Why It Matters

Radicalisation: Nip it in the bud

It is a natural human response to want to protect those we love. The feeling of betraying loved ones and getting them into trouble is a key reason people find it difficult to approach the authorities when their family members or friends are radicalised.

Despite how tough it is, it must be done. Records show that early intervention, especially by religious experts, can help debunk radical teachings before the individual gets to the stage where he has to be detained under the Internal Security Act and suffer severe consequences. The recent detention of 22-year-old Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a contract infant care assistant in a pre-school, is an example of someone who could have been saved from going astray. Her family noticed her dressing in black, wearing the niqab and using the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag as her display picture on WhatsApp in 2014. However, they did not go to the authorities. Her parents, who are Quranic teachers, tried to counsel Izzah themselves, but to no avail.

The need to report radicalisation early is vital to avert disaster if the individual decides to carry out an attack. The need to protect the greater good cannot be overstated as experts say it can be a very short period from radicalisation or planning to an attack.

Therefore, in such cases, the socially responsible action is to seek help from religious authorities like the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), a group of Muslim scholars that has been counselling terror detainees and debunking radical ideology since 2003. It has an impressive record. None of those taken to the RRG by their families or friends when they displayed initial signs of radicalisation has continued to walk down the misguided path.

The internal conflict of whether to inform the authorities can be overwhelming. But the scourge of radicalisation needs to be nipped in the bud.The reason is simple: When terrorists strike Singapore, family and friends of the villains will suffer as much as the rest of Singapore. The pain, trauma and damage will have a ripple effect economically, socially and psychologically.

No one will be spared.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Radicalisation: Nip it in the bud'. Print Edition | Subscribe