Thursday 28 May 2015

2 Singaporean youths radicalised by ISIS arrested, one of them detained under ISA for planning terror attacks

Singaporean teen aimed to join ISIS or launch attacks here
Student, 19, detained under ISA; he even thought of assassinating leaders
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

A SINGAPOREAN post-secondary student who made plans to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last month.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement yesterday that M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention of carrying out violent attacks in Singapore.

His detention comes amid growing concern globally that young people are being radicalised by ISIS - increasingly via the Internet - to take up arms in Syria.

Over 20,000 foreign fighters have already joined the ongoing battle in Iraq and Syria, including more than 600 from South-east Asia, and the group has been gaining ground in its recruitment as it makes gains on the battlefield.

The MHA said Arifil revealed that if he was unable to join ISIS in Syria, he intended to carry out violent attacks here. "He gave considerable thought to how he would attack key facilities and assassinate government leaders.

"If he was unable to carry out these plans, he planned instead to carry out attacks in public places in order to strike fear within our society, using easily available weapons such as knives."

Meanwhile, another Singaporean youth, aged 17, was arrested this month for further investigation into the extent of his radicalisation. He was not named. The MHA said his family will be kept informed of the investigation.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said terrorism remains a serious global threat and the arrests showed that young people in Singapore are also vulnerable to being radicalised.

"It is not just a problem that is 'over there' in some other countries. It is also a problem that is 'over here', in our region, and in Singapore as well," he added.

The MHA said Arifil was radicalised around 2013 after he started viewing terrorist propaganda online and soon began to support ISIS' radical ideology and violent tactics.

He also befriended individuals online who he thought could help him join the group.

He actively looked up travel routes to Syria online and researched ways of making improvised explosive devices.

The MHA said Arifil's plans for attacks here were corroborated by several people whom he tried to recruit to help with the plans. While they were not swayed, they also did not alert the authorities.

"Fortunately, another person who knew Arifil noticed the changes in him and brought him to the attention of the authorities, who were then able to investigate... and take action before he could carry out his violent attack plans in Singapore," said the MHA.

Community leaders said they were shocked and dismayed at news of the plans and that more had to be done to ensure young people were not swayed by radical ideology.

Ustaz Ali Mohamed, co-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which counsels terror detainees, said: "We need to post online moderate, correct messages... Some may believe what they view online because they themselves feel isolated or disaffected, so it's important that we try to engage and reintegrate them."

DPM Teo urged all communities in Singapore to continue to work together to counter radical ideology and preserve harmony.

"All of us must play our part. If you know or suspect anyone who is becoming radicalised, please notify the authorities early," he said.

"We must strengthen our community resilience, so that if an incident were to occur here, we can recover and emerge even stronger and more united."

ISIS backers set sights on Singapore targets
Group's online post cites Republic; its S-E Asia unit also gaining ground
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 May 2015

SINGAPORE has been identified as a possible target for attack by a recent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posting on social media, a report this week said.

ISIS supporters from the region have also cited the Philippines and the United States as targets, the report's author, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Jasminder Singh, told The Straits Times.

This development comes as Malaysia last month nabbed a cell with explosives targeting Putrajaya and the federal Parliament, and as Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry on Wednesday announced the detention of a 19-year-old student who made plans to join ISIS in Syria and carry out attacks here.

It is not the first time Singapore has been cited by radicals. Last year, extremist English-language magazine Resurgence cited the Phillip Channel and Sembawang Naval Base in a piece on how militants could attack at sea.

The threat to Singapore and the region is set to grow as ISIS' Malay archipelago combat unit, Katibah Nusantara, formed in Syria last August for South-east Asian fighters who find it easier to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia and Malay rather than Arabic, gains ground.

There are now more than 700 fighters from Indonesia and over 200 fighters from Malaysia fighting in Iraq and Syria, Mr Singh noted in the report published this week. While they make up a small proportion of over 30,000 foreign fighters from 90 countries, the unit scored its first major combat success last month, seizing five Kurdish-held areas in Syria.

The unit is likely to gain importance in ISIS' strategic goal of setting up a worldwide caliphate, with returning fighters mobilised to undertake attacks and even declare a new branch in this region.

"The downward slide of jihadist appeal and success since 2009 has been reversed by Katibah Nusantara's success in Iraq and Syria," Mr Singh wrote.

He said Malaysian fighters have also seized on local issues like the push for an Islamic penal code to win support. More recently, ISIS sympathisers online have called on Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar to go to Syria.

Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, says the unit poses a severe threat to Singapore and South-east Asia.

"It has multiple functions: to train people capable of carrying out attacks in Iraq and Syria, to instigate South-east Asians to mount attacks in their home countries, and to radicalise South-east Asians online, recruit them and physically facilitate their entry into Iraq and Syria," he said.

Hence, the strategy to counter this influence has to be multi- pronged, from engaging the community to exposing ISIS' evils online. Muslim leaders worldwide are also leading the effort to counter ISIS, he added.

They include Singapore's Mufti, Dr Fatris Bakaram, who said it was a religious obligation for Muslims here to report to the authorities those who pose a threat.

Ministers urge Singaporeans to raise the alarm early
The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

TWO ministers yesterday called on Singaporeans to play their part and alert the authorities to potentially radicalised individuals early, in the wake of recent arrests.

"All of us must play our part. If you know or suspect anyone who is becoming radicalised, please notify the authorities early," Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the recent discovery of youth seduced by radical ideology was "a reminder for us - parents, religious teachers, friends and community at large - to remain vigilant".

"We must do our utmost to reach out to young people who are in search of answers to problems confronting their generation," he added.

It is never pleasant for me nor the community to find out that we have youths who have been seduced by radical...
Posted by Yaacob Ibrahim on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Yesterday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced that M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, was detained last month for planning to join ISIS, failing which he intended to carry out violent attacks here. Another radicalised student, 17, was arrested this month for further investigations.

The MHA said that while Arifil had recruited several persons to help carry out his plans, they did not alert the authorities about him. Fortunately, another person who knew him noted that he had changed and reported him to the authorities.

Mr Edwin Tong, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said the best defence against radicalisation of the young was in family members and friends "being close to them, knowing what they are reading online, and observing any change of behaviour".

The MHA said family members, colleagues and others have a role to play in protecting fellow Singaporeans from radicalisation.

This should be done early, so that they can get guidance, supervision and religious instruction. It said anyone who knows or suspects that a person is radicalised should call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre on 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD) promptly.

ISIS videos 'tailored to appeal to youth'
Experts also point to some young people feeling disconnected from society
By Jasmine Osada, The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

THE grisly video clips put out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have shocked many, but they have also helped to radicalise a number of young people across the world, including here.

Yesterday, the detention of a 19-year-old Singapore student, radicalised after he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, once again drew attention to the question of why is it that some young individuals are attracted to such ideas.

In recent months, ISIS' gory footage has included the beheading of two Japanese hostages as well as a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive.

While the incidents drew widespread condemnation, there has nonetheless been a growing number of teens detected and detained for wanting to join ISIS in Syria and for plotting attacks elsewhere.

Academics and experts say the likely reasons behind the trend include a lack of maturity and the feeling of being disconnected from society, coupled with the easy availability and seductive quality of extremist material online.

"ISIS recruitment videos, like MTV videos, are made to look very attractive. Online content can be tailored to be very appealing to young people," said consultant psychiatrist Adrian Wang.

Dr Wang said teens who believe that they are not supported by society or who are disconnected from their communities and families can also find extremist ideology appealing as it gives them an opportunity to make a statement for themselves.

Subscribing to such ideology can also be a show of strength and a way for youth to push back against the society that they believe has left them out, he added.

Psychiatrist Brian Yeo noted that teens are also likely to find acceptance, solace and even guidance from radical groups online.

Such behaviour, he added, was similar to that of deviant groups, and was not limited to those claiming to be religiously right.

Because so much of ISIS' recruitment activity takes place online, it is easier for deceptive messages to be portrayed as the truth, as it is harder to verify what is true and what is not.

Said Dr Shashi Jayakumar, head of the Centre of Excellence for National Security at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS): "It is much easier to radicalise oneself through social media, rather than through a book or newspaper."

Some experts think that the problem may worsen.

Dr Yeo said that it is important that parents speak to their children about contentious issues, instead of rejecting them even when their opinions differ.

Parents can also let technology work to their advantage and stay ahead with online security solutions, said Mr Tan Yuh Woei, a senior director at Asean Symantec. One option is to use an Internet filter, which can limit access to certain sites and even monitor chats or instant messages.

But the nature of the Internet also means that online extremism may be hard to kill.

According to a BBC report in March, there are at least 46,000 Twitter accounts operating on behalf of ISIS. Youth are their most likely targets.

Said Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at RSIS: "Unfortunately, this trend will likely increase largely because we have yet to effectively counter ISIS ideology."

Revelations on teen met with shock and dismay
Religious leaders call on community groups to join hands to engage youth
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

THE latest revelations that a 19-year-old student was not only actively making plans to go to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but was also thinking about carrying out violent acts on this island if he could not go, were greeted with shock and dismay by both Muslim and non-Muslim leaders yesterday.

What was even more worrying, they noted, was that M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i had tried to recruit several others to join him, and none had alerted the authorities about it.

Several Muslim leaders interviewed yesterday said community groups could get together to do more to engage young people, educate them about the danger of ISIS, and take the battle against the militant group online.

"Organisations here need to band together and make youth development their main agenda: What kind of values we teach, what kind of information we should be providing, and what kind of people we want our youngsters to be in the future," said Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Azmoon Ahmad.

While some groups have over the years adapted lessons from abroad on engaging young people, what is lacking is a national approach to youth outreach, said Mr Azmoon, who also chairs the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group (ACG). The ACG looks after the welfare of terror detainees' families and helps reintegrate the men into society upon their release.

Ustaz Ali Mohamed, co-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), said organisations like the RRG and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) had to redouble their community outreach to prevent further cases of self-radicalisation.

Noting that individuals who succumb to radical teachings online tend to have "a very shaky understanding of the religion", he said the community is looking at ways to amplify the correct interpretation of Islam online.

Mr Azmoon said: "We should make it as easy to access accurate information about Islam on the Internet as it is to find ISIS-related material."

Even as such moves are welcomed, ACG founding member Abdul Halim Kader felt the process of countering the misuse of religious concepts online has to start offline, at home and in class.

"We could look at reintroducing some form of religious education for secondary school students so they are clear about what is okay and what is not," said Mr Abdul Halim, who is also president of community group Taman Bacaan.

He also suggested that Muis could hand out leaflets on the danger of radical ideology to Muslim households and set up a hotline for parents worried about the online habits of their young to call.

One thing leaders said they were grateful for in Singapore was that those outside the Muslim community understood the challenges they faced and that radical teachings are not part of Islam but a distortion of the faith.

Christian and Buddhist religious leaders told The Straits Times that they stood in support of their Muslim counterparts.

"We have openly come out and said before that these radicals do not represent what Islam is about, and we know this, having built bridges with the Muslim community," said Reverend Kang Ho Soon, a pastor at Trinity Methodist Church and member of the Inter- Religious Organisation.

All Singaporeans have a responsibility to inform the authorities if anyone tries to radicalise them, no matter the religion being exploited, said Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

"A terrorist act has nothing to do with religion. Such acts go against the teachings of all religions."

JUST IN: Two Singaporeans, aged 19 and 17, have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA). One of them was planning terror attacks in Singapore.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Radicalisation of teens a worry
The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

RECENT cases of teenagers who become radicalised online have drawn concern among security officials in the region and beyond.

In February this year, principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay of Malaysia's Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division warned that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was trying to lure girls as young as 14 and 15 into becoming militant brides.

His remarks came as police detained a 14-year-old girl from Muar, Johor, who had been in contact with militants in Syria, before she could board a flight to Cairo that month. She was to marry a 22-year-old student and had tried to travel without her family's consent, The Star reported.

But others managed to leave for Syria undetected. They included university student Syamimi Faiqah, 20, who left last October and was reported to have been planning to marry a Malaysian fighter, a former member of a rock band.

In Britain, close school friends Amira Abase, 15, Shamima Begum, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, were reported missing by their families in February and were later seen on closed-circuit television in Istanbul just before they left for Syria.

They are believed to have married ISIS fighters.

Here are recent cases of young people radicalised by ISIS who were detained in their countries:

Where: Austria

When: May 26, 2015

A 14-year-old Austrian boy who downloaded bomb-making plans to his PlayStation video game console was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to a two-year jail term.

The teen was accused of trying to bomb a Vienna train station and had allegedly been in contact with ISIS recruiters as well as Al-Qaeda supporters.

He had planned to carry out the attack before travelling to Syria to join ISIS, but was arrested last October.

Where: Canada

When: May 19, 2015

The Canadian authorities announced that 10 would-be militants were arrested over the weekend of May 16 and 17 at a Montreal airport as they were waiting to board a flight to Turkey. There, the teenagers planned to cross the border to neighbouring Syria, where they hoped to join ISIS. The youngest members of the group were only 15 years old, while their friends were no older than 18.

Where: Australia

When: April 18, 2015

Australian police arrested five teenagers in Melbourne linked to an alleged attack plan inspired by ISIS.

One of them, Sevdet Besim, 18, was charged with conspiring to commit a terrorist act on Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance that falls on April 25 and commemorates fallen Australian and New Zealand troops.

A 14-year-old boy in Britain was also arrested on the same day in connection with the planned attack.

Where: South Africa

When: April 5, 2015

A 15-year-old South African girl was pulled from a flight moments before leaving the country to join ISIS. Like the Canadian teenagers arrested in Montreal, the unnamed girl was also headed for Turkey, from where she allegedly planned to cross into Syria.

Three JI members released from detention
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

THREE Jemaah Islamiah (JI) members were released from detention last year after being assessed to determine that they no longer pose a security threat that requires preventive detention, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

They were identified as Sahrudin Mohd Sapian, Mohamed Rafee Abdul Rahman and Mohamed Rashid Zainal Abidin.

Sahrudin and Rafee were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in February 2012.

At the time, Sahrudin was described as a pioneer member of the Singapore JI network, and Rafee as having provided logistical support for the regional JI network.

Both were found to have undergone terrorist training in Afghanistan in 2000. After being detained for about two years, Sahrudin and Rafee were released from detention and placed on Restriction Orders (ROs) in February last year.

ROs regulate an individual's movements, and require him to seek approval when changing jobs, for instance.

The third released JI member, Rashid, who had undergone terrorist training in the southern Philippines, was detained in May 2006.

He was one of the five men involved in a failed 2002 plot to crash a plane into Changi Airport. He was released from detention and placed on RO in May last year.

Separately, ROs against five individuals were allowed to lapse between last June and April this year.

Of the five, four were JI members: Ab Wahab Ahmad, Syed Ibrahim, Ibrahim Mohd Noor and Jahpar Osman. The fifth was a self-radicalised individual, Muhammad Thahir Shaik Dawood.

All five men have been cooperative and responsive to rehabilitation efforts, the ministry said.

There are currently 10 persons in detention under the ISA, and another 19 people on ROs.

'Muslims must report those who may harm society'
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 28 May 2015

SINGAPORE'S top Islamic leader said yesterday that Muslims have a religious obligation to report to the authorities those who might pose a threat to society.

Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, the Mufti of Singapore, said parents and teachers must also be aware of the religious interests and activities of youth - including that they might seek alternative sources of teachings online.

He was responding to questions about two students who became radicalised online. One who made plans to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last month. The other was arrested this month for further investigation.

"If the religious behaviour and attitude of our family members and children are of grave concern, and may potentially cause a law and order issue, it is incumbent, religiously, to report this to the authorities," he said.

Parents should not see this as sacrificing their children but as a way of coming to their rescue. They could also turn to mosques and qualified religious scholars, or refer them to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

"It is our duty to ensure the right teachings of Islam prevail in our community. Misunderstood and twisted interpretations must not be given space and we must act as a community to ensure the right understanding of Islam at all times," he said.

Separately, a Muis spokesman said it has reviewed the content of its Islamic education programmes for children, youth and adults to now include topics such as jihad. This is to provide the right understanding of the term and to correct misconceptions. Facilitators can also discuss current issues during lessons, she said.

Private Islamic education centres also hold talks, including at mosques, to counter jihadist and violent ideas and to rebut ideas about killing that ISIS propagates.

Progressive, anti-radicalism messages also feature at Friday sermons at mosques.

"Beyond the specific issues in addressing radicalism, the common themes of sermons focus on the universal message of Islam, the concept of moderation, the need to receive religious knowledge from established authority and having a balanced worldview," the spokesman added.

The sermon today will be on the importance of vigilance and not letting loved ones be influenced by extreme ideologies.

"These and other ongoing efforts such as regular engagements with students, promoting cyber- wellness and encouraging vigilance within the community will be stepped up," she said.

Be alert to radicalisation threat: Ministers and MPs
Important for public to inform the authorities early if they suspect someone they know, says Masagos
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 29 May 2015

A DAY after it was announced that a 19-year-old student planning to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here had been detained, several ministers and MPs called on the public to be vigilant to the threat of radicalisation.

It was important to alert the authorities early if they suspect someone they know may be radicalised, before he does harm to himself or to others, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post. "That's the best way to save them," he added.

Mr Masagos later told The Straits Times the first course of action is not necessarily to detain a person who has been brought to the authorities' attention.

"Many people think that if they bring it up to the authorities, they will just lock them up. No, we will not do that. As far as possible, we will let them meet people with expert knowledge and clarify the doubts sown on the Internet and correct their mindset," he said.

"We want to nip it as early as possible so there's a chance of them coming back to the right path," he added.

In announcing the detention of M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, on Wednesday, the Home Affairs Ministry said he had shared his plans to carry out violent attacks on Singapore soil with several people and tried to recruit them.

Investigations showed that while they did not fall prey to his attempts, they did not alert the authorities about him either, until another person who noticed the changes in Arifil reported him.

But even as some found the fact that Arifil's heinous plans went unreported for some time worrying, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law Hri Kumar Nair saw a silver lining.

"The positive message is that he tried to recruit others and he didn't succeed. It shows that the community is, by and large, sensible and not swayed by propaganda. It shows resilience within the community," he said.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob also agreed that the community plays a key role in countering the threat of extremism.

"All the cases that I have read of radicalised youth everywhere describe how people around them notice that they have changed and know that something is wrong," she said on Facebook. "Family members, friends and Islamic religious teachers play a very important role in helping such youths so that they can be properly guided before they stray too far."

Investigations showed that Arifil's radicalisation began around 2013, after he started viewing terrorist propaganda online. He looked up travel routes to Syria as well as information on making improvised explosive devices.

He also revealed that if he was unable to go to Syria, he planned to attack key facilities and assassinate government leaders here. Should those plans fail, he planned to carry out attacks in public places, such as with knives.

In a Facebook post, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin urged parents to be more aware of the influences their children were being exposed to online, "just as you would not let a stranger into your house to teach your child".

Responding to a comment by a Facebook user, Mr Tan said he suspected ISIS could be "seductive to non-Muslims too, just as there are various causes and cult groups out there who actively try to reach out and recruit".

He also said: "We must strengthen our community resilience so that these influences do not strain our bonds."

The threat of self-radicalisation looms large in a digital age, as extremist propaganda spreads online. What can family members and friends do to keep their loved ones from being influenced by radical ideology, and how do you spot the warning signs?
The Straits Times, 29 May 2015

What are the signs to look out for?

FOLLOWING the recent arrests of two self-radicalised youths, there have been calls for the community to play a part in identifying persons who might have been influenced by extremist propaganda, and to alert the authorities.

Experts said there are telltale signs that family members and friends can look out for.

Dr Munidasa Winslow, a psychiatrist at Novena Medical Centre, said this could be a sudden change, like spending more and more time on religious practices.

Typically, the individual is also likely to be withdrawn, secretive and spend a lot of time online.

Said psychologist Carol Balhetchet: "Family or friends or neighbours would say something and they would walk away or get very aggressive about it, and be very opinionated about something... The main sign is they isolate themselves and don't seem to have many friends."

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said most of these individuals "are marginalised" and probably neglected by their parents. "They don't have people to turn to or mentor to turn to," he added.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari, a former school principal, said the "trigger point" to report someone to the authorities is knowing that he or she is sympathetic to the ideas of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). "Sympathising with the ISIS cause is, I believe, the first step in terms of wanting to join in the terrorist cause," he added.

The Ministry of Home Affairs told The Straits Times that when a report is made, initial investigations will be carried out. In appropriate cases, the person may be referred for counselling and other mitigation measures without the need for arrest.

Counselling or rehabilitation programmes are tailored to the person's specific circumstances, including age, it said. Should it be necessary, the person could be arrested for further investigations. But this will depend on the extent of radicalisation, and the risk and potential threat the person poses.

What is the typical profile of a teen vulnerable to being radicalised?

TEENAGERS who are isolated from their families, who do not feel close to their loved ones, or who are detached from their social communities such as schools, can be easily influenced by radical ideology from terror groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, a clinical psychologist and senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

"These are the same sort of young people who would join gangs, because they do not feel committed or feel like a part of their social group," she said. "They may be loners in school or loners in their family unit. These teens are the ones who would easily fall prey to outside influence."

Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, head of policy studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said some young people who are unemployed or bored may also be susceptible as they seek adventure and excitement abroad.

Psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng added that teenagers can also lack the ability to understand the consequences of their actions while acting on impulse.

"The immediate gain that they see from joining an extremist group, such as the sense of glory or the reinforcement they get, are very attractive to them. They do not think about what is going to happen to them in five years or even in one year," said Dr Lim.

"It is this impulsiveness that sometimes tips them over and makes them decide to do something to prove themselves to these extremist groups."

What can parents and others do?

PARENTS play a key role in keeping their children on the straight and narrow.

For a start, they can take greater interest in what their children are doing and pay more attention to what they are exposed to on the Internet, experts say.

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, suggested: "Keep the computer or devices out in the open, so that the parents can see what they are doing."

Parents also have to sit their children down for a talk if they suspect that something is amiss.

Dr Munidasa Winslow, a psychiatrist at Novena Medical Centre, said they can start by asking open-ended questions such as what they think about radical beliefs, for example.

"It also depends on how much they trust you to talk to you about it. It is a bit like having a conversation about sex. There must be a safe place, a safe time and a safe person," he added.

However, in doing so, experts said parents should not judge or victimise their children.

"Try to understand what is the reason he is being radicalised. Is it because the parents are not paying enough attention, or is there bullying in school, is he being ostracised or having other social issues at hand?" Dr Lim said.

There could also be other reasons, for instance, the individual may have psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or depression.

Nevertheless, the "best thing" to do is to seek professional help as family members may not be able to deal with the issue, said Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society.

"Bring them to the family service centre, bring them to a government agency or authority who is equipped to refer them to more professional help or the right authority to contain the situation," she said.

Why is extremist propaganda so attractive to teens?

PROPAGANDA put out by ISIS to sell concepts like the Islamic State, the Caliphate and their call for Muslims to migrate to Syria is portrayed in a jazzed-up manner that captures the imagination of some youth, said Mr Mohamad Alami Musa, the Head of Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme at RSIS.

These ideals are not part of mainstream Islamic teaching, but have been made even more appealing by the high-quality videos uploaded and widely-shared online by the terrorist group.

"The ideology has been packaged with such gloss, sound and colour. The content is also being distributed with the clever use of social media, which resonates with young people," he said.

"These things are attractive to young minds who have this idealism of wanting to change the world. Such content makes it very tempting to be swayed by such virulent ideology."

Psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng says the violent images shown by ISIS can also be a reflection of the power the group has, and this might attract youth in search of strong and protective figures.

"Marginalised youth who feel that they are vulnerable within their own communities may think that these extremist groups can help protect them," he said.

The promise of having a better life by joining a terrorist group may also appeal to some youth, especially if they are isolated from their families or society, added Dr Carol Balhetchet.

"It is the promise of things to come, versus what they have right now," she said.

Schools on alert for students at risk of self-radicalisation
Guidance to be given to those who may be influenced online, says MOE
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 30 May 2015

TEACHERS and counsellors in schools as well as institutes of higher learning such as polytechnics and universities are on the lookout for students who might be at risk from the threat of self-radicalisation, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has said.

Its comments yesterday come amid concerns over how some young people might be easily swayed by radical ideology that has been proliferating online, and which has led to a number of cases of students being radicalised here.

A ministry spokesman told The Straits Times in response to queries that teachers and counsellors "keep an eye out for students who are at risk of becoming radicalised". Guidance will then be provided to students who are seen as vulnerable to being influenced by extremist propaganda online, the spokesman added.

News of the arrest and detention of a 19-year-old Singaporean youth for terrorism-related activities, announced on Wednesday, has put the focus on the role of the community in detecting youth who might have been swayed by the proliferation of extremist material on the Internet.

The Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i had planned to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and, if he was prevented from leaving Singapore, intended to carry out attacks here, including to kill government leaders.

Another 17-year-old teen, who was not named, was also arrested for further investigation into the extent of his radicalisation.

In its reply, MOE highlighted measures that are already in place to help students be more discerning about online content. They include a cyber-wellness programme, implemented in schools since 2008. MOE said the programme "helps the students to be more aware of the negative aspects of online information, to make more informed and responsible decisions".

As for students in polytechnics and universities, the ministry said they are also given opportunities to discuss issues related to the responsible use of media and its potential misuse through "a mixture of compulsory and elective modules and institution-wide programmes".

In addition, students from primary to junior college levels also attend character and citizenship education classes in schools, where they are taught skills and values such as respect for one another, harmony and resilience.

Schools in Singapore also mark Racial Harmony Day annually to help promote inter-racial understanding among students.

Such initiatives are steps in the right direction, but psychologist Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said a more targeted approach may be needed to "sieve out the handful" who may be more vulnerable.

"Putting warning signs, advising them from top-down is not going to work," she said. "We need to hear them, teachers need to talk to them. Maybe we can have a separate programme, like a workshop, in a smaller setting, so the engagement can be more individualised," she added.

MOE said students also participate in activities outside the classroom, such as dialogues with community leaders, to better understand the importance of social cohesion amid the terror threat.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Hawazi Daipi said schools and teachers will continue to work with parents and the wider community to instil the right values in students, "and to ensure that those at risk of being under the influence of radical ideology are detected early and given proper guidance and help."

Families play key role in ensuring youth understand the religion: Muis
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 30 May 2015

SINGAPORE Muslims play a crucial role in keeping family members and youth on the right path, so that they can reject deviant or radical ideas, especially those that support terrorism and are against Islamic teachings.

This reminder was highlighted in a Friday sermon prepared by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and delivered at mosques here yesterday.

"If we are unable to advise or guide them, we must refer them to those who are capable of tackling this," the sermon added.

It comes two days after the announcement that a Singaporean youth planning to join terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here, M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, was detained last month under the Internal Security Act.

Citing his arrest, the sermon said: "Not only do we need to ensure that our children are practising the religion and understand it, but we are also responsible in ensuring that the religious education received are the correct teachings.

"This becomes more imperative in view of the current ISIS terrorist group, which misuses the name of Islam to commit killings and terrorism, (including) through the active use of social media."

Countries around the world, and in particular Muslim communities, have been concerned about extremists using social media to groom young Muslims who often become radicalised and leave home without their families knowing.

Analysts say many of the young people lack a proper understanding of Islamic concepts and readily buy into distorted interpretations.

Another Singaporean, aged 17, was arrested this month for further investigations into his radicalisation.

Yesterday's sermon urged the Muslim community to ensure that children and family members are equipped with religious knowledge to build self-resilience and to help them recognise and reject deviant and radical ideas.

"We must also be conscious of the changes in behaviour and attitude of our children or family members. This is especially if we have witnessed changes in their attitude and religious outlook which seem to be tilted towards radicalism," the sermon said.

"For example, when they start to be rigid in giving views on issues related to religion-associated political thought, such as the discussion of the establishment of the Islamic State, or the caliphate. These issues require critical research and reading to ensure that one is able to acquire the correct understanding."

Mr Mohamed Nassir Abdul Sukkur of education group Simply Islam said the family is a core player in addressing religious doubts.

"If you have a strong, closely knit family, the parents will be aware if their child's behaviour changes, and will try to find out more and answer any questions.

"But if the family is distant, the parents too busy, children will seek attention elsewhere. They will seek answers elsewhere, and usually that is the Internet," he said.

The sermon advised worshippers unable to guide family members themselves to get help from counsellors and certified religious teachers or to consult mosques or the Mufti's office.

"Do not let them be misguided as that will only harm themselves, us and the community at large. Indeed, it is our responsibility to help our brethren, whether he or she is the one committing evil or the victim of an evil act," the sermon said.

It noted: "Prophet Muhammad explained that we help those who are committing evil by preventing them from continuing the evil act."

Ministers weigh in on terror arrests
By Calvin Yang, The Sunday Times, 31 May 2015

Singaporeans have to be more watchful, and take the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and radicalisation seriously, but there is no need to be overly paranoid and let the recent terror scares affect daily lives.

This was the message from Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday, as he called for more to be done to reach out to Muslim youths who may be isolated and get them more involved in the larger community.

Dr Yaacob, who is Communications and Information Minister, also said parents, friends and teachers could be sensitive to tell-tale signs, such as when an individual displays drastic changes in his behaviour, and be ready to report to the authorities if they suspect that someone is being radicalised.

"I know it's difficult for parents to reveal to the authorities some of the challenges that their kids may be facing," he told The Sunday Times. "But at the end of the day, if parents feel they are unable to help their kids, the best recourse is to turn to people who know how to."

He noted that there are a host of resources to tap into, including religious teachers and government agencies, and appealed to parents to employ as many as possible. "It's really for helping him or her, and to help the community and to help the family," he said.

Dr Yaacob was among several ministers who commented yesterday on last week's announcement that 19-year-old student M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i had been detained under the Internal Security Act in April. He had planned to join ISIS, but if he failed to leave Singapore for Syria, he intended to kill President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

A 17-year-old student has also been arrested and is being investigated over his radicalisation.

Asked what could have attracted them to ISIS' ideology, Dr Yaacob highlighted how such youths are typically isolated from their families and communities.

"They are looking for a cause, a challenge, answers. Maybe ISIS offers something to them. This is where an alternative narrative is important, for us to tell them that this is wrong and there is another thing better for you," he said.

He stressed the need to reach out to such youths and guide them towards constructive activities, such as charitable work and youth groups: "Rather than leave them alone, we should engage them."

He cited yesterday's launch of the Wakaf Heritage Trail, which saw 180 students aged 11 to 18 join a race around Kampong Glam, as an instance of such engagement.

Dr Yaacob also later attended a networking session with participants in Mendaki's youth mentoring programme, and shared his experiences as a former mentor.

Separately, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the true strength of a society is not just in whether it can prevent terrorist activity, but how it recovers when something does happen.

"This can't be done by the Government alone. It has got to be the community," he said at the launch of the two-day National Futsal Championship, which kicked off with an exhibition match between teams with players of different races and faiths.

"Every event like this which brings together people and community leaders... builds strength within society. That is fundamental."

And Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran told Tamil Murasu the terror threat is a problem faced by society as a whole and not just one particular community's challenge.

"The consequences of those wrongful actions will have adverse impact on all of us, regardless of the communities or religious backgrounds we belong to. The nature of the threat is such that it requires all of us to step forward," he said.

* Singapore youth placed on Restriction Order
He was radicalised after viewing videos and materials online: MHA
By Wong Siew Ying, The Straits Times, 30 Jun 2015

The restrictions take effect from this month.

The youth, who was not named, was held to probe the extent of his radicalisation.

The investigation shows he became radicalised after viewing videos and materials on websites and social media materials propagated by "radical ideologues and terrorist elements", the ministry said.

"He had wanted to engage in armed violence alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had started making preparations to carry out his plans," its statement added without elaborating on the plans.

Now, under the Restriction Order (RO), he must attend religious counselling and stop going online to get violent or extremist materials.

He is also not allowed to leave Singapore without official permission or to issue public statements.

His release on an RO "provides a balance between rehabilitation and preserving public security", the ministry said.

"Further measures will be taken against him if he breaches the conditions of the RO, or if it is assessed that further measures are needed to protect public security," it added.

His arrest follows the detention in April of another youth under the Internal Security Act for terrorism-related activities.

M. Arifil Azim Putra Norja'i, 19, had planned to carry out violent attacks in Singapore and to assassinate President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong if he was unable to go to Syria to join ISIS.

The ministry, in announcing his detention last month, said the teenager is the first known self-radicalised Singaporean to harbour the intention to carry out violent attacks on home soil.

It also disclosed that Arifil had, among other things, actively looked up travel routes to Syria on the Internet and researched ways of making improvised explosive devices.

The ministry's statement reiterated that the community has an important role to play in protecting fellow Singaporeans from radicalisation and terrorism.

Family members and the public may call the Internal Security Department Counter-Terrorism Centre's hotline on 1800-2626-473 (1800- 2626-ISD) should they know or suspect that a person has been radicalised.

"This could save such individuals and allow them to be helped and counselled, so that they are prevented from engaging in violent activities that may cause harm to themselves and others," the ministry said.

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