Thursday, 22 June 2017

2 Singaporean auxiliary police officers arrested under ISA for terrorism-related offences in June 2017

One detained for planning to fight in Syria; friend on Restriction Order for supporting him
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

Two Singaporean auxiliary police officers have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their links to terrorism, in what is believed to be the first such case involving uniformed personnel.

Describing the arrests as "chilling", Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said: "These two were trusted to protect our society, but instead chose to endanger it."

The men were fellow AETOS officers at Woodlands Checkpoint when they were nabbed last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has since been detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, has been placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his plan.

When Khairul was arrested, his job as an outrider with traffic enforcement duties did not require him to be armed, the ministry said. The Straits Times understands, however, that he has had weapons training and has performed armed duties before.

News of the arrests comes one week after MHA revealed last Monday that Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, had become the first Singaporean woman to be detained for radicalism under the ISA. The infant care assistant planned to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Like her, Khairul became radicalised after going online to gather information about the conflict in Syria. He started to do so in 2012.

"Khairul perceived the Syrian conflict to be a 'holy war' in which he was prepared to die in battle as a 'martyr' and receive divine rewards," MHA said. In 2014, he tried to contact a foreign militant and Free Syrian Army (FSA) supporters on Facebook.

At the point of his arrest, he was still interested in engaging in armed violence in Syria. The ministry said his readiness to resort to violence in pursuit of a religious cause makes him a security threat to Singapore.

Several of Khairul's relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward, said MHA.

His colleague Rizal was working as an armed officer conducting general security duties at the checkpoint when he was arrested.

He knew about Khairul's plan to travel to Syria to fight, the ministry said, but he "not only failed to bring the matter to the attention of the authorities or the AETOS management, he even suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria and die there as a 'martyr' ".

As an auxiliary police officer, he should have tried to dissuade Khairul and reported him to his superiors, MHA said. Rizal was placed on a Restriction Order that curtails his movements and activities. Both men are no longer with AETOS. Their last day of service was June 1.

The ministry said: "The Government takes a serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place. This is particularly so if the person involved is a public servant, and especially if he or she is a uniformed officer."

AETOS said it will seek to educate its staff on the risks of self-radicalisation and train its supervisors to spot the signs.

The ministry added: "We strongly urge the public not to let the cases of Khairul and Rizal detract from the good work of the wider pool of Muslim police officers, or affect their confidence in our police officers."

Islamophobia as bad and unacceptable as terrorism, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

Islamophobia is as bad and unacceptable as radical terrorism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He warned against letting anti-Muslim sentiments take root, hours after news broke that two Singaporean auxiliary police officers had been arrested under the Internal Security Act for their links to terrorism.

Mr Lee cited the incident in London earlier this week - when a Caucasian man drove his van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers leaving the mosque, and killed one person - as an act of Islamophobia.

Mr Lee was attending an iftar session last night at Tanglin Police Division Headquarters in a show of support for the uniformed services.

The arrests of two AETOS officers, announced yesterday, and the detention of infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari this month, have struck close to home, he acknowledged. However, he stressed that security forces such as AETOS, Certis Cisco and the Home Team have done an outstanding job in keeping Singapore safe.

It is one of the safest places in the world, without being heavily policed. "You don't see people with guns at every street corner, and yet you feel safe," said Mr Lee.

Officer 'didn't show obvious signs of radicalisation when hired'
Shanmugam cautions employers against looking at race or religion when hiring
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh and Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

To vet Muslim candidates any differently from others when hiring people could backfire, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

In any case, no vetting process would have detected an auxiliary police officer's radical leanings when he joined the force, he added.

He told reporters there were no obvious signs that Muhammad Khairul Mohamad, who has been detained under the Internal Security Act for planning to fight in Syria, had been radicalised.

Khairul, 24, had studied at the Institute of Technical Education and held several odd jobs before joining AETOS in 2015, where his most recent duty was to help control traffic.

He had begun reading about the conflict in Syria online in 2012 and, in 2014, tried reaching out to a foreign militant and supposed supporters of the Free Syrian Army.

Mr Shanmugam said there were no obvious signs of radicalisation when he was hired in 2015. "It would be very wrong to suggest that employers start vetting Muslim candidates in a different way. That will have the very opposite effect of what you want," he said.

He was commenting on the arrests of Khairul and a fellow officer for terror-related offences.

Last night, the Home Affairs Ministry spelt out the stringent selection criteria for officers, including doing security and background checks.

The ministry also strongly urged people not to let the duo's actions diminish the good work of the wider pool of Muslim police officers: "The overwhelming majority of our Muslim police officers perform their duties diligently."

Mr Shanmugam also cautioned employers against thinking along racial lines, or looking at the race or religion of potential hires.

He added that Singapore's social compact is strong enough to withstand the latest arrests, and the firm bonds between the different races and religions will stand the country in good stead.

Still, observers stressed the need to prevent radicalisation, especially among security staff.

AETOS said its officers must meet stringent selection criteria and undergo a strict testing regime, but it is "neither easy nor always possible to detect signs of radicalisation in every case".

It reminded employees to report unusual behaviour among their colleagues so they can get help, and said leaders and commanders will continue to hold regular dialogues with front-line officers.

Private security firm Certis Cisco said it has a whistleblower policy for officers to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisal.

This allows the company to detect malpractices and misconduct, as well as officers who harbour radicalised ideologies or abnormal tendencies, its spokesman said.

Mr Remy Mahzam, an associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, suggested that all front-line officers could be subjected to a more serious screening process, where their inclinations would be assessed through interviews, aptitude tests and personality assessments.

Such examination could include questions on their perspective on their country, multi-culturalism, religious tolerance and sensitivities towards other races and faiths, he said. But officers need to be aware of the part they play on the front lines of ensuring Singapore's safety, he added.

"Their roles are more heroic and prestigious as compared to any motivation to join extremist groups," he said.

Mr Shanmugam also warned other communities against Islamophobia.

"It is our duty to reach out and make sure that the Muslim community feels and continues to feel the bond, and be able to strengthen these bonds," he added.

At the same time, Muslims, especially community and religious leaders, must also ensure that such bonds with other groups endure.

Meanwhile, Singapore has looked to diversify its sources of auxiliary police officers.

Certis Cisco started recruitment of Taiwanese earlier this year, making them the first group of potential auxiliary police officers who are not Singaporean or Malaysian.

Mr Shanmugam noted that there are now several thousand officers from Malaysia due to the difficulty of getting more Singaporeans aboard.

"Ideally, we would like to get and fill up what we need from Singaporean sources alone. We have been forced to go overseas because we haven't been able to get Singaporeans, even though Singaporean officers get better terms than the foreign officers," he said.

"When you go overseas, I think you need to diversify your sources because if, for example, for some reason we cannot get more officers from Malaysia, we will be stuck without any other source. That is why we look at Taiwan."

Singapore not immune from terror threat, says PM Lee
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

With the pace of attacks around the world picking up, it is unrealistic to think that Singapore is immune from the threat of terrorism, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Already, there has been a "steady trickle of cases" in recent years of people who have been self-radicalised, he said.

Yesterday, news broke of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers being arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related offences.

Terrorism is a serious problem confronting many countries, said Mr Lee, as he highlighted the recent spate of incidents - from vehicular attacks to slashings - that have unfolded around the world.

There have not been big incidents, but the world is seeing such incidents happening more often, he told reporters at a break fast, or iftar, session at the Tanglin Police Division Headquarters.

He cited some examples, from the attack at Paris' Champs-Elysees on Monday, to the ongoing siege of the southern Philippine city of Marawi, over which Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-linked militants and Filipino armed forces are locked in battle.

Mr Lee attended the iftar session to reassure the uniformed services they have his support, just hours after the Home Affairs Ministry announced that two AETOS officers had been dealt with under the ISA.

"I decided to come here today to show my support for the Home Team, and my confidence in them, and encourage the officers that, well, these things happen, but we continue to have confidence in you and to work with you," he said.

This message of reassurance must go out to the broader community as well, he added.

The arrests will cause anxiety among the Muslim community, who will worry about coming under the spotlight, as well as non-Muslims, who may have concerns about their safety.

Mr Lee said he plans to meet Malay/Muslim community leaders next month to update them on the terrorism front, find out their worries, and "make sure we are still completely on the same page".

After that, he plans to hold a session with community leaders of the other races.

Noting that Singapore works on the basis of "when, rather than whether" a terror attack will occur, he said: "We make sure we are as well prepared as we possibly can be for when it happens in Singapore."

In his remarks in Malay, Mr Lee sought to give the Malay/Muslim community assurance in the light of the recent detentions.

He acknowledged that the community may feel concerned and unsure about what to do.

"The answer is simple: Stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government. The Government does not want the Muslim community to be viewed with distrust. We know the Muslim community in Singapore condemns terrorist ideology. They value and contribute to the peace and harmony that we enjoy."

He urged Muslims to speak to the police, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or the Religious Rehabilitation Group if they know of friends and families who have been led astray.

This, he said, is "not to sentence them, but to help them return to the right path". "Together, we can overcome these challenges."

Family, friends play key role in stopping the radicalised
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

It was yet another case of an individual getting self-radicalised and family members and friends doing nothing about it. But people who are seduced by extremist ideology may not grow out of it, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said yesterday.

Their family members and friends also cannot merely hope that they will snap out of radicalisation and do nothing, he added.

"We cannot take the threat of radicalisation lightly, and merely hope that someone can grow out of it," Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, said in a Facebook post.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced yesterday that it had arrested two auxiliary police officers for terrorism-related offences last month.

One of them, Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has since been detained under the Internal Security Act for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government.

The ministry said that "several relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward".

Last week, the ministry also revealed that it had detained Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old infant care assistant, who was planning to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow".

The MHA had said that her family members, too, did not report her to the authorities.

The news of the arrests yesterday again prompted calls on the need for families and friends to report those they suspect of being radicalised.

Dr Yaacob said that Khairul's parents and relatives had known about his intentions, but "did not take them seriously".

He added: "The new cases underscore once again the important role of parents, religious teachers and the community at large to look out for each other, and to immediately refer any signs of radicalisation to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) or the police.

"This is the best and only way to help a loved one before it is too late," he said.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the family members in Khairul's case had "a very serious responsibility, which they didn't discharge".

"They have to come forward. They are helping the individual, they are helping us, they are helping the country, and we have to urge, and where we think it is necessary, we will take steps," he said after a briefing on the arrests.

"It is not possible for intelligence agencies to know everything that is going on," the minister noted.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said: "I hope my community will reflect the need to watch out for our children and loved ones. We cannot allow strident or extreme teachings of Islam to take root here."

He wrote on Facebook: "We must not let our guard down and must continue our efforts in tightening processes to detect and guard against terrorism."

Meanwhile, MUIS said the Internet is not the right place to receive religious guidance or to understand the "complex political and armed conflicts in the Muslim world".

The best way to help family members is to refer them to experts like those in the RRG when they detect something is amiss, MUIS added.

Extremist preacher barred from teaching here; his 9 books banned
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

An extremist preacher has been barred from teaching Islam in Singapore, and nine publications he authored have been banned.

Singaporean Rasul Dahri made statements in videos and books that were "exclusivist in nature and dangerous in that they promote enmity, strife and potentially violence not only towards Muslims, but also other religious communities and the state", the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said in a statement yesterday.

The action against Mr Rasul comes amid reminders by religious and political leaders for people to be wary of extremist ideology, after the recent arrests of several self-radicalised Singaporeans.

MUIS denounced Mr Rasul's "problematic teachings", saying they are "totally unsuited for Singapore's multicultural society and may lead to extremism in religious thought and practice". It added that they do not represent the views of Muslims in Singapore.

Mr Rasul, who is said to have taught the Singapore leader of terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), opposes democracy and advocates the establishment of an Islamic state. Among his claims are that democracy, one of the fundamental governing principles of Singapore, is not part of Islam, said MUIS.

He also called on Muslims to establish an Islamic state through jihad (armed struggle) and da'wah (Islamic call), and denigrated Jews as "people who accept terrorism as part of their culture".

Muis said Mr Rasul "also persistently denounced established religious rituals practised by Muslim scholars worldwide and declared those who practise them as deviating from his own mistaken view of what is 'the real Islam' ".

His nine banned books similarly contain extremist views.

MUIS said this was why his application to be a religious teacher here under the mandatory Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS) was rejected.

Under the Undesirable Publications Act, it is an offence to distribute and own the banned books, and people who have copies must hand them over to the police, said the Ministry of Communications and Information. Those found guilty can be fined, imprisoned or both.

Malaysia's National Fatwa Council and the Pahang Islamic Religious Department had also banned seven of Mr Rasul's books.

He is known to have been preaching in Johor for decades, and Mas Selamat Kastari, who headed the Singapore cell of JI, is said to have attended his classes in the 1980s. Malay daily Berita Harian reported that Mr Rasul was arrested in Malaysia last year for the third time.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli warned that radical teachings can sow discord and disharmony in Singapore's multiracial and multicultural society.

"We will not allow his radical teachings and his extremist ideology to take root in Singapore," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Mr Masagos said on Facebook that the recent arrests of radicalised Singaporeans drive home the need to be vigilant: "I must emphasise the importance of seeking Islamic knowledge from the right sources and have confidence in the guidance by our mufti and MUIS."

MUIS reminded Muslims here to seek religious education from qualified teachers endorsed by the ARS, which became mandatory this year.

Those who encounter extremist preachers should also report them to MUIS (6359-1199) or the Asatizah Recognition Board (6604-8568), it added.

Muslim community 'has made much effort to counter radicalism'
By Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 22 Jun 2017

The Muslim community has put in much effort to counter radicalisation, and Singaporeans should not let the recent arrests of several radicalised individuals breed animosity towards Muslims.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said this in a Facebook post yesterday, emphasising that every person plays a role in keeping the community safe.

"We must not let these incidents divide us, or stoke animosity and fear in our multiracial and multi- religious society," she added.

Her comments come a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the arrests of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers under the Internal Security Act.

Following news of the arrests, political and community leaders have cautioned against Islamophobia - especially in the light of an incident earlier this week when a Caucasian man drove his vehicle into a crowd of Muslim worshippers outside a north London mosque, killing one and injuring 11.

Ms Fu said violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism, citing the attack as a chilling example.

In separate statements, self-help group Mendaki and the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) expressed concern over the detention of two radicalised Muslims, saying that early intervention is key to preventing extremist ideology from taking root here.

AETOS officer Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, was detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, whose detention was announced last week, wanted to marry an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighter and be a "martyr's widow".

Mendaki urged the Muslim community to engage and befriend young people, stressing that family members are in the best position to provide guidance.

Two of Khairul's friends expressed regret about not reporting him, in a Tuesday interview with Malay-language daily Berita Harian.

The pair, who did not give their names, said Kahirul often spoke of taking up arms in Syria, and they had tried to talk him out of it.

"Now, I realise that he didn't heed my advice and kept holding on to his beliefs," said MK, a childhood friend in his 20s.

MS, a 25-year-old technician who knew Khairul from school, lamented not reporting his friend to the authorities earlier, and urged other young people not to make the same mistake.

MK said: "Maybe if I reported him, he might have been sent for counselling - religious counselling conducted by ustaz (Islamic religious teachers) and such. Maybe then, he would not be detained by the authorities."

Pergas said people should be circumspect about accepting information readily available online, which may not "suit the context of living in Singapore". It urged the community to verify information with religious teachers accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.

It also supported the decision by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore to reject an application by extremist Singaporean preacher Rasul Dahri, saying he is "known for his exclusivity, radical teachings and extremist ideology". Mr Rasul is barred from teaching Islam here, and nine of his books are also banned for promoting extremist views.

London's famed tolerance takes a hit
Monday's attack at mosque comes amid rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment after recent terror acts
The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

LONDON • London may be the most diverse and tolerant city in the world and is home to more than one million Muslims from dozens of countries. Its mayor, Mr Sadiq Khan, is Muslim and enjoys broad support outside the Muslim community too. When Britain voted to leave the European Union, London voted to stay.

But this proudly cosmopolitan city is now confronted with the tensions and ugliness that have been simmering on the fringes for years and are boiling to the surface.

Like many of London's Muslims, law student Mohammed Abdullah grew tired of defending himself, and his religion, after the recent terrorist attacks.

"It feels like you are under siege," said the 23-year-old, standing outside Finsbury Park Mosque, where earlier a white British man rammed a rental van into a group of worshippers. "I wonder," he said, "is anyone going to write about a 'white Christian terrorist' this time round?"

As Mr Hamdan Omar, also a student, put it: "There are people on both sides who want the clash of civilisations."

Police identified the suspect as Darren Osborne, 47, who lives in Cardiff, Wales.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been criticised for her response to the Grenfell Tower fire, denounced the assault as an act of "evil" and "hatred", and promised to bolster security at mosques.

The authorities said they were treating the attack as an act of terrorism against Muslims, while many of the city's Muslim leaders pleaded for calm and warned against a rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment.

"During the night, ordinary British citizens were set upon while they were going about their lives, completing their night worship," said Mr Harun Khan, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. "Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date."

In the week after the June 3 terrorist attack on London Bridge and at Borough Market that killed eight people and was carried out by three men inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, police reported 120 Islamophobic events, compared with 36 the previous week.

Throughout Monday in Finsbury Park, one of London's many diverse neighbourhoods, residents left flowers and messages of solidarity outside the mosque.

"With love, sympathy and support to our Muslim neighbours, victims of this horrific act of terrorism," read one handwritten note. "This does not represent Finsbury Park," read another.

There was a sense of relief, carefully expressed, that the suspect was not from the city. "Somehow, it would have been even worse if he had been from our city," said mother of two Zahra Mounia, 45.

But some worried that London's famed tolerance was fraying on the edges. Several residents said they experienced small but unsettling episodes of hostility.

"In London, people feel they must tolerate you, so they won't say anything, but you get the dirty looks," said Ms Suzanne Stone, 42, a convert to Islam who writes children's books. "My friend outside of London gets real abuse."

Many people pointed to the fact that it was Muslims, awake because of Ramadan, who saved a lot of lives in Grenfell Tower by waking up neighbours and alerting the fire department. And it was an imam of the Muslim Welfare House who helped form a protective ring around the van driver on Monday before the police arrested him.

"How many people know that?" asked Mr Omar Hussain, a community worker.


ISIS supporters name Singapore as part of its East Asia territory
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 22 Jun 2017

Singapore has been identified by supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group as part of its "East Asia wilayah" or state, a move that analysts say could embolden foreign fighters to carry out attacks here.

The Republic was among the countries or territories singled out on social media as part of the wilayah - a development flagged by senior analyst Jasminder Singh in a paper published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies last week. The others are Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern Thailand, Myanmar and Japan.

"For foreign fighters coming into the region, this gives them an idea of what they will be in for, and what the targets are," Mr Singh told The Straits Times yesterday.

He had noticed "chatter on social media" this month singling out specific countries as part of the wilayah, which could be the first time this has been done.

Other security analysts say this could embolden self-radicalised individuals to carry out attacks here, if they are unable to travel to the Middle East to fight.

The development comes as the terrorism threat facing Singapore is at the highest level in recent years, and the country sees a steady trickle of self-radicalised individuals.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced that two Singaporean auxiliary police officers were arrested for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

One of them, Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, was detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government.

Last week, MHA also announced that infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, was planning to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for ISIS.

Experts had warned last year that ISIS would want to create a wilayah, or state, in South-east Asia as it loses territory in the Middle East.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, noted that the exact territorial boundaries of the wilayah in East Asia are unconfirmed, as ISIS has not made an official declaration.

But he added that it would probably include parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Dr Gunaratna said: "The growth of the ISIS threat in Singapore's immediate neighbourhood presents a threat to security and stability here."

In his paper, Mr Singh had discussed the security implications of the ongoing Marawi City siege in Mindanao, where Philippine forces are fighting to retake the city from ISIS-affiliated militants. The attacks there could "motivate other groups" in the region to carry out similar strikes in the region, he wrote.

Mr Remy Mahzam, associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said an indication of the boundaries of a future wilayah could prompt self- radicalised individuals who face difficulty in travelling to Syria to carry out attacks in the region instead.

This danger is especially relevant in the light of the recent ISA arrests of individuals planning to travel to Syria to fight, he said.

Associate Professor Antonio Rappa, who heads the Singapore University of Social Sciences' management and security studies programme, said Singapore should be more worried about attacks by "lone wolves and small groups of terrorists", who could enter the country from Malaysia or Indonesia.

He pointed out that developments in the region that catch media attention - such as the attacks in Marawi - would "increase the confidence level" of would-be terrorists.

An MHA spokesman told The Straits Times that security agencies are closely watching the situation in Marawi, as developments there could have "serious ramifications" for Singapore's safety and security.

She added that agencies are on the lookout for attempts by militants to use Singapore as a point of transit to go to Marawi and join the insurgency there.

"We will also deal firmly with any Singaporean who attempts to make his or her way to the conflict zones to join in the armed violence," said the spokesman.

Guidelines for private security firms to spot signs of radicalisation
By Danson Cheong and Chew Hui Min, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

The Security Association of Singapore (SAS) will roll out a set of guidelines for private security agencies to help them identify potentially radicalised individuals.

The new guidelines will include tell-tale signs of radicalisation and whistle-blowing procedures if possibly radicalised individuals are detected, SAS president Raj Joshua Thomas said yesterday.

SAS, the lead security trade association here representing 140 agencies, said it is "deeply concerned" about news of one AETOS auxiliary police officer being detained, and another issued with a Restriction Order.

The Ministry of Home Affairs announced on Tuesday the arrest of the two Singaporean AETOS officers under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The duo, who were stationed at Woodlands Checkpoint, were nabbed last month.

"This episode may affect the confidence that the public has in private security agencies and personnel," SAS said.

It will distribute the guidelines in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Singapore Police Force.

"We will also be working with our members to develop internal whistle-blowing policies to ensure that they have the processes to effectively deal with potential instances of radicalisation," the SAS said.

SAS created a Counter-Terrorism Committee last month to look into how private security agencies and personnel can play their part in Singapore's counter-terrorism efforts. This committee will work with the relevant authorities on the two initiatives.

"Auxiliary police officers and private security officers play an important role in protecting borders, facilities and assets in Singapore," it said.

"These two radicalised individuals are not representative of the overwhelming majority of private security personnel, who are responsible workers going about their daily jobs."

SAS said that while family and friends will likely be the first to spot signs of radicalisation, security agencies can still play an important role in helping to identify radicalised individuals.

It is "unlikely that the police or AETOS could have picked up signs of radicalisation through vetting", SAS added.

Singapore 'must boost online fight against radicalism': Yaacob Ibrahim
Battle for hearts and minds of young Malay Muslims being waged in cyberspace: Yaacob
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

The religious authorities in Singapore need to boost their presence online, which is where the battle for the hearts and minds of young Malay Muslims is being waged, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim.

There is a need for "alternative narratives online" to combat radical ideology, he told reporters yesterday at Eunos MRT station after launching a Hari Raya-themed MRT train ahead of the festival.

"Several young asatizahs already have programmes available online, it is just a matter of making them popular, making them appealing to young Singaporeans," he said.

Winning the online war against terror groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not easy, but the authorities are trying their best, he noted.

His comments come two days after news about the arrests of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act.

Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, was detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while his colleague Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, was placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his plan.

On June 12, the authorities announced the detention of infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, who was planning to travel to Syria to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for ISIS.

Both Khairul and Izzah were radicalised after viewing extremist propaganda online.

When asked, Dr Yaacob said the Malay community takes the threat of terrorism seriously, but added that the threat is "evolving".

"What used to be groups of Jemaah Islamiah, now we are finding lone individuals radicalised because of their own personal challenges. We need to respond to this," he said.

People need a "safe place" to go to for help from the religious authorities if they know someone who has been radicalised, he added.

Over the past three weeks, political leaders have been urging family members and friends to seek help early from the relevant authorities if their loved ones show signs of being radicalised, and Dr Yaacob reiterated that call yesterday.

"There is no sense of shame in coming forward... It is better to nip the problem in the bud than allow it to fester," he said. Friends and family members of Khairul and Izzah now regret not coming forward to seek help, he noted, adding that the authorities are not out to condemn young radicalised individuals.

Dr Yaacob added that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has been training young asatizahs, or religious teachers, to reach out to the young.

One such asatizah is Ustaz Zahid Zin, 33, who conducts weekly classes for young people that he publicises on Facebook and Instagram. The classes have grown from 30 students in 2010, to 500 now.

"(The youth) are interested, they want to learn, but sometimes they don't know where to go," he said.

At a separate event in Siglap, Senior Minister of State Maliki Osman also called on the Muslim community to do more to tackle extremist ideology. He stressed that there is no place for Islamophobia or any form of anti-religious sentiments in Singapore, as these could divide society.

Responding to the recent arrests yesterday, the Security Association of Singapore said it will roll out a set of guidelines for private security agencies to help them identify potentially radicalised individuals.

Additional reporting by Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

No place for Islamophobia in Singapore, says Maliki Osman
MP hopes non-Muslims realise Muslim community 'totally rejects' extremism
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

There is no place for Islamophobia or any similar attitude towards other religions here, as this would harm the social cohesion Singapore has built up over the years, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman.

He related a recent incident yesterday to illustrate how Islamophobia has crept into the community, in a climate where acts of terrorism and extremism make headlines regularly.

A few weeks ago, a Malay pest controller checking for mosquitoes outside a home was shooed away by a Chinese resident who suggested he could be a terrorist, said Dr Maliki.

"He tried to explain that he was just trying to do his job, and she (said), 'No, no, no, I hear so much things about terrorism and terrorists, you had better go'," said Dr Maliki, adding that the incident shocked and saddened him.

"The last thing we want are incidents like this where the inter-ethnic cohesion that we have built for so long is divided by people who have the wrong ideas, wrong understanding of the Muslim community," he said.

Dr Maliki, an MP for East Coast GRC, spoke to reporters while distributing Hari Raya hampers containing necessities such as canned food and cooking oil to needy Muslim families in Siglap.

Political leaders have been warning against allowing anti-Muslim sentiment to take root, as cases of self-radicalised individuals are publicised and the terror threat grows.

At an iftar, or breaking of fast, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore must prevent incidents like a recent attack at a mosque in London - a man drove his van into a crowd of Muslim worshippers, killing one person - from happening.

Yesterday, Dr Maliki urged people who know about incidents of Islamophobia to come forward, as such views cannot be allowed to "take root in the minds of Singaporeans, particularly non-Muslim Singaporeans".

"If these things happen, if (people) hear of such instances, please let us know, so that we can correct misperceptions," he said.

The police are investigating an act of vandalism at the upcoming Marine Parade MRT station, where the word "terrorist" was scrawled on an illustration of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the station's construction site.


Dr Maliki added that the Muslim community "totally rejects" notions of extremism, radicalism and terrorism, and he hopes non-Muslims realise this.

He also hopes the non-Muslim community can respond to such incidents by reassuring the Muslim community.

He said: "Instead of having misperceptions, please come forward and also seek clarification so that Islamophobia does not take root in Singapore society."

He added: "We should, in times like this, bond together, close ranks and begin to appreciate one another better."

Case studies show value of detecting radicals early

No need for these cases to be dealt with by the law, says Religious Rehabilitation Group
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 24 Jun 2017

Few have approached Muslim scholar group Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) for help, but those who did subsequently turned away from radical ideology after the group counselled them.

Yesterday, it highlighted three cases in which it intervened when members of the public sought its help, following its setting up of a counselling centre in 2014. All involved self-radicalisation. Two were teenage boys and, in the third, it helped a woman cope with her husband who had "extreme religious views", said the RRG in a statement. "The three cases were detected early and hence need not be dealt with by the law," it added, referring to the Internal Security Act.

The RRG, which has been counselling terror detainees and debunking radical ideology since 2003, was able to help because their family members, relatives and friends had sought help early and directly from the group, said its vice-chairman, Ustaz Mohamed Ali, at a press conference.

The RRG, in citing the three examples, underlined the importance of early reporting of radicalised individuals, which political leaders have been urging people to do.

This comes as the authorities announced the arrest of three radicalised people, including one woman, under the Internal Security Act in the past weeks.

The RRG's first case was a secondary school student who had written "several pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) slogans on his school books" after being exposed to ISIS propaganda online.

It alarmed his father, said Ustaz Mohamed. The parents took their son to the RRG's counselling centre at Khadijah Mosque in Geylang Road, and the counsellors were able to turn around the teenager after one session of counselling. The boy regretted supporting ISIS.

"It is an example of how family members can intervene early to prevent one from being led astray by extremist ideology," he said.

The other teenager was also a secondary school boy. He was "convinced on the need to migrate to an Islamic caliphate" after reading about global affairs in the Muslim world online, said Ustaz Mohamed.

The boy also openly discussed religious issues contrary to mainstream Islamic teachings with family members and friends, who referred him to the RRG. Its counsellors were able to change the boy's mind after several sessions, Ustaz Mohamed said.

"The two boys were saved from further radicalisation," he added.

He stressed the RRG did not report them to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). "There was no need to," he said, adding that the RRG will assess whether to report to the MHA on a "case-by-case basis".

"We work with the MHA, not for the MHA," Ustaz Mohamed said.

The RRG does not have further details on the two boys, including how they are doing now, as it was not necessary to call them back for further counselling, he added.

In the third case, a Muslim woman had phoned the RRG for help after her husband became "increasingly vocal in pushing extreme religious views at home".

The RRG counsellors helped her "advise her husband against his extreme religious views", he said. They did not speak to the husband.

Ustaz Mohamed said parents are the first line of defence to prevent and stop their children from being self-radicalised. Sometimes they feel embarrassed about seeking help, he said.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in- charge of Muslim Affairs and Minister for Communications and Information, had stressed to the community that reporting those who have been radicalised to the authorities is "the best and only way to help a loved one before it is too late".

MHA: Issuance of Order of Detention and Restriction Order Under The Internal Security Act -20 Jun 2017

MHA: Additional Comments from MHA on Actions Taken Under the ISA -21 Jun 2017

First Singaporean woman detained under Internal Security Act for radicalism planned to join Islamic State

Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017

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