One developed an interest in global affairs involving Muslims and became convinced of the need to migrate to an Islamic caliphate. Another penned pro-Islamic State (IS) slogans in his school books that were discovered by his father.
In both cases, which involved secondary schoolboys, relatives and friends became concerned enough to alert the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG). The boys met with RRG counsellors, who explained religious concepts and the IS’ violent ideology to them.
A third case was of a wife who noticed her husband becoming more vocal about a much stricter form of Islam, holding the exclusivist view that loyalty could only be given to God and Muslims. She confided in her relative, who approached RRG for advice. The wife spoke a few times over the phone with a counsellor on how she could advise her husband not to hold such extreme religious views.
Sharing these cases on Friday (June 23) of people who had approached the RRG, the group’s vice-chairman Mohamed Ali urged the public to tap its helpline, mobile app and resource and counselling centre at Khadijah Mosque on Geylang Road, if they suspect their loved ones are close to being radicalised.
The three cases are the only instances of voluntary reporting that RRG has encountered since 2014 – the year its resource centre opened – and that its counsellors “saved” from going further down the path of radicalisation, said Ustaz Mohamed.
Because they were detected early, they did not need to be reported to the Ministry of Home Affairs or dealt with under the law, he said. “They are not those who were ready to use violence, but they believed that violence is justified.”
Ustaz Mohamed declined to reveal when RRG was alerted to each case or the backgrounds of the individuals. The secondary schoolboys felt they benefited from the sessions with RRG counsellors and realised the danger of supporting IS, he said.
In the third case, counsellors had no contact with the husband. But through speaking with the counsellors, the wife learnt more about how extremists promote their ideologies “under the cloak of religion”, said the RRG.
Loved ones must be “first agents” and seek information such as what websites their children, relatives or friends have browsed, and for how long, said Ustaz Mohamed.
Cases are not reported to the MHA unless individuals persist in the belief that violence is legitimate even after counselling. “RRG works with MHA, not for MHA,” he said.
On whether the three individuals might have ended up detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), were they not reported early to the RRG, Ustaz Mohamed said the answer was not straightforward.
This is because there are other channels available, such as local mosques or the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. “But logically we understand that when someone is radicalised and nothing is being done, that process of radicalisation can go further and it could lead to violence. It could lead to him wanting to use violence,” he said.
The authorities have stepped up calls for family members and the community to report those who are potentially radicalised. They said the time between radicalisation and committing violence could be very short and that terror attacks would divide communities, playing into the hands of terrorist groups.