Threat of ISIS and radicalism in Singapore and the region

SINGAPORE - A 19-year-old Singaporean has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities since April 2015. He had also made plans to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

Another Singaporean, aged 17, was arrested in May 2015 under the ISA for further investigations into the extent of his radicalisation, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Wednesday (May 27). The latest revelations were greeted with shock and dismay by both Muslim and non-Muslim leaders.

With the threat looming large, The Straits Times examines the impact ISIS has had on Singapore and the rest of South-east Asia, and what the authorities are doing to counter the spread of radicalism as these militants attempt to gain a foothold in the region. 


Family members must help youth get correct understanding of religion: Muis

Muslims here were today reminded that they play a crucial role in keeping family members and the young on the right path, so that they can reject any form of deviant or radical ideas, especially those that support terrorism and are not in line with Islamic teachings.

"If we are unable to advise or guide them, we must refer them to those who are capable in tackling this," said a Friday sermon prepared by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

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ISIS social media post cites Singapore as possible target

Singapore has been identified as a possible target for attack by a recent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posting on social media, a report this week said.

ISIS supporters from the region have also cited the Philippines and the United States as targets, the report's author, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Jasminder Singh, told The Straits Times.

This development comes as Malaysia last month nabbed a cell with explosives targeting Putrajaya and the federal Parliament, and as Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry on Wednesday announced the detention of a 19-year-old student who made plans to join ISIS in Syria and carry out attacks here.

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Be alert to radicalisation threat: Ministers and MPs

A day after it was announced that a 19-year-old student planning to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and carry out attacks here had been detained, several ministers and MPs called on the public to be vigilant to the threat of radicalisation.

It was important to alert the authorities early if they suspect someone they know may be radicalised, before he does harm to himself or to others, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post. "That's the best way to save them," he added.

Mr Masagos later told The Straits Times the first course of action is not necessarily to detain a person who has been brought to the authorities' attention.

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Combating self-radicalisation: What are the signs, What can family members and friends do

The threat of self-radicalisation looms large in a digital age, as extremist propaganda spreads online. What can family members and friends do to keep their loved ones from being influenced by radical ideology, and how do you spot the warning signs? WONG SIEW YING and JASMINE OSADA report.

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'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.

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Minister Masagos on the threat of ISIS and radicalism in Singapore

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli has spoken at length about the ISIS threat and for the local community to remain vigilant.

Read more on what he has to say on the various issues below.

Threat of extremist websites 
Need for the community to be eyes and ears against radicalism 
Singapore's edge in fight against terror due to strong racial ties 
- How it is important to counter radical rhetoric from militant groups

Singapore joins the fight against ISIS

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen announced in Parliament in November last year that Singapore would be contributing military personnel and equipment to the multi-national coalition battling ISIS. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had first mooted the possibility during the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) summit in Milan a month earlier. 

It made Singapore the first South-east Asian country to join the campaign.

Details on the ongoing effort below.

Aid to anti-ISIS coalition consists of liaison officers, equipment
Planners deployed to Combined Joint Task Force HQ
No signs of heightened security threat since Singapore joined coalition

Vocal condemnation of ISIS, call for unity in the face of threat 

 

Singapore has been unwavering in its stance against the extremist group, with various ministers vocal in their criticism on the global arena over the past year.

At home, they have also repeatedly called for unity among Singaporeans.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam to United Nations: Singapore condemns ISIS in strongest possible terms
Singapore not immune to terror threat, various communities must work together
PM Lee holds dialogue on ISIS threat
Foreign ISIS fighters 'will be a threat for decades', says Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean

Singaporeans warned against joining ISIS

Those who plan to join or help ISIS will face the full extent of the law, DPM Teo warned last October. He said the Internal Security Act could also be used to pre-empt and neutralise terrorism threats.

In September 2014, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported that a 37-year-old Penang-born man had taken his Singaporean family to Syria to join the group.

ISIS social media post cites Singapore as possible target

Singapore has been identified as a possible target for attack by a recent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) posting on social media, a report this week said.

ISIS supporters from the region have also cited the Philippines and the United States as targets, the report's author, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies analyst Jasminder Singh, told The Straits Times.

Read more here

ISIS video produced in Malay worries Muslim leaders here

A Malay video produced by ISIS in March, which showed children training with weapons, set alarm bells ringing among the Muslim community in Singapore.

The clip was seen as the latest push by the group to garner support in South-east Asia.

Read more here

ISIS videos 'tailored to appeal to youth': Experts

The grisly video clips put out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have shocked many, but they have also helped to radicalise a number of young people across the world, including here.

Yesterday, the detention of a 19-year-old Singapore student, radicalised after he started viewing terrorist propaganda online, once again drew attention to the question of why is it that some young individuals are attracted to such ideas.

In recent months, ISIS' gory footage has included the beheading of two Japanese hostages as well as a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive.

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Youths drawn to ISIS due to feeling of isolation, misunderstanding of Islam: Khairy

The radicalisation of youths is rooted in not just a misunderstanding of Islam, but a combination of several other factors, said Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

Khairy said that the factors influencing youths to be radicalised and to join the Islamic State (IS) are a lack of platform to be heard, one's socio-economic status, a desire to change the world, a desire to belong, and a perceived sense of injustice in the world.

"The feeling of isolation is especially hard on youths," he said, adding that these youths often seek to be part of a group that treats them as part of a family. "The youths who feel marginalised, lonely. They want friends and a sense of belonging," he added.

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Recent instances of youth radicalised by ISIS propaganda

The trend of young individuals who become radicalised online and leave their comfortable lives to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become a growing concern for security agencies globally.

Foreign fighters have contributed significantly to the terrorist group's ranks in recent years. A UN report seen by the BBC in April said that there are now some 22,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Their numbers have soared 71 per cent between mid-2014 to March this year. Many new recruits are teens.

Here are some recent cases in which teenagers and young people were radicalised by ISIS.

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ISIS making significant inroads in South-east Asia

Professor Rohan Gunaratna, who heads Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), revealed in March that 22 terrorist groups in the region had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

They are disseminating propoganda - in local languages - in the region via online channels.

Malaysia had previously called for regional cooperation to prevent ISIS from gaining a foothold here.

Majority of new ISIS supporters recruited online 

Malaysian police said recently that it was stepping up efforts to monitor social media sites for possible terrorism-related activities, following Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's revelation that an estimated 75 percent of new ISIS supporters are recruited online. 

This online network purportedly spans Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines

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ISIS in Malaysia planning heists, abductions to fund activities

Ransom kidnappings and bank heists are on the agenda of ISIS operatives in the country, according to Malaysian police.

They are thought to be targeting business centres with a high number of expats, as well as government offices in Putrajaya.

Read more here

Timeline of recent arrests in Malaysia linked to ISIS

 

A series of ISIS-related arrests in Malaysia, a hotbed for the terrorist group, has dominated the headlines recently. 

Recap the country's ongoing fight against the extremist since the start of 2015 here


Commentaries in The Straits Times

What does ISIS spell for regional security?

ST examines the impact ISIS has had in Singapore and the region, and how authorities and others are responding to the threat.

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The long arm of Islamic radicalism

ISIS has been seen as the primary threat arising from Islamic radicalism in recent times, but it did not even exist three years ago.

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Are the teachings of ISIS Islamic? Not by the sanad

All who view the group's propaganda material of grisly executions are left in no doubt that they are doing it in the name of religion, citing chapter and verse from within the Islamic tradition. But is ISIS truly Islamic?

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The girl who enticed others to join ISIS

Aqsa Mahmood's family saw her as an intelligent and popular teenager who helped care for her three younger siblings and her grandparents at their home in Glasgow, Scotland. So what caused the apparently studious teenager to entice her peers to join ISIS?

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The allure of cinematic violence in ISIS

Those attracted to ISIS may be less drawn to its religious ideology than to the spectacle and glorification of its violence.

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Malaysia's ISIS dilemma

Malaysians seem to be joining ISIS at an alarmingly high rate, but what accounts for their appeal in "moderate" Malaysia?

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ISIS: All you need to know about the extremist group

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is arguably the most dangerous terrorist threat faced by the world today.

Not only has it rapidly gained territory in Iraq and Syria, it is gaining adherents around the world with its message of extremism.

The brutal terror organisation, which rose to global prominence in 2014, has its roots in Iraq more than a decade earlier.

Here is a quick look at the extremist group.

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Views from abroad

Journey to Jihad

In 2009, a 14-year-old Belgian named Jejoen Bontinck slipped a sparkly white glove onto his left hand, squeezed into a sequinned black cardigan, and appeared on the reality-television contest “Move Like Michael Jackson.” He had travelled to Ghent from his home, in Antwerp, with his father, Dimitri, who wore a pin-striped suit jacket and oversized sunglasses, and who told the audience that he was Jejoen’s manager, mental coach, and personal assistant. Standing before the judges, Jejoen professed his faith in the American Dream and moonwalked through the preliminary round. “That is performance!” Dimitri told the show’s host. “You’re gonna hear from him, sweetie.”

Jejoen was soon eliminated, but four years later, when he least wanted the attention, he became the focus of hundreds of articles in the Belgian press. He had participated in a jihadi radicalisation programme, operated out of a rented room in Antwerp, that inspired dozens of Belgian youths to migrate to Syria and take up arms against the government of Bashar al-Assad.

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Skyping with the enemy: I went undercover as a jihadi girlfriend

When a French journalist posed online as a young woman interested in ISIS, she was soon contacted by a fighter in Syria. He proposed marriage – but could she maintain a double life?

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The evildoers of ISIS should not expect our mercy upon their return

Just don’t expect me or anyone else with half a brain to throw them a pity party, let alone a welcome-home one.

As for the soft-touches calling for these traitors to be welcomed back with open arms so they can play a useful role in “deradicalising” others: wake up.

You’d have to be stupid to buy a terrorist’s claim that their eyes have suddenly been opened to the atrocities of ISIS and its supporters.

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How ISIS Became the Face of Evil

The Islamic State’s gruesome propaganda serves its purposes well, and those of the United States too. The US government and the ISIS were made for each other. Each portrays the other as sadistic tyrants. Each has grand power ambitions. Each uses slick propaganda to sell their war to supporters. The main difference is this is not a contest of equals. Western media claim the “terror group’s tentacles now reach from Algeria to Afghanistan,” but the US is a global power and ISIS is little more than a paper tiger.

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Calm Down. ISIS Isn’t Winning

The fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi and of the Syrian city of Palmyra is a big gain for the Islamic State, but not an utter disaster, as many observers fear.

Rather than inducing panic in Western capitals, it should lead to a realistic assessment of the Islamic State’s strengths and weaknesses. One setback in a long war must not trigger hasty strategic shifts that lead to foreign countries’ becoming mired in Iraq once more.

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