SINGAPORE - Singapore Muslims who wish to study Islam in overseas institutions should consult the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) first, as some foreign schools may actually be involved in militant activities and propagate extremist ideologies.
Muis issued this advice in response to the arrests of four Singapore citizens under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for taking part in violence or intending to undertake violence in armed conflicts overseas.
Meanwhile, the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) also urged the public to call its helpline if they have questions related to issues on radicalisation, or aspects of religion which can potentially lead one to be radical.
Two of the four men, Mohammad Razif Yahya, 27, and Amiruddin Sawir, 53, were detained under the ISA in August 2015 for voluntarily fighting in the sectarian conflict in Yemen.
A third, Mohamed Mohideen Mohamed Jais, 25, had also performed armed sentry duties in the wartorn Middle East country and was issued with a Restriction Order, which limits his activities, this month.
Razif had begun studying in a religious institution there in January 2010, and Amiruddin begun his studies there in July 2013.
Muis said that some foreign schools may masquerade as centres of Islamic learning, preying on those who approach them with the intent of deepening their religious belief.
Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, deputy director, Office of the Mufti (Muis), said: "We strongly urge Muslims in Singapore who wish to study Islam to approach only recognised religious teachers (asatizah) for guidance and advice.
"We would also like to encourage parents and family members to play a more active role in guiding their loved ones to proper sources of Islamic learning."
As a community, Muslims must continue to uphold Islamic teachings that are relevant to contemporary needs and suited to Singapore's multi-religious society, Dr Nazirudin added.
To achieve these objectives, Muis - in partnership with mosques and local institutions - has introduced various programmes of Islamic learning, such as aLIVE and ADIL (Adult Islamic Learning).
In its response, RRG said the use of violence in every sense, "including engaging or intending to pursue an interest whether for or against a subject", has no justification and should not be tolerated.
It noted that the participation of the four radicalised Singaporeans were of a "destructive nature as they favour violence".
Members of the public have several platforms for advice on matters related to terrorism and radicalism.
Whether local or overseas, Singaporeans can get information from places such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, RRG, community centres and self-help groups.
RRG said in its statement: "We need to look out for signs (for those) planning to be a part or travelling to conflict zones. Everyone can play a role to safeguard Singapore's security and interest."
RRG's helpline (1800-774-7747) aims to provide the public access to a legitimate reference point on radicalisation matters, rather than being left in a lurch without any religious guidance, or turning to non-credible sources on the Internet for clarification, it said.
The fourth man, Wang Yuandongyi, 23, was also placed on a Restriction Order this month. He had left Singapore and was on his way to Turkey and Syria to join a Kurdish militia group that was fighting against terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).