Don't wait to get help from religious experts, say Muis and Mufti

Mufti Fatris Bakaram urged the community to seek help from religious authorities.
Mufti Fatris Bakaram urged the community to seek help from religious authorities. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Turning to religious experts is the best way to help friends and family members at risk of radicalisation, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said on Monday (June 12).

Its comments come on the back of news that 22-year-old Singaporean Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari - a contract infant care assistant at a PCF Sparkletots pre-school - had earlier this month become the first woman to be detained under the Internal Security Act for radicalism.

The incident, said Muis in a statement, reinforced 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".

It added: "The best way to help our friends and loved ones is to seek the help of experts. This is for the good of the individual, and the community."

Expert help is available from Muis on 63591199 or the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) on its helpline 1800-7747747 as well as its mobile app.

The Home Affairs Ministry had earlier on Monday said that Izzah's parents, both freelance Quranic teachers, and sister came to know of her radical postings and intention to join terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015, but did not inform the authorities. Their attempts at dissuading her on their own were unsuccessful.

In a separate statement, Mufti Fatris Bakaram urged the community to seek help from religious authorities as well.

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

The RRG is a group of local Muslim scholars who spend time with terror detainees to counter their misunderstanding of religious concepts.

Dr Fatris said the community must take the issue of self-radicalisation seriously: "I am deeply troubled by the news of the latest arrest - that someone so young could have been swayed by these nefarious beliefs, and would want to throw her life away."

He called on the community to reject the "vile acts and beliefs" of  ISIS, as these have "no basis in the teachings of Islam".

Muis, meanwhile, said it will continue to work with its partners to "inoculate the community against exclusivism and extremism" and prevent such ideas from taking root.

It will do so through a range of platforms, from Islamic education classes and Friday sermons to social media, it added.

"This incident is a reminder that there should not be any let-up in our fight against extremist and radicalised teachings," said its statement.

It also reminded the community that it must be wary of the meticulously crafted messages which ISIS and similar movements, are putting out on social media, and be vigilant in detecting tell-tale signs of when sympathy for such causes have taken root.

"This incident reinforces that the danger of self-radicalisation is very real. An individual may fall prey to false narratives and teachings on the internet and social media, such that even a real life support structure may not be able to counter them," said Muis.