Religious doubts? Use app for private chat with counsellors

Showing off the new app are Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir (right), head of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) secretariat, and Mr Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan, a counsellor and RRG secretariat member.
Showing off the new app are Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir (right), head of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) secretariat, and Mr Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan, a counsellor and RRG secretariat member.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

To combat the spread of radical ideology, the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) launched a mobile application yesterday that lets users have one-to-one live private chats with RRG counsellors to discuss issues and concerns.

Answers to frequently asked questions such as "What is jihad?" are in the app, which also notifies users on the latest RRG-related news.

The RRG, set up in 2003 to counsel detained members of terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), now also works with radicalised individuals, besides educating the community on the dangers of extremism.

The app was launched at the 12th RRG annual retreat. Speaking on the sidelines of the event, RRG vice-chairman Ustaz Mohamed Ali said his biggest concern is individuals being influenced by ideology propagated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"The strength of ISIS (is) they have managed to influence anybody, anywhere," he noted.

It claims to have established a caliphate, and says Muslims must pledge allegiance to the leader of ISIS and join their ranks, he said.

"This has confused the community, so we need to explain to them about the caliphate, jihad, syariah, all these ideologies," he added.

Another concern is young Muslims here who might be against ISIS but are for the idea of adopting Islamic law in Singapore.

"We need to educate our community that they can live as Muslims and practise Islam anywhere in the world, not necessarily in a Muslim- majority country... and (they can) live harmoniously with people of other religions," he said.

The app is another platform for Singaporeans, especially youth, to voice religious queries, said RRG secretariat member Ahmad Saiful Rijal Hassan. Young people have asked who ISIS and JI are and what these groups want to achieve, the volunteer counsellor said.

Mr Salim Mohamed Nasir, the head of the secretariat, said RRG gives them upfront answers that these are radical extremist groups, and tells them to be careful.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who attended the launch, said the app will "provide clarifications on religious and doctrinal issues", and can be accessed quickly and easily.

He noted that RRG's website has been revamped and that its counter-radicalisation manual specifically addresses the ideology of ISIS. A very small minority of Muslims in Singapore "may be led astray by radical, extremist influences", he said, adding that since last year, "many" self-radicalised individuals have been arrested under the Internal Security Act.

The app's chat function will be manned by accredited volunteers from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. They will try to respond to messages as soon as possible.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Religious doubts? Use app for private chat with counsellors'. Print Edition | Subscribe