Religious authorities must boost online presence to counter radical ideology: Yaacob

"We need alternative narratives online and to make them popular," said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim while speaking to reporters at Eunos station on June 22, 2017.
"We need alternative narratives online and to make them popular," said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim while speaking to reporters at Eunos station on June 22, 2017.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The battle against radical ideology is being waged online, for the hearts and minds of young Malay Muslims.

That is why the religious authorities here must boost their presence in the online sphere, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim on Thursday (June22).

"Several young asatizahs already have programmes available online, it's just a matter of making them popular, making them appealing to young Singaporeans," said Dr Yaacob.

"We need alternative narratives online and to make them popular," he said, adding that young asatizahs, or religious teachers, have also been reaching out to their peers in religious classes.

He said these classes are large, with 700 to 800 people attending.

"No questions asked, you can come with your hijab, without your hijab, doesn't matter, we want to reach out to them to make them feel comfortable," he noted.

 

Dr Yaacob was speaking to reporters at Eunos MRT station, where he had just launched a Hari Raya-themed MRT train for the festival this weekend.

His comments come two days after the Home Affairs Ministry announced the arrests of two Singaporean auxiliary police officers for terrorism-related offences under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, was detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, was placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his plan.

Last Monday (June12), the Ministry of Home Affairs  also announced that Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, an infant care assistant, was planning to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for ISIS.

Both Khairul and Izzah were radicalised after viewing extremist propaganda online.

Dr Yaacob also urged people to come forward early and seek help from the relevant authorities if their loved ones show signs of radicalisation - a call repeated multiple times by the authorities this month.

"If you want to save your siblings, relative, colleague, I think the best thing you can do is to come out early so that we can do something to help them," he said.

To guard against extremist ideology taking root here, the Government on Tuesday (June 20) also banned nine publications by radical preacher Rasul Dahri.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) also rejected the Singaporean's application for certification under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme - which bars him from preaching in Singapore.