Singapore moves to counter militant ideology

Singapore moves to counter militant ideology
An image made available by Jihadist media outlet Welayat Raqa on June 30, 2014, allegedly shows a member of the Islamic State (IS) militant group parading with a tank in a street in the northern rebel-held Syrian city of Raqa.

A group of Islamic scholars and teachers set up to curb the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) threat in Singapore has been counselling people who actively read online material related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) ideology and were referred to them by the authorities.

It is now also looking to counter ISIS' radical ideology, including through a more active presence online, videos, talks at schools and distributing pamphlets at mosques.

Dr Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), would not disclose the exact number counselled or how they were identified.

But he said that "support (for ISIS) is there... (It's) a very small group, but growing".

ISIS' ideology has gained traction closer to home in recent months but Singapore has been lucky so far, Dr Mohamed said.

"We are fortunate that these individuals are identified by the authorities early, before they become deeply convinced of the radical narratives," he said in an interview this week.

"So they are receptive to explanations by RRG counsellors and can easily wean themselves off radical ideas they encounter."

ISIS, which has captured large swathes of territory and committed atrocities such as beheadings, has attracted about 15,000 fighters from all corners of the globe.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week cited the influence the group might have outside the Middle East as a top concern.

A "handful of Singaporeans" joined the civil war in Syria, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament in July. The Internet, he added, has been a game-changer.

Dr Mohamed, an assistant professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, agreed.

When the RRG was set up in 2003 to counsel JI detainees, the Internet was not the main platform to spread radical ideology, he said.

JI members were indoctrinated by leaders who held classes in their homes to spread teachings.

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