Teacher is 1st public servant detained for terrorism-related offences

He had planned to join militant group Hamas in Palestine to fight Israel Defence Forces

FILE PHOTO: Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old teacher with the Ministry of Education (MOE) was arrested under the Internal Security Act in October last year, after he was preparing to join Hamas in armed combat against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

He is the first public servant to have been detained for terrorism-related offences.

According to a media release by the Internal Security Department (ISD) on Wednesday, Khairul was self-radicalised and ready to travel to Gaza, Palestine, under the guise of humanitarian aid to join Hamas and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

He is the second person to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for wanting to carry out armed violence because he was affected by the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Strong desire to defend Muslims in Gaza

According to the ISD media release, Khairul’s interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict began in 2007, after he viewed Facebook videos on purported Israeli acts of aggression against Palestinians, including women and children.

He developed a strong desire to defend and support the Muslims in Gaza out of deep sympathy for them. His subsequent online research into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entrenched his belief that the Israelis, particularly the IDF, were oppressing the Palestinians.

Khairul was further convinced of the need to engage in armed defence of the Palestinians after he watched videos by radical foreign preachers, Ahmed Deedat and Zakir Naik, which discussed the concept of armed jihad in defence of Islam.

He first considered travelling to Gaza in 2012 after coming across a poster on Facebook which called for volunteers for a humanitarian mission to Gaza. While he did not follow through on his intent, he would feel compelled to travel to Gaza whenever the conflict escalated – for instance, in 2014 and 2021.

Khairul also researched intensively into Hamas and AQB, including viewing materials relating to their tactics and operations. He was willing to abide by any instructions given by Hamas, and was confident of applying the weapons-handling skills and fieldcraft acquired during his national service to engage in armed combat.

Apart from his support for armed violence, Khairul also holds segregationist and hard-line religious beliefs, and had attempted without success to influence his family members and children to hold such views.

MOE: teacher has not taught since October

ISD’s investigation showed that Khairul had acted alone. There was no sign that he tried to involve others in his plans to travel to Gaza to carry out armed violence. There is also no indication thus far that Khairul harboured any intention to carry out attacks in Singapore.

ISD will take firm action against any individual in Singapore who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence, or where the violence takes place. This is particularly so if the person involved is a public servant.

Given his deeply-entrenched radical beliefs and support for armed violence, Khairul poses an imminent threat and has been issued an Order of Detention under the ISA with effect from 30 November last year.

MOE also released a media statement on Wednesday, saying that Khairul has not been teaching any classes since October last year.

The ministry added that it regards this case very seriously, and will continue to work closely with ISD and the community to safeguard our schools and students against such threats.

Supporting armed conflict is 'unacceptable', says Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told reporters in a doorstop interview on Wednesday that Singapore does not tolerate individuals supporting armed conflict in other parts of the world.

"There are causes around the world that many of us do, and can feel strongly about," he said.

"Singaporeans can, and they do, take views on these causes, many provide moral support, financial support, and other means of support, to advance causes they believe in. There are legitimate organisations that Singaporeans can partner, to support these causes all around the world, including the cause of helping Palestinians.

"But armed violence is different, unacceptable. What we cannot do is to support terrorism, support armed conflict, plan to kill people."

Anyone who knows or suspects that a person has been radicalised should promptly contact the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626473.

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