Family members must help youth get correct understanding of religion: Muis

SINGAPORE - Muslims here were today reminded that they play a crucial role in keeping family members and the young on the right path, so that they can reject any form of deviant or radical ideas, especially those that support terrorism and are not in line with Islamic teachings.

"If we are unable to advise or guide them, we must refer them to those who are capable in tackling this," said a Friday sermon prepared by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

This advice went out in mosques around the island at Friday prayers, two days after news broke that a Singaporean youth planning to join terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here was detained last month under the Internal Security Act.

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.

Citing his arrest, the sermon said: "This reality reminds us of the important role played by family members in guiding their family. We need to ensure that our children are not only practising the religion and understand it, but we are also responsible in ensuring that the religious education that is received are the correct teachings.

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

Countries around the world, and in particular Muslim communities, have been increasingly concerned about the rising influence of ISIS, which has drawn 30,000 foreign fighters to its ranks in Iraq and Syria, including young Muslims groomed by radicals on social media who often leave home without their parents knowing.

Recent months have also seen security agencies foil terror plots and conduct arrests of radicals influenced by ISIS from Canada to Malaysia.

Analysts say many of these youth lack the proper understanding of Islamic concepts and are influenced by those who espouse extremist and violent interpretations.

Another Singaporean youth, 17, who the Ministry of Home Affairs did not name, was also arrested this month for further investigation into the extent of his radicalisation.

The Friday sermon urged the community to ensure that children and family members are armed with deep religious knowledge so they develop self-resilience and can differentiate and reject any form of deviant or 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 attitudes 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 Islamic State, or the caliphate and so on. These issues require critical research and reading, to ensure that one is able to acquire the correct understanding of these issues."

If they are unable to guide their family members, Muslims here must get help from counsellors or religious teachers certified by the Asatizah Recognition Scheme - which ensures those teaching Islam are accredited by Muis - or consult religious officers at mosques or from the Office of the Mufti.

"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/she is the one committing evil or the victim of an evil act," said the sermon.

"How do we help those who commit evil? Prophet Muhammad explained that we help those who are committing evil by preventing them from continuing the evil act."

The sermon also called on the community to stay resilient in the face of those seeking to sow discord in the name of the faith. Islam is a religion of peace, it said, and the best safeguard against deviant teachings making their rounds online was for Muslims to seek religious knowledge accepted by the mainstream community and agreed upon by credible religious scholars.

"True belief will not lead one to commit atrocities and evil acts. It will only bring goodness and peace," it said.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg