Singaporeans must not let arrest of radicalised auxiliary police officers stoke fear and animosity: Grace Fu

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu also said that  violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu also said that violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Muslim community has made much effort in countering radicalisation, and Singaporeans should not let the recent arrests of several radicalised individuals cause divisions in society, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Wednesday (June 21).

" All of us play a role in keeping the community safe," she said in a Facebook post. "Importantly, we must not let these incidents divide us, or stoke animosity and fear in our multi-racial and multi-religious society."

Her comments come a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the arrest of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers under the Internal Security Act (ISA), in what is believed to be the first such case involving uniformed personnel.

The men, nabbed last month, were Aetos officers at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Following news of the arrests, which came barely a day after a mosque in North London was attacked, political and community leaders have called for Singaporeans to stay united and cautioned against Islamophobia.

 

Ms Fu said violent Islamophobia is another face of terrorism,citing the mosque attack in Britain, that left one dead and 11 injured, as a chilling example.

"We must stand united and strong; and not let the radical actions of the few sow suspicion and discord in our wider society. Let us come together to defend the harmony and cohesion we have built over the years," she added.

In a separate statement, Mendaki said it was saddened and concerned by the detention of two radicalised Muslims.

One of the auxilliary police officers arrested, Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has been detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government. Last week, the MHA announced the detention of infant care assistant Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22.

She had planned to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The other officer arrested, Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, was placed on a Restriction Order for supporting Khairul's plan.

"Both detainees are young adults with much potential in their future," said Mendaki.

The Malay-Muslim self-help group urged the Muslim community to engage and befriend young people, who need guidance.

"As the fundamental building block of our society, family members are in the best position to identify and provide guidance.

"We believe that early intervention goes a long way towards ensuring radicalism does not take root in Singapore," it said.

It added that families can turn to bodies such as Muis and the Religious Rehabilitation Group if they need advice on potentially radical materials or individuals.

"As a community, we must continue to look after and look out for one another. Let's inspire positive values in our youth to build a confident and harmonious Muslim community in multi-religious Singapore," said Madam Rahayu Buang, the CEO of Mendaki.

Ms Fu, noting that Khairul's family and friends were aware of his intention, but did not report him to the authorities, said: "We cannot take lightly any sign of radicalisation. We must seek help and alert the relevant authorities early."

Two of Khairul's friends who have since spoken to the press said they had known of his extremism but did not take him seriously.

One of them, MK, who is in his 20s and did not give his full name, said Khairul had spoken about going to Syria to take up arms alongside the Free Syrian Army "since a few years ago".

"From then on, whenever we talked, he kept bringing up his plans to go to Syria. I tried to the best of my ability to dissuade him, to give him advice and reasons not to go there," said the childhood friend of Khairul.

" One of the things I said to him was that killing others, and joining armed conflict is wrong...Now, I realise that he didn't heed my advice and kept holding on to his beliefs."

He added that he regretted not reporting Khairul to the authorities earlier.

"Maybe, if I reported him to the authorities, he might have been sent for counselling, religious counselling conducted by ustaz and such. Maybe then, he will not be detained by the authorities, if he underwent counselling," he said.

The other friend, who went by the initials MS, had similarly heard Khairul speak of his desire to fight in Syria over the past few years.

The 25-year-old technician said: "Every time he did that, each time he told me about his intent to go to Syria, I will oppose his plans. I tell him that he should not think about something like that. I told him to focus on his life in Singapore."

He lamented not reporting his friend to the authorities and urged other young people not to "commit this same mistake as I did".

In a statement on Wednesday evening, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) said earlier intervention would have helped guide the radicalised individuals towards moderate ideology.

It hopes the community will take heed from the arrests, and be more cautious in accepting any information that is readily available online.

"Some cannot be verfied and others do not suit the context of living in Singapore," it said

Pergas urged the Malay/Muslim community to verify the information with certified asatizah listed under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme (ARS).

It will work closely with Muis and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) in several programs reaching out to the community as a continuous effort to educate the masses.

The association also supports a move by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to reject extremist preacher Rasul Dahri's application for certification under the ARS.

It said: "He is known for his exclusivity, radical teachings and extremist ideology."