Seeking expert help the best way to save loved ones: Muis

DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.
DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Enlisting the help of religious experts is the best way to keep friends and family members from falling prey to radical ideology, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) yesterday.

It was a call made by several Muslim leaders yesterday, as news broke that 22-year-old Singaporean, Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, an infant care assistant, had been detained earlier this month for radicalism.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said last night that while there has been an increase in the number of radicalised individuals detected in recent years, the number of cases remains small.

"The vast majority of the Muslim community in Singapore are moderate and mainstream," it added in its statement.

Izzah's parents and sister had attempted to steer her away from the path of radicalisation when they came to know of her pro-ISIS social media postings in 2015.

But they did not succeed.

The incident, said Muis in a statement, reinforces the fact that "we may not personally possess the capability to help those who are on the path to radicalisation, no matter how well-meaning our intentions".

BE VIGILANT, ALERT AUTHORITIES

Let us redouble our efforts to be vigilant against extremist and exclusivist ideologies. If you notice suspicious behaviour or signs of radicalisation among your family and friends, you must alert the authorities.

DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

STAY UNITED

Our Muslim leaders in Singapore... have been working very hard to counter radical ideology and we must stand in solidarity with them... If Singaporeans start to shun and reject one another, our society will fracture, and the terrorists will win. We must never let that happen.

MS GRACE FU, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

AVOID SPREADING RUMOURS

It is imperative for all to stay vigilant, assess the credibility of each (piece of ) news calmly and cautiously, as well as refrain from spreading malicious rumours which may incite unrest within Singapore... We must not be affected by the actions of a radicalised minority that undermine Singapore's racial and social harmony.

MR CHUA THIAN POH, president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations.

It added: "The best way to help our friends and loved ones is to seek the help of experts."

Expert help is available from Muis on 6359-1199, or the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) on its helpline 1800-7747747 as well as its mobile app.

In a separate statement, Mufti Fatris Bakaram urged the community not to shy away from getting help from those with the religious know-how.

"Difficult as it may be, we must not hesitate to work with the authorities and with the RRG because it is only by doing so that we can save our loved ones," said Dr Fatris, the highest Islamic authority here.

The RRG is a group of local Muslim scholars who help terror detainees clear up their misunderstanding of religious concepts.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim put up both a Facebook post and video, urging the community to inform the religious authorities about individuals who may show extreme behaviour. "It is really very heart- wrenching when you see young individuals who have been radicalised," he said. "They have a bright future ahead of them here in Singapore, and we can help them."

Dr Yaacob, who is also Communications and Information Minister, expressed the hope that the latest detention would not undermine the trust built up among the communities in Singapore over the past 52 years.

He noted how Singapore's Muslim community and its security agencies are working hard to counter the terror threat. For example, since the start of this year, it has been made mandatory for qualified Islamic teachers to be endorsed by the Asatizah Recognition Scheme. He added that the vast majority of the members of the Malay/Muslim community are peace-loving and want to contribute to Singapore.

Echoing these sentiments, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman said on Facebook that Singaporeans cannot let this incident divide them. "The Muslim community categorically rejects the views of the detainee, which have no place in either Singapore or in Islam," he said.

Islamophobia, he added, must not be allowed to take root here.

The Association of Muslim Professionals, calling for Singaporeans to stand united, said anyone who comes across material that can potentially damage the country's religious and racial harmony has a duty to alert the authorities.

The Muslim community, noted Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, must also continue to be engaged in the wider society, and integrate with one another.

"This will convince everyone that we want to live in harmony with the people of Singapore," he wrote in Malay in a Facebook post.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said in a Facebook post: "We must guard against xenophobic behaviour or any other sentiments that can divide us. We must continue to promote inclusivity... even as we build up our resilience to be prepared, should a terror attack occur."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh and Danson Cheong

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'Seeking expert help the best way to save loved ones: Muis'. Print Edition | Subscribe