Case studies show value of detecting radicals early

Ustaz Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the RRG, at its counselling centre in Khadijah Mosque. He says parents are the first line of defence to prevent and stop their children from being self-radicalised.
Ustaz Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the RRG, at its counselling centre in Khadijah Mosque. He says parents are the first line of defence to prevent and stop their children from being self-radicalised.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

No need for these cases to be dealt with by the law, says Religious Rehabilitation Group

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".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Case studies show value of detecting radicals early'. Print Edition | Subscribe