34-year-old Singaporean housewife detained under ISA

Former religious teacher planned to fight in Syria for terrorist group

A 34-year-old housewife and former religious teacher has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for planning to travel to Syria to take up armed violence for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Internal Security Department (ISD) yesterday said Ruqayyah Ramli was radicalised by her husband, who was arrested last year for similar offences.

On April 15, the Malaysian High Court sentenced him to a three-year jail term for possession of terrorism-related propaganda materials.

Ruqayyah, who was detained in April, had previously been issued a restriction order (RO) under the ISA last August. The ISD said that she refused to make any genuine effort to participate in the rehabilitation programme and "believes in the use of violence against the perceived enemies of Islam".

Under an RO, a person is not allowed to change residence or employment, or travel out of Singapore without official approval. He is also barred from issuing public statements or joining organisations without approval.

The ISD said Ruqayyah persisted in communicating online with overseas ISIS supporters who were associates of her husband.

Ruqayyah, who as a religious teacher was accredited by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore in September 2017, has had her accreditation suspended.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said on Facebook yesterday that cases of radicalisation continue to be present, even if they may not be readily apparent. "Hence, we must be on the lookout among our family, friends and neighbours for individuals who could be influenced by extremist beliefs," he wrote.

In February, the ISD said Ruqayyah's husband, Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, a Malaysian who worked as a cleaner, had been arrested in July last year and deported to Malaysia.

Investigations revealed that he started being radicalised in 2016, when he went online to deepen his religious knowledge and was exposed to pro-ISIS content. In addition to travelling to Syria to take up arms, he was willing to carry out attacks against countries which he thought were oppressing Muslims.

The ISD said yesterday that Ruqayyah's two children are being looked after by her family. Assistance from the Inter-Agency Aftercare Group has been made available to the family, and an ISD aftercare officer is supporting them.

This is the second time an accredited religious teacher has been issued an order under the ISA. In 2019, former freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, a former principal of a religious school here, was placed on an RO for segregationist ideologies that promoted violence and views detrimental to Singapore's cohesion.

Yesterday, the ISD also said a 36-year-old Singaporean, Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman, was issued an RO last month.

He was detained in August 2018 for supporting ISIS, but this was cancelled in October 2019 after he was sentenced to 30 months' jail for terrorism-financing offences. The ISD continued to rehabilitate him during his imprisonment and said he has made good progress.

The department said it released two self-radicalised Singaporeans from detention last month, as they had shown good progress in rehabilitation. The first is Mohamed Faishal Mohd Razali, 30, who was detained in April 2018 as he had aspirations of pursuing armed violence overseas.

He was released on a suspension direction, which has the same restrictions as an RO, but a person who breaches it can be automatically re-detained under the ISA.

A person under an RO who persists in having radical views, as in the case of Ruqayyah, or breaches its restrictions, may be issued an order of detention.

The second person released is Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen, 38, who was a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim, mastermind of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. Haja was released on an RO.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2021, with the headline '34-year-old Singaporean housewife detained under ISA'. Subscribe