Maids get to know radicalisation risk through film and dialogue

Above: Dian Yulia Novi, who used to work as a maid in Singapore, was jailed in Indonesia for plotting to blow herself up outside Jakarta's presidential palace in 2016. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Left: Maids attending yesterday's dialogue with S. Raj
Maids attending yesterday’s dialogue with S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies visiting fellow Noor Huda (with microphone) and members of the Religious Rehabilitation Group at Masjid Kampung Siglap.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Above: Dian Yulia Novi, who used to work as a maid in Singapore, was jailed in Indonesia for plotting to blow herself up outside Jakarta's presidential palace in 2016. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Left: Maids attending yesterday's dialogue with S. Raj
Dian Yulia Novi, who used to work as a maid in Singapore, was jailed in Indonesia for plotting to blow herself up outside Jakarta’s presidential palace in 2016.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They are among efforts by Religious Rehabilitation Group to reach out to community amid growing ideological threats

Dian Yulia Novi used to work as a maid in Singapore between 2008 and 2009. After that, the Indonesian foreign domestic worker went to Taiwan to work, where she was radicalised online.

She later married a pro-ISIS militant, and the then 28-year-old was jailed in Indonesia for 71/2 years for plotting to blow herself up outside Jakarta's presidential palace in 2016.

"Through Facebook, for at least one year, I opened the pages of those with jihadi status. It inspired me," said Ms Novi in an interview with Dr Noor Huda Ismail, who produced the documentary Pengantin, or Bride, which was screened for 250 maids at Masjid Kampung Siglap yesterday.

The documentary tells the stories of three Indonesian maids looking for love, two of whom were later jailed for their involvement in terrorist-related activities.

The documentary screening and the dialogue that followed with Dr Noor Huda, a visiting fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and members of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) were organised by the mosque and the RRG, which aims to correct the misinterpretation of Islamic concepts and dispel the extremist and terrorist ideologies associated with them.

They are part of efforts to reach out to the community, against the backdrop of growing ideological threats such as Singapore seeing cases of individuals being radicalised online, said Dr Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of RRG.

According to the Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released in January, 14 Indonesian maids have been repatriated since 2015, after they were found to have been radicalised.

In July 2017, then Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee gave details of two radicalised maids who had been repatriated at that time. "Similar to the earlier cases, both of them were ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) supporters, radicalised through social media," said Mr Lee.

According to the Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report released in January, 14 Indonesian maids have been repatriated since 2015, after they were found to have been radicalised.

 
 
 

Since the documentary was made last year, about 650 maids have seen it at screenings at the Indonesian Embassy and three other mosques in Singapore.

At those post-screening surveys of 64 maids, most of them, when asked what they would do if someone sent them a link inviting them to fight in a religious-based conflict area, indicated that they would ignore the link or report it to the authorities.

However, 33 per cent of the 26 survey respondents at the Indonesian Embassy and 17 per cent of the 12 respondents at the Alkaff Mosque said they would still befriend a person with a radical perspective, as long as they themselves were not radicalised.

At yesterday's dialogue, several maids asked the religious leaders questions.

Ms Nanik Sarmini, 44, who has worked here for 16 years, asked how someone who has been radicalised could be spotted. She was told to look out for certain markers, such as when they become isolated or when they talk about being violent towards people whose views differ from theirs.

Another maid, Ms Dewi Ambarsari, 33, said she knows of at least one friend who posts extremist views on Facebook.

"She feels she is right and others are wrong and that others are bad and will go to hell. It is very easy to be influenced so it is good to have such events to hear from the religious leaders who can be trusted," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2019, with the headline 'Maids get to know radicalisation risk through film and dialogue'. Print Edition | Subscribe