Singaporean detained for glorifying ISIS, inciting violence

Zulfikar made Facebook posts that promoted and glorified terror group ISIS and its violent actions.
Zulfikar made Facebook posts that promoted and glorified terror group ISIS and its violent actions.PHOTO: INTERNET
Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, was arrested and detained in Singapore this month.
Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, was arrested and detained in Singapore this month.PHOTO: FACEBOOK

44-year-old's postings exploited religion to legitimise terror, radicalising at least 2 citizens

A Singaporean who actively spread radical ideology online, incited violence and radicalised at least two fellow citizens has been detained under the Internal Security Act.

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff, 44, had been living in Australia for 14 years, after leaving Singapore with his family shortly after run-ins with Muslim leaders and the authorities.

But when he returned here on July 1, he was arrested for terrorism-related activities, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Zulfikar made many Facebook posts that promoted and glorified terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its violent actions like the beheading of its captives, "while exploiting religion to legitimise the terrorist activities of ISIS", it said.

"He has further exhorted Muslims to take up arms and wage militant jihad in places like the Middle East, Palestinian territories, Myanmar and the Philippines," it added.

His postings led to at least two Singaporeans becoming radicalised.

He also planned to hold training programmes to persuade young Singaporeans to join his extremist agenda of replacing Singapore's secular, democratic system with an Islamic state, using violence if necessary.

In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was fortunate that the security agencies caught him before he could do more harm.

 
 
 
 

"Such extremist, violent beliefs have no place in our multiracial and multi-religious country," he said. "The Government will be alert to spot such individuals, but we need everyone's help to uphold and protect our harmonious way of life."

Zulfikar started becoming radicalised as early as 2001 after reading hardline materials, supporting groups such as Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah, and advocating that Muslims take up arms in Afghanistan after the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

In 2002, he was in the news for challenging mainstream Muslim leaders and agitating for primary school girls to be allowed to wear the headscarf in national schools.

In the same year, he resettled his family in Australia. He joined hardline group Hizbut Tahrir and kept contact with radical preachers.

Zulfikar cultivated an Internet following by forming an online group called Al-Makhazin - Arabic for "the magazine" - in 2013. He used Facebook to create platforms purportedly to counter the Western media.

But the true intent of these pages was to agitate on Muslim issues in Singapore to spread his ideology.

"Zulfikar has admitted that he had an ulterior motive for setting up a Facebook page called Al-Makhazin Singapore which he used as a platform to agitate on Muslim issues in Singapore and attack some Singaporean Muslims who did not share his views," said the ministry.

"His real agenda was in fact to provoke Muslims in Singapore into pushing for the replacement of the democratic system with an Islamic state in Singapore," it added.

He also said he hid his ulterior motive from the Singaporean members of Al-Makhazin Singapore.

Zulfikar, who made several trips here between 2002 and 2014, revealed that he had taken up Australian citizenship, the ministry said.

He also got state grants and unemployment benefits in Australia.

The two Singaporeans he radicalised are security guard Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, 29, who was detained last July; and businessman Mohamad Saiddhin Abdullah, 33, who got a Restriction Order this month that limits his movements.

"The Government takes a very serious view of efforts to undermine Singapore's constitutional democracy, and will take firm and decisive action against any person who engages in such activities," said the ministry.

The director for religious policy at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, called on his community not to let extremist views take root as they will destroy social harmony. "For Muslims in Singapore, there is neither incompatibility nor contradiction between practising Islam and living in Singapore," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'S'porean detained for glorifying ISIS, inciting violence'. Print Edition | Subscribe