'Muslims must report those who may harm society', says Islamic leader

Singapore's top Islamic leader said yesterday that Muslims have a religious obligation to report to the authorities those who might pose a threat to society.

Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, the Mufti of Singapore, said parents and teachers must also be aware of the religious interests and activities of youth - including that they might seek alternative sources of teachings online.

He was responding to questions about two students who became radicalised online. One who made plans to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here has been detained under the Internal Security Act since last month. The other was arrested this month for further investigation.

"If the religious behaviour and attitude of our family members and children are of grave concern, and may potentially cause a law and order issue, it is incumbent, religiously, to report this to the authorities," he said.

Parents should not see this as sacrificing their children but as a way of coming to their rescue. They could also turn to mosques and qualified religious scholars, or refer them to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

"It is our duty to ensure the right teachings of Islam prevail in our community. Misunderstood and twisted interpretations must not be given space and we must act as a community to ensure the right understanding of Islam at all times," he said.

Separately, a Muis spokesman said it has reviewed the content of its Islamic education programmes for children, youth and adults to now include topics such as jihad. This is to provide the right understanding of the term and to correct misconceptions. Facilitators can also discuss current issues during lessons, she said.

Private Islamic education centres also hold talks, including at mosques, to counter jihadist and violent ideas and to rebut ideas about killing that ISIS propagates.

Progressive, anti-radicalism messages also feature at Friday sermons at mosques.

"Beyond the specific issues in addressing radicalism, the common themes of sermons focus on the universal message of Islam, the concept of moderation, the need to receive religious knowledge from established authority and having a balanced worldview," the spokesman added.

The sermon today will be on the importance of vigilance and not letting loved ones be influenced by extreme ideologies.

"These and other ongoing efforts such as regular engagements with students, promoting cyber- wellness and encouraging vigilance within the community will be stepped up," she said.

yanliang@sph.com.sg