially for Muslims in a multi-religious society like Singapore. "My understanding is that Radio Hang puts out exclusivist preachings," he said. "Such teachings are dangerous, even if they don't preach violence overtly, as they could lead to people being less tolerant and more receptive of violent preachings if there is no intervention."

The latest cases also highlight the danger of learning religion from open sources such as the Internet, social media, TV or radio programmes without having a credible teacher as a guide, said Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, director of religious and policy development at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

"Extremist and exclusivist ideas can be propagated in many ways, over the Internet or the airwaves," he added, stressing that there is no substitute for a proper learning support network of peers, family and especially credible local teachers registered under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme. "It is important that the community continues to be vigilant to the dangers posed by these ideas," he said.

Senior analyst Jasminder Singh of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research said it is not too far a stretch that listeners of such stations go on to make contact with like-minded individuals and travel to neighbouring countries, where they may be exposed to more extreme ideology.

In the case of Omar, he came across online material by Al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki in 2012. He later looked up more radical material, and contacted militants, including a South-east Asian fighter in Syria later killed in combat there.

"Nobody knows if what someone is listening to contains radical ideology, and it is easy to hide such messages inside sermons and talk shows," Mr Singh said.

"It is possible that listening to the radio station made the detainees more receptive to more radical materials later on. It is not yet a trend, but it is something we should be mindful of and guard against."

Indonesia wants clarification from Batam radio station
Answers sought after two S'poreans said they were radicalised after listening to its broadcasts
By Arlina Arshad, Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta, The Sunday Times, 21 Aug 2016

Indonesia's provincial broadcasting regulatory body said it will ask Batam-based Radio HangFM station for a clarification, after two Singaporeans detained under the Internal Security Act became radicalised after listening to its broadcasts.

Mr Suyono, deputy chief of broadcasting content at Indonesia's Broadcasting Commission in Riau Islands province, told The Sunday Times yesterday that it will also evaluate the station's content.

"We will meet their representative to get an official clarification and hold a dialogue, as soon as possible," he added.

Mr Suyono, who goes by one name, said the commission had sent a warning to the station last year for airing "differences in opinion about Islamic practice" which it considered "too firm in its delivery".

"Differing opinions means like the way one should pray. So, it's not to the extent of promoting terrorism and radicalism. Since the warning, we noticed they have changed and toned down their rhetoric," he said, adding that he noticed the station had recently been airing speeches rejecting terrorism.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said last Friday it had detained two self-radicalised Singaporeans who were planning to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group and issued Restriction Orders against two others.

Detainees Rosli Hamzah, 50, and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, 33, began listening to Radio HangFM in 2009 and 2010 respectively, MHA said.

Yesterday, an MHA spokesman said Radio HangFM "is a religious station which sometimes features speakers who preach extreme views", adding the Singapore authorities are "looking into all options" on whether to block the station.

Batam religious affairs chief Zulkifli Aka said that a group of Muslims had protested in 2014 over the station's content, which they found conservative.

The station agreed not to air "propaganda", including not "calling as infidels Muslims who don't subscribe to their beliefs", according to the agreement seen by The Sunday Times.

When this newspaper tuned in to Radio HangFM yesterday, an announcer was reading out a statement that called the media reports "untrue" and a bid to "discredit" the station.

A preacher then advised Muslims to follow Prophet Muhammad's way.

Mr Zein Alatas, the station's commissioner, told The Sunday Times yesterday that the management "strongly opposes all forms of radicalism and violence like it has been conveying all this while in its speeches".

The station broadcasts sermons by up to 20 Indonesian preachers, all of which, he said, were "based on the Quran and religious scripts".

Regarding the two Singaporean detainees, Mr Zein suggested that they could have become radicalised after reading "other materials in their own private time" rather than after listening to the station's preachers.

Family can play a key role to counter extremist inclination
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 20 Aug 2016

One of the two individuals placed under a Restriction Order this month supported her husband's intention to take up arms in Syria, and was helping him make plans to relocate their family there.

The other among the two had also wanted to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, but was dissuaded by a close relative from doing so.

That relative admonished him, saying it was forbidden for him to go as the fighting in Syria did not concern him and would place his family in harm's way, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Both cases show the pivotal role that family members play in either leading a misguided person further down or away from the path of radicalisation, security experts and community leaders said.

The two placed under Restriction Orders are Dian Faezah Ismail, 34, and Mohamad Reiney Noor Mohd, 26. Both have moderated their views about ISIS and will undergo religious counselling.

Dian's husband, Mohamed Omar Mahadi, has been detained for two years under the Internal Security Act.

"Family members can lead you astray, or they can steer you back in the right direction," said Mr Jasminder Singh of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research. He noted that many wives and children of fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia, who have gone to Syria, followed willingly as they looked up to the men.

This shows that family members hold a powerful and unique sway over one another, he said.

Agreeing, Mr Muhammad Faizal Othman, chairman of Taman Jurong Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC), pointed out that it was a close relative who managed to bring Reiney back from the brink. Family members are best placed to detect extreme viewpoints developing in an individual, and have a duty to be on the lookout. "These things can come up during family gatherings. The authorities can't know everything all the time," he said.

But he acknowledged that, just like in the case of Omar and Dian, family influence can have a negative effect too if two people reinforce each other's radical thinking.

"We see both sides of the coin when it comes to the impact of family ties," he said.

For Mr Alla'udin Mohamed, vice-chairman of Geylang Serai IRCC, the arrests are a lesson that relatives must remain involved in one another's lives so they can step in if they spot troubling behaviour: "After all, family is about looking out for one another. But to do that, we have to know what our children, siblings and other relatives are up to and stay close to them."

Dr Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), said family members may find it hard to notify the authorities out of familial loyalty.

But, for a start, they can monitor the misguided individual, give advice and explain why he or she is going down the wrong path.

Should they refuse to budge on their beliefs, there should be no hesitation to seek help from religious leaders, the RRG and the authorities as the family member would ultimately be acting in the relative's best interest, he added.

"You are not betraying your family. You are protecting and saving your loved one's life, and the lives of others," he said.

Muslim leaders call for all Islamic teachers to be registered with the Asatizah Recognition Scheme
Certification will give assurance to community that it is getting guidance from qualified religious teachers
By Chong Zi Liang, The Sunday Times, 21 Aug 2016

Muslim leaders here have called for a scheme that endorses religious teachers to be made stricter, amid the spread of extremist ideology on the Internet that has led to the radicalisation of some Singaporeans.

They want all asatizah to be registered with the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS), started in 2005 to help Muslim Singaporeans assess and recognise qualified religious teachers.

About 20 community and religious leaders asked for the scheme to be made mandatory yesterday at a closed-door dialogue with Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, where they discussed issues such as the economy and the threat of terrorism.

Their call comes a day after the Government announced the detention this month of two Singaporeans who planned to travel to Syria to fight with terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Since January last year, eight citizens have been detained under the Internal Security Act for terror activities, and five were placed on Restriction Orders.

Many of them had been radicalised through the extremist teachings of foreign preachers they came across online.

Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar told reporters after the dialogue: "It will be an important assurance to the community that the young get guidance on religious matters from those who are qualified to teach the religion, particularly in the context of a multi-religious Singapore."

Agreeing, Madam Rahayu Mohamad, president of the Singapore Muslim Women's Association, said parents will also be more confident about sending their children to madrasah, or Islamic religious schools if all religious teachers are certified.

Currently, 80 per cent of asatizah here are under the ARS, which has certified 1,700 religious teachers.

Muis is working with the Asatizah Recognition Board and the Singapore Islamic scholars and religious teachers association (Pergas), which oversee the scheme, to reach out to asatizah who are not certified, including older teachers who may not have had structured religious education, and informally trained younger teachers.

The recognition board's chairman, Ustaz Ali Mohamed, said graduates of religious studies come from various schools, including overseas universities, and there was a need to ensure they have a vision of Islam that is compatible with Singapore as a secular state. "The ARS helps to ensure that our asatizah avoid being influenced by external influences that are extremist and exclusivist in nature," he added.

The two men detained this month had listened to a Batam radio station that aired programmes preaching that Muslims should keep away from those who do not share their views.

Religious leaders here have emphasised the need for religious teachers to be aware of local sensitivities.

The Muslim community is looking at setting up an Islamic college here to produce home-grown religious leaders who are grounded in Singapore's unique multiracial and multi-religious society.

The plan to expand the ARS was first announced earlier this month by Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.

Ustaz Pasuni Maulan, a senior scholar with Pergas, said a small minority of religious teachers may be unreceptive due to a lack of awareness. But he added that they will see a need to come on board when they realise they can upgrade themselves through ARS programmes.

Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Abdul Hamid Abdullah said encouraging all asatizah to be certified will "clearly signal, not just to the Muslim community, but to the rest of the communities in Singapore, that we are concerned about getting the right, credible people to teach religious teachings".

End of the line for British hate preacher
Years of staying just beyond reach of the law end in guilty verdict over supporting ISIS
By Tan Dawn Wei, Assistant Foreign Editor, The Sunday Times, 21 Aug 2016

For years, Britain's most notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary has made no bones about wanting his birth country to adopt syariah law.

He held street protests, readily gave media interviews and spread his extreme Islamic beliefs in online lectures.

The 49-year-old famously said he wanted to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque, and praised terrorists such as the Sept 11, 2001, attackers and the killers of British soldier Lee Rigby, who was hacked to death on a street in London in 2013.

For all his inflammatory public pronouncements, he remarkably managed to stay out of trouble with the law, spewing hate under the banner of freedom of expression, but taking care never to cross the line into litigious territory.

Two years ago, the police finally nailed him when he tweeted his support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and signed an oath of allegiance to the militant group which appeared on a website.

Choudary might have thought it could be argued that he was pledging allegiance to the political ideology of an Islamic state, but jurors at London's central criminal court were convinced he was swearing loyalty to ISIS, an organisation that has been proscribed, or banned, in Britain since 2014.

Last Tuesday, the authorities announced that the court had found him guilty of encouraging support for ISIS, and he faces a possible jail term of 10 years.

The conviction is a major coup for British prosecutors, who have been trying to stem the preacher's powerful influence and bring him to court.

Charged under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes supporting a banned organisation a crime, Choudary is not an Islamic militant who built bombs and carried out deadly attacks, nor has he masterminded any terrorist plots.

But the radical ideology he spreads, much like other hardline clerics like Anwar al-Awlaki and Omar Bakri Mohammed, is potentially far more dangerous for the impact it has. The father of five has been linked to at least 15 terrorist plots and hundreds of his disciples are believed to be fighting for ISIS.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, said: "These men have stayed just within the law for many years, but there is no one within the counter-terrorism world that has any doubts of the influence that they have had, the hate they have spread and the people that they have encouraged to join terrorist organisations.

"Over and over again, we have seen people on trial for the most serious offences who have attended lectures or speeches given by these men."

Born to a Pakistani market trader in Welling in the London borough of Bexley, Choudary was known as "Andy" when he was a medical student at the University of Southampton. He later switched to law and, while he identified as a Muslim, he was also known to drink, party and take drugs.

He became deeply religious after meeting Syrian Islamic leader Omar Bakri Muhammad at a mosque shortly after he graduated.

Bakri founded Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist organisation in Britain that was later banned by the government. The radical Islamic group has been linked to at least 23 planned terror attacks in Britain, and has regrouped under different names after it was outlawed.

When Bakri fled Britain after the July 7, 2005, London bombings, Choudary took over the leadership.

Choudary has denied that he encouraged British Muslims to take up arms, insisting he was just a "lecturer in syariah law giving the Islamic perspective". In an audio clip that was on Choudary's YouTube channel and played to jurors, Choudary speaks of how he sees ISIS as meeting the criteria of a legitimate Islamic caliphate. He said that "obedience to the caliph is an obligation, if they rule by the syariah. And to obey them obviously means they must be established".

The authorities tapped 20 years of material in prosecuting Choudary, including assessing 12.1 terabytes of storage data on 333 electronic devices.

"It seems incredulous that he was allowed to continue all these years," said Mr Nick Lowles, executive director of advocacy group Hope Not Hate to The Washington Post.

"This really does put an end to his organisation. Others will try to step into his place. But the people who come after him won't have the same credibility or media profile."

Mr Patrick Dunleavy, the former deputy inspector-general of the New York State Department of Corrections and author of The Fertile Soil Of Jihad, warned that Choudary, when in prison, could continue proselytising "in an environment that guarantees him a captive audience of people who already have a disdain for government and a predisposition for violence".

"It remains to be seen whether Choudary will have direct contact or will communicate through kited letters or other illicit prison communication methods. But he will continue to get the radical Islamic message out unless the authorities stay one step ahead of him," he said.

Choudary's extensive web of terror
By Tan Dawn Wei, The Sunday Times, 21 Aug 2016

Anti-extremist advocacy group Hope Not Hate has called Anjem Choudary's Al-Muhajiroun network "the single biggest gateway to Islamist terrorism in the UK". Experts believe it has encouraged hundreds of radicalised Muslims to fight abroad and plan attacks on the home front.


Briton Richard Reid, 28, was seen at several Al-Muhajiroun events months before his failed attempt to bomb American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami with a bomb hidden in his shoe in 2001.


The four suicide bombers who blew up three underground trains and one bus on July 7, 2005, were all members of Al-Muhajiroun. Mohammad Sidique Khan, the group's leader, also used Al-Muhajiroun safe houses.


Two British men of Nigerian descent, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, hacked a British soldier to death in a street in London on May 22, 2013. They said they wanted to avenge Muslims killed by British armed forces. Both had been filmed at Choudary's rallies.


Choudary had given advice to Belgium's most prominent recruiter Fouad Belkacem on how to start a radical group. Sharia4Belgium was launched around 2010, with more than 50 members leaving to fight for ISIS and Al-Qaeda at the beginning.


Siddhartha Dhar, or Abu Rumaysah, was once a right-hand man to Choudary before he fled to Syria in 2014. He is said to have replaced Briton Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, as an ISIS executioner.


Singaporean Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, who was arrested and detained last month in Singapore, was an associate of Choudary. The Ministry of Home Affairs said Zulfikar, who had been living in Australia for 14 years, glorified ISIS in Facebook posts.

MHA: Issuance of Orders of Detention and Restriction Orders against Four Self-Radicalised Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act

MHA: Additional Comments from MHA on Orders of Detention and Restriction Orders against Four Singaporeans

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