Self-radicalised Malaysian man with access to Changi Airfreight Centre arrested and repatriated: MHA

The self-radicalised Malaysian man had access to Changi Airfreight Centre, a restricted area, due to his job. PHOTO: CHANGIAIRPORT.COM

SINGAPORE - A self-radicalised Malaysian man with access to Changi Airfreight Centre has been detained and repatriated to Malaysia, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Friday (Feb 9).

Muhammad Nur Hanief Abdul Jalil, 33, who worked as a driver with a local airfreight company, had planned to travel to the Middle East to participate in armed conflict, MHA added.

Due to his job, he had access to Changi Airfreight Centre, a restricted area. The centre provides airfreight services to Changi Airport.

Hanief was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last month, after he was found to have been radicalised by the online teachings of extremist Muslim preachers. He was repatriated to Malaysia - with his work pass cancelled - this month.

The Straits Times understands that Hanief has since been detained in Malaysia under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

"Investigations have revealed that since 2008, Hanief perused online materials of foreign extremist preachers including Imran Hosein, Zakir Naik and Anjem Choudary," said the MHA.

"He was also influenced by Ismail Menk and Haslin Baharim, who propagated segregationist and divisive teachings," MHA added.

Mr Menk and Mr Haslin were among foreign preachers recently prevented from entering Singapore due to their teachings.

Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary was jailed in 2016 in the United Kingdom for garnering support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Ismail Menk (left) and Haslin Baharim were among foreign preachers recently prevented from entering Singapore due to their teachings. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Mr Zakir Naik is a Muslim preacher from India, who was charged by India's National Investigation Agency last October for inciting terror and delivering hate speeches.

Hanief has held various jobs here since 2011, MHA said, adding that his radicalisation "renders him a security threat to Singapore" even though there were no indications that he had tried to radicalise others or planned any terrorist attacks here.

"In late 2017, Hanief decided to act on his plans to participate in the conflict in Syria or Palestine after he suffered setbacks in his work and personal life," said the MHA.

"He was prepared to join any militant group there, including (ISIS), the Free Syrian Army, or Hayat Tahrir al-Sham."

Hanief contacted Mr Haslin and sought his advice on whether he would become a martyr if he was killed in a conflict zone in Syria.

Mr Haslin's said it was God's will if one should die as a martyr, which Hanief interpreted as an affirmative reply, MHA said.

S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) senior analyst Jasminder Singh noted that Hanief was "on his way to radicalisation" before he took on various jobs in Singapore from 2011, as he had been perusing extremist material online since 2008.

"If we do not want to have a repeat of such cases, the onus is on companies, especially those with access to restricted areas, to step up their background checks," he added.

The case also highlights the need to strengthen counter-radicalisation programmes among the foreign workforce in general, said RSIS Assistant Professor Dr Mohamed Ali, who is also vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group.

Such programmes should educate workers about the channels for obtaining sound religious guidance and ensure that workers do not feel isolated from society, he added.

Also thrown up by this case is the fact that the ISIS propaganda machine remains very much active, saidAssociate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna, who is coordinator of national security studies programme at RSIS.

Defeats that ISIS has suffered in Raqqa in Syria and Marawi in the Philippines have only served to drive ISIS to increase its social media propaganda, in a bid to regain influence and recruit more people, he added.

Hanief's repatriation comes months after the authorities denied three foreign preachers from entering the Republic due to their divisive teachings.

They were planning to join international passengers on a five-day spiritual cruise from Singapore to Aceh last November.

Among the three were Mr Menk and Mr Haslin.

Mr Menk has taught that it is blasphemous and "the biggest sin" for Muslims to wish non-Muslims "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Deepavali".

Mr Haslin has advocated that in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies, non-Muslims should be made subservient to Muslims.

The MHA statement on Friday also said that Restriction Orders under ISA issued against four individuals have been allowed to lapse. The four are: self-radicalised individuals Muhammad Zamri Abdullah, 36; Zakaria Rosdan, 27; and Muhammad Khairul Sofri Osman, 33, as well as Jemaah Islamiyah member Mohd Azmi Ali, 49.

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