First woman detained under ISA in Singapore for radicalism: MHA

(PHOTO: Reuters)

*UPDATED at 5.45pm on 12 June, 2017 to include a statement from Singapore’s Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram.

A 22-year-old Singaporean has become the first woman in Singapore to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for radicalism, said the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday (12 June).

Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, an infant care assistant with PCF Sparkletots, was detained earlier this month.

Starting from 2013, she became radicalised by online propaganda from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, whom she believed represented the “true spirit of Islam”, said the MHA in a press release.

Izzah’s radicalisation deepened over time, and she started actively posting and sharing pro-ISIS materials online from 2014. She also cultivated a wide network of foreign online contacts, which included ISIS militants and supporters, some of whom have either been killed in Syria or arrested for terrorism-related activities.

Looking to join ISIS, find a new husband

She was intent on joining ISIS and had been actively planning to make her way to Syria with her young child. Since 2015, Izzah had also been looking for “a Salafi or an ISIS supporter” to marry and settle down with him and her child in Syria.

She said she would support her husband if he fought for ISIS in Syria as she believed she would reap “heavenly rewards” if he died in battle. With her “elevated status” as a “martyr’s widow”, she felt she could easily marry another ISIS fighter in Syria.

The young woman also expressed a willingness to undergo military training and engage in armed combat to defend ISIS if called upon by the terrorist group to do so.

Parents unable to dissuade her

Izzah’s parents, both freelance Quranic teachers, and sister came to know of her radical leanings in 2015 but did not alert the authorities. They tried to dissuade her but were unsuccessful.

After Izzah was placed under investigation, important evidence relating to her plans to join ISIS was even destroyed by a family member, in order to try to minimise her acts.

“In Izzah’s case, her family members did not bring her to the attention of the authorities when she was younger and could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation,” the MHA release said.

 “The heightened terrorism threat worldwide and in Singapore makes it imperative for family members and friends to raise to the authorities anyone they suspect of being radicalised or planning terror activities. Singapore can be made safer if family members and friends do this,” it added.

Response from minister, Singapore’s Mufti

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Monday, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, noted that the young woman’s detention is “a grave reminder to us all that the threat of terrorism is very real and serious”.

“Every time we see a case such as this, we are all deeply disappointed and worried that Singaporeans will have doubts about Muslims,” said the minister, who also called on fellow Muslims to redouble their efforts “to be vigilant against extremist and exclusivist ideologies”.

“This Ramadan has been especially painful with the series of terrorist attacks around the world,” said Yaacob in his post. “I strongly condemn the extremists who abuse Islam for their own twisted agenda. They belong to a small group. The overwhelming majority of us utterly reject their ideology and distortion of Islam.”

Singapore’s Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, who also issued a statement on the same day, said that he was “deeply troubled” by the fact that “someone so young could have been swayed by these nefarious beliefs and would want to throw her life away”.

Noting that “one life lost to extremism is one life too many”, he said that Muslims in Singapore “must not hesitate to work with the authorities and with the Religious Rehabilitation Group because it is only by doing so that we can save our loved ones”.

“We have always urged the community to practice the maxim of amal ma’aruf nahi mungkar – to enjoin that which is good and to prevent that which is evil,” he added. “This means to agree upon, to promote and to do what is universally understood to be good and to reject strongly vile acts and beliefs nurtured by ISIS as they have no basis in the teachings of Islam.”

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