It's about politics, not faith

It's about politics, not faith
A Free Syrian Army fighter assembles a rocket to be fired at forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

It is a civil war, not a religious one.

That is what Dr Mohamed Ali wants Muslims in Singapore to know about the armed struggle in Syria.

"There is no obligation for Singaporean Muslims to go to Syria to fight. The context of the problem is that it is a Syrian problem, not a Singaporean one," said Dr Mohamed, a research fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University.

He said a "very small" number of self-radicalised individuals who think of going to Syria to take part in the armed conflict do so because of "lack of knowledge of Islam and lack of understanding of the situation there".

One person allegedly did make the trip.

The Government said in March that it was investigating allegations against former Indian national Haja Fakkurudeen Usman Ali.

He had allegedly travelled to Syria with the intention of being a fighter.Haja, 37, who had obtained his Singapore citizenship in 2008, had worked as a supermarket manager.

Governments around the world are concerned that their citizens have been drawn into the conflict in the belief that it is a religious obligation.

Since the conflict erupted in March 2011, the number of foreigners who have joined the Sunni side (rebel forces) is estimated to be around 10,000.

A similar number of foreigners are believed to have joined the Shia (pro-Government) side, according to a December 2013 paper published in the Carnegie Middle East Center journal.

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