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Statement by ISA detainee’s family misleading: MHA

SINGAPORE — The statement issued by the family of Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff on Tuesday (Aug 2) arguing against his detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities provides a “misleading picture”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff. TODAY file photo

Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — The statement issued by the family of Zulfikar Mohamad Shariff on Tuesday (Aug 2) arguing against his detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for terrorism-related activities provides a “misleading picture”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The ministry added that the decision to issue an Order of Detention against the 44-year-old was made based on evidence collected from several areas of investigation that the family did not mention, while Zulfikar will have the opportunity “in due course” to present his case to the ISA Advisory Board. The board advises the President on whether detention orders should remain in force.

Zulfikar’s family sent a strongly-worded statement via email to newsrooms on Tuesday denying that he supports violent ideology and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). They also criticised the Government and the media here for putting together a narrative to justify Zulfikar’s detention under the ISA.

Zulfikar was arrested on July 1 and detained under the ISA for helping to radicalise at least two other Singaporeans with messages and material which he propagated online, the MHA said last week. MHA said that Zulfikar was radicalised as early as 2001 after reading jihadi-related material and had numerous Facebook posts promoting Isis. The ministry added that he wanted to convince others to reject the Western secular democratic nation-state system, and to establish an Islamic caliphate in its place through violent means, if necessary.

Responding to TODAY’s queries late last night, an MHA spokesperson countered the family’s remarks, saying their statement “only deals with one aspect of ISD’s investigation, and provides a misleading picture”.

The ministry noted that besides contributing to radicalising two others, Zulfikar had made “admissions” to the Internal Security Department. There was also evidence from others interviewed by the department, as well as from Zulfikar’s public statements online.

Zulfikar’s family said a “true and correct picture” had not been painted in the ministry’s announcement as  the allegations are mostly based on older posts dating back to 2013 and 2014, and “almost nothing from 2015 and 2016 where his position on many issues have changed”.

They also claimed that when global media reports of violence and beheading by Isis began surfacing in 2014, Zulfikar was against their violent nature and ideology. Adding that he never encouraged others to join Isis, the family also said he was not a violent person and did not encourage any violent behaviour towards others, regardless of their race or religion.

But the MHA spokesperon said it was “untrue” that Zulfikar did not post any radical views after 2014.

“It is also clear that Zulfikar supported violence by Isis, including beheadings, and that at a broader level, he supported the idea of a global Islamic caliphate and the use of violence to achieve this,” the spokesperson added, without elaborating.

Zulfikar’s reason for setting up the Al-Makhazin group was also defended by the family, who said it was an “alternative platform to raise awareness around Muslim issues around the world”. In contrast, the MHA had said his real agenda in setting up a Facebook page for the group in Singapore in 2013 was to provoke Muslims in Singapore into pushing for an Islamic state in Singapore.

While Zulfikar was known to oppose the Government’s policies, the family said these were from a perspective of "someone who argued and rationalised his opposition to the People’s Action Party government’s policies vis-à-vis the Malay/Muslim community".

They added: “To detain him under the ISA for his views, is not fair... Detaining him under the ISA without trial and without having the opportunity to challenge these aspersions in an open court is an injustice.”

The MHA’s statement noted that “Zulfikar will have the opportunity in due course to present his case to the ISA Advisory Board, which advises the President whether the Order of Detention should remain in force”.

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