Most Singaporeans radicalised by IS under 30: DPM Teo

Most Singaporeans radicalised by IS under 30: DPM Teo
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Hee Hean speaking at the annual Iftar organised by Khadijah Mosque and Religious Rehabilitation Group. Photo: Nadarajan Rajendran/TODAY
Published: 5:38 PM, June 14, 2017
Updated: 12:41 AM, June 16, 2017

SINGAPORE — Most Singaporeans radicalised by the Islamic State (IS) terror group were younger than 30, with five of them radicalised when they were still teenagers, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean revealed on Wednesday (June 15).

Stressing the importance of guidance from families and friends, as well as the need to seek counsel from accredited religious leaders, Mr Teo said: “We need to teach our people, especially the youth, that if they have questions on Islam, they should seek answers from the imams and asatizahs (religious teachers) who are accredited under the Asatizah Recognition Scheme; and not search on the Internet in a haphazard and unguided way.”

He added: “If we can prevent our people from becoming radicalised by the propaganda of terrorist groups like the Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), that would be best.”

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, was speaking to 120 religious and community leaders at an annual breaking-of-fast event jointly organised by the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) and the management of Khadijah Mosque. 

His comments came two days after the authorities announced that the first woman in Singapore had been detained under the Internal Security Act for becoming radicalised.

Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old infant care assistant, started becoming radicalised in 2013 when she was 18 through online propaganda related to the IS. She had also actively published and shared pro-IS materials online.

Saying he was saddened by Izzah’s case, Mr Teo added that it showed the importance of reinforcing “three rings of trust and importance” in the country. First, Singaporeans must work closely with security agencies so that they can continue to keep the country safe.

Second, Singaporeans must continue to put their trust and confidence in the Muslim community here. The community has taken “significant steps” to counter exclusivism, extremism and radical teachings, Mr Teo said, citing the move this year to have compulsory registration of religious teachers. 

The third “ring” is the trust and confidence that people place in one another, by how “we reach out to other communities to build understanding and trust ... practise our religions in a way that is contextualised to our multi-religious society ... stand together against the common enemy who are extremists trying to divide us”, he said.

Reiterating that Singapore is facing the highest terror threat since 2001, Mr Teo said: “The challenge of radicalism and terrorism will be with us for many more years, unfortunately ... The violent ideology propagated by Isis has radicalised many individuals worldwide.”

So far, 15 people here have been detained under the Internal Security Act, or placed under restriction orders, for radicalisation by the IS (also known as Isis) — not including the ones detained because of radicalisation by other militant groups.

Mr Teo said that the time between radicalisation and committing violence can be very short, and the Government wants to avoid any terror incident “if we can help it”. 

“I hope that family members will seek help early if their loved ones are taking the wrong path.” 

As an example, he mentioned that Izzah’s father had said he realised it was his mistake in not seeking help for her back in 2015, when he knew she was radicalised. If he had done so, she could have been prevented from becoming more radicalised through proper guidance and counselling from the RRG.