SINGAPORE - A 33-year-old radicalised Malaysian working as a cleaner here has been arrested and deported to Malaysia for planning to travel to Syria with his Singaporean wife to take up armed violence for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Internal Security Department (ISD) on Tuesday (Feb 9) said the man's 34-year-old wife, a religious teacher who was radicalised by him and had wanted to go with him, has been placed on a Restriction Order for two years. Her teaching accreditation has been suspended.
The man, Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in July 2020. The ISD said there was no indication he had made any specific plans to cause violence in Singapore.
Investigations revealed that Firdaus started being radicalised in 2016, when he went online to deepen his religious knowledge and was exposed to pro-ISIS content.
"Through sustained exposure to pro-ISIS materials, Firdaus was convinced by early 2018 that ISIS was fighting for Islam, and that its use of violence to create an Islamic caliphate was justified," said ISD.
It added that Firdaus had regarded a self-declared leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the true Islamic ruler. Even after ISIS' so-called caliphate fell in the late 2010s, he still remained a fervent supporter of ISIS by actively posting materials promoting ISIS and armed jihad on his social media accounts.
Firdaus had even created an ISIS flag in March 2020, which he hung at home to show his loyalty towards the group.
He believed armed jihad, or struggle in the name of Islam, was compulsory for all able-bodied Muslim men.
In addition to travelling to Syria to take up arms, Firdaus was also willing to carry out attacks against countries which he deemed to be oppressing Muslims, or which he saw as being hypocritical for aligning themselves with the West, said the ISD. "He aspired to die as a martyr in the battlefield so as to receive divine rewards."
The department had worked closely with its Malaysian counterparts, the Malaysian Special Branch, on investigations into Firdaus.
After investigations were completed, Firdaus had his work pass cancelled and he was handed over to the Malaysian Special Branch in August 2020.
The head of the Counter-Terrorism Division at Malaysia’s Special Branch, Deputy Commissioner Normah Ishak, told The Straits Times Firdaus was charged at the Johor Baru Sessions Court last August for possessing items related to terrorist acts. The case has been mentioned four times since September and last Wednesday, it was again adjourned to March 1. Prosecutors are expected to request that the case be transferred to the Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Responding to queries on how it found out about Firdaus and his wife Ruqayyah Ramli, the ISD said it had received information on his radical social media posts in mid-2020. It declined to give further details, citing operational reasons.
“While it is ISD’s practice to announce any new ISA terrorism cases expeditiously, one key determinant of the timing of any such announcements is that it should not jeopardise any ongoing investigations,” it added.
Firdaus started to influence his wife Ruqayyah Ramli with his pro-ISIS views after their marriage in December 2018.
The housewife and part-time freelance religious teacher, who was accredited by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore in September 2017, has had her accreditation suspended.
As part of her Restriction Order, she is not allowed to conduct religious classes.
ISD said that while Ruqayyah initially had doubts, she started to believe her husband's words and also saw ISIS' use of violence against perceived oppressors of Islam as justified.
"She was willing to accompany him to Syria, and intended to bring her two children along. She believed that her role in the conflict zone would be to take care of the family (through cooking and housework), and to assist other wounded ISIS fighters," it added.
ISD told The Straits Times that her children were not influenced by their parents’ radical beliefs, and that an aftercare officer has been assigned to provide support for Ruqayyah and her family.
Ruqayyah was not found to have attempted to spread her pro-ISIS views to others.
She is currently undergoing religious counselling to steer her away from her radical path, said ISD.
Under the Restriction Order, she cannot change her residence, employment or travel out of Singapore without official approval. She is also barred from issuing public statements or joining organisations without approval.
In a statement on Tuesday, Muis said it was “alarming” that Ruqayyah was a part-time freelance religious teacher, and that her case is a “grim reminder” of the dangerous influence of extremism still present today, especially from online sources.
The council urged people here to report any individual espousing violent or extremist ideologies to the relevant authorities quickly for timely intervention.
In a Facebook post, Minister of State for Home Affairs Faishal Ibrahim said: “If there are signs of radicalisation, we should refer these individuals to Muis, the Religious Rehabilitation Group or the police. Early intervention will help steer them away from the radicalised path.”
This is the second time an accredited religious teacher has been issued with an order under the ISA.
In 2019, former freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, an ex-principal of Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah, was placed on a Restriction Order for segregationist ideologies that promoted violence and views detrimental to Singapore's cohesion.