ISIS-linked newspaper banned in Singapore

A member loyal to Islamic State waves a flag in Raqqa on June 29, 2014.
A member loyal to Islamic State waves a flag in Raqqa on June 29, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

Al Fatihin a means to spread group's propaganda abroad, with aim to radicalise and recruit S-E Asians, says MCI

A hardline newspaper published by a media agency linked to terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been banned.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday gazetted Al Fatihin, which is produced by Furat Media, as a prohibited publication under the Undesirable Publications Act.

This makes it an offence to distribute the newspaper, which is largely in Bahasa Indonesia, by any means.

It will also be an offence to possess the newspaper, or have a copy but fail to give it to the police, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a statement.

"ISIS is a terrorist group which poses a serious threat to the security of Singapore. Al Fatihin is yet another step by ISIS to spread its propaganda abroad, with a clear intention to radicalise and recruit South- east Asians to join ISIS," MCI added.

 
 

"The Singapore Government has zero tolerance for terrorist propaganda and has therefore decided to prohibit Al Fatihin in Singapore."

Al Fatihin, which means "The Conqueror" in Arabic, was launched online last month to coincide with Ramadan, a time when Muslims seek to deepen their faith.

In its first edition, the 20-page paper distorts Islamic teachings to call on readers to commit violence, seek martyrdom and kill disbelievers and Muslims who oppose ISIS.

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister- in-charge of Cyber Security as well as Muslim Affairs, said ISIS' intention to use Al Fatihin to spread its extremist ideology in the region was "deplorable".

"The contents of Al Fatihin and the fact that it is published in Bahasa Indonesia, which is used by many in this region, confirm the objectives behind the publication to influence the people in this region and to cause disharmony," he said.

"Extremism has no place in Singapore - it cannot and must not take root here. We take a very strong stance against terrorist propaganda and we will take decisive action as necessary."

The ban comes amid growing concern over ISIS influence spreading in this region and reports that ISIS has declared a province in the southern Philippines.

ISIS' South-east Asian fighters' unit, Katibah Nusantara, has also produced propaganda videos in Malay and Bahasa Indonesia featuring Malaysian, Indonesian and Filipino fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Malaysia's Home Ministry said last week that it would take action against those caught producing and distributing Al Fatihin. Al Fatihin also identifies Bangladesh and the Philippines as areas of conflict.

Senior analyst Jasminder Singh of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research said Al Fatihin has been widely disseminated on social media and remains easily obtained online.

But the move to ban it is important, as it will raise awareness that it is not an innocent religious document even if it masquerades as one.

"Some people might come upon the newsletter and ask what's wrong with talking about Ramadan, or talking about the concept of jihad, without being aware that it is trying to propagate the ideology of ISIS," he told The Straits Times.

The ban "will increase public awareness about why we should stay away from it", Mr Singh added.

Under the Undesirable Publications Act, those convicted of publishing, distributing or reproducing a prohibited publication or an extract from it can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to three years, or face both penalties.

Subsequent offenders can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to four years, or both.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS-linked newspaper banned in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe