Parking warden who was radicalised online detained under Internal Security Act

A Syrian army tank advancing through a street in al-Hajar al-Aswad as they push against the Islamic State (IS) group in the area on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 10, 2018.
A Syrian army tank advancing through a street in al-Hajar al-Aswad as they push against the Islamic State (IS) group in the area on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 10, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A 27-year-old parking warden who was radicalised by divisive teachings online has been detained under the Internal Security Act, said the Home Affairs Ministry (MHA).

Investigations found that Singaporean Mohamed Faishal Mohd Razali wanted to undertake armed violence overseas in various conflict zones including Syria. He was detained in April, said MHA in a statement on Friday (May 11).

The ministry said Faishal, who was not known to be a religious person, turned to the Internet sometime in mid-2016 in an attempt to improve his religious knowledge.

He began to take in the religious teachings of foreign preachers, including Ismail Menk and Yusuf Estes, who are known to preach segregationist and divisive teachings.

The authorities had barred both preachers from entering Singapore in October and November 2017 respectively, after finding out that they were set to preach on a religious-themed cruise that departed from and returned here.

Faishal was also exposed to the online radical teachings of the deceased Al-Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, said MHA.

"Over time, coupled with his weak religious foundation, he became convinced that waging armed violence was legitimate and saw that as a means of redeeming his sins," MHA added.

Faishal started making preparations to take on armed violence overseas early last year, and searched online for a "religious authority" who would support his decision.

He also consulted two friends about his plans - both disagreed and tried to dissuade him. His family did likewise when they found out, MHA said.

Faishal was nabbed after someone who knew of his decision alerted the authorities, "so that he could be prevented from continuing down this radical path".

 
 
 

Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, senior director of religious policy and development at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), said exclusivist and extremist teachings available online include propaganda videos by known terror groups that attempt to extol the virtues of violence by conflating it with jihad.

"That is why we must continue to protect our community by building in them religious and spiritual resilience through the correct and contextual appreciation of Islam and its teachings," he added.

He also called on friends and family members to remain vigilant and supportive, and help connect their loved ones to avenues where questions about religion and Islam can be answered by credible and trained asatizah, or religious teachers.

MHA announced on Friday as well that restriction orders issued against three Singaporeans under the Internal Security Act were allowed to lapse after expiring between February and March.

The trio are: Jemaah Islamiyah members Sahrudin Mohd Sapian, 62, and Mohamed Rafee Abdul Rahman, 54, as well as Wang Yuandongyi, 25, who had attempted to join a foreign militia group.

The issue of self-radicalisation has been flagged by the authorities and others involved in religious rehabilitation.

People who are self-radicalised face more complex psychological and social issues, and Singapore is still trying to develop the right tools to rehabilitate them, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in March, at the 14th annual retreat of the Religious Rehabilitation Group. He added those getting caught are also getting younger.

Since 2015, the authorities have picked up five self-radicalised teens aged between 17 and 19. A common thread among them is a heavy reliance on the Internet and social media for information including religious teachings.